Shmuel Rosner, one of the U.S. Israel Lobby’s best friends in the Israeli media, is on the warpath against Wes Clark. Why? Because he had the temerity to “out” the Lobby (particularly Aipac) for beating the drums for war against Iran.
Arianna Huffington got a call from Clark after he’d read a Bibi Netanyahu interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave in which the old ‘peacenik’ detailed his efforts to lobby the Bush regime to take out the Iranian nuke facilities. Bibi asserts in the interview that American military intervention is all but a done deal. I don’t know about you, but I’m with Wes on this one. This sort of stuff is Netanyahu’s metier. It’s what he’s made for as a politician. Manipulating public opinion in favor of harsh nationalist Israeli policies using hysteria and paranoia. I, for one am glad Clark called Netanyahu out on this one. If Netanyahu wants to be Slim Pickens ridin’ that H-bomb down to the ground to nuke some “Russkies” in Dr. Strangelove, I’d prefer that the bomb not have U.S. markings on it. Let Bibi find someone else to do Israel’s dirty work for it (not that I’m advocating that Israel bomb Iran either).
This was Wes’ statement to Huffington:
“How can you talk about bombing a country when you won’t even talk to them?” said Clark. “It’s outrageous. We’re the United States of America; we don’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the military option is off the table — but diplomacy is not what Jim Baker says it is. It’s not, What will it take for you boys to support us on Iraq? It’s sitting down for a couple of days and talking about our families and our hopes, and building relationships.”
When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”
Boy oh boy is Wes in hot water with the Israel Lobby. He just yanked their chain and are they going to roar like a lion. This guy’s gonna be called an anti-Semite and far worse things. Actually, it’s already started. Rosner wrote this:
Gee, what can he possibly mean by “pressure being channeled from the New York money people”?…How and why has it become so easy to speak in this way about the Jews? Second: What does it mean politically?
It is, actually, rather troubling, even scary. People in elite circles somehow came to the conclusion that denouncing the Jewish community and its support for Israel is now becoming acceptable. Walt and Mersheimer came first, than former president Carter, now Clark – and we already have a new trend on our hands. A Jewish leader with whom I spoke yesterday asked me this most disquieting question: Is the ice thinner than one might have thought?
Politically, it is voices coming from the Democratic party, again, a nuance that the Republican Jewish Coalition could hardly miss. Yesterday, it released a statement [sic] “strongly condemned ‘blatantly anti-semitic’ remarks made by Retired General Wesley Clark in an interview with Arianna Huffington and urged the Democrat presidential aspirant to apologize… This is yet another sign that the veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitic sentiments that are rampant in the left-wing blogosphere are seeping into the ‘mainstream’ of Democrats’ political discourse.”
Gimme a break. When asked about U.S. military action against Iran, Clark correctly notes that the mainstream American Jewish community is “divided,” but that the Israel Lobby’s leaders (“New York money people”) are united in favor. What is factually inaccurate about that statement?? Nothing. Everyone knows that Aipac has been promoting war with Iran for a terribly long time. If you don’t believe me go look at the media coverage of their last national gathering. And do you really believe that Aipac is NOT trying to influence the White House & Congress on the issue of bombing Iran?
I wouldn’t have said “NY money people” because Aipac’s leadership is spread all over the country. It’s an unfortunate and imprecise choice of words. But calling them “pro-Israel donors” would’ve worked just as well.
The Republican Jewish Coalition is a bunch of neocon hacks trawling for an issue. Clark’s interview seems just as good a way to take it to the Dems as any. So they went on the warpath. And Rosner is their willing handmaiden. A non-issue, boys. As Bill Clinton used to say: “This dog won’t hunt.” But hey, you can’t fault ’em for trying. They spent $1-million plus trying to dent Jewish support for Dems in the last election. What happened? Jewish support went UP.
Wes, DO NOT apologize. Hold your ground. You’re precisely right. Much of the national Jewish leadership is sounding the trumpet for us to blow Iran’s nukes to smithereens. But American Jews are by no means united behind such a position. Democrats need to oppose U.S. military action against Iran. If that means tangling with Aipac then so be it. Aipac should get out of the way on this issue and let the U.S. decide what is in its national interests. It should not be trying to tell U.S. leaders that what is in Israel’s interest (and it is highly debatable whether such adventurism would be in Israel’s interest) is also in the U.S. national interest.
Haaretz, known for its progressive analysis of the Israeli-Arab conflict, has some of the most acute, passionate, and profound columnists writing on this subject. It has had tremendous correspondents like Amos Elon covering the U.S. beat. Now it has Shmuel Rosner. It’s as if CBS passed the national news anchor baton directly from Walter Cronkite to Charles Johnson. What an embarrassment.
Welcome to visitors here coming from Rozwadow’s Daily Kos link. Thanks to him for raising the visibility of this post and blog. It’s also delicious having been banned from Kos to be able to raise my head once again there even if only via a link from a Kos poster.
I think General Clark said what he did because he was talking about the right-wing Republicans on Wall Street, some of whom he works with in his investment business. Some of them may belong to AIPAC, some are more interested in defense industry profits, and some just want to see the Bush administration keep control of Middle East oil.
But I agree with you completely that Clark has nothing to apologize for. It’s far more important to expose that Bush is planning to bomb Iran, and that there is pressure on legislators, even within the new Democratic majority, to let him get away with it. That’s the real issue that deserves discussion, not what he might have really meant that was different from what he is reported to have actually said.
The Town Crier says
Clark’s ‘apology’ letter to abe foxman
Richard, I wonder if you have ever been characterized as “money hungry” by people who don’t know you, based on being Jewish. I have, quite often. “New York” is used as a code word to mean “Jewish” and not in a good sense.
False charges of anti-Semitism are used very consciously to silence critics of Israel and to silence debate. It is patently ridiculous, for example, to call Jimmy Carter anti-semitic. However, this should not lead us to overlook anti-Jewish slurs.
It may not seem like an important point, after all, as a Jew, I am in no danger from this country or government. I am unlikely to be physically assaulted for being Jewish. Unlike people who are Muslim or Arab for example, whose religion/ethnicity puts them potentially in danger in the US.
Nevertheless, I think as progressives we should oppose all racism. The “New York money people” is not, as you characterize it “an unfortunate and imprecise choice of words.” Clark may use the term as synonymous with AIPAC, but for decades people who have never heard of AIPAC, and who could care less about US support for Israel, have used it to denigrate people for being Jewish.
And referring to AIPAC members as “pro-Israel donors” is a broad generalization. Not everybody who donates to Israel wants to go to war with Iran. Nor are American Jews the only Americans pushing for war with Iran, which you imply.
Clark (and you) should be precise and say AIPAC when you mean AIPAC.
ellen rosner (no relation to Haaretz’s Rosner, thank goodness)
Richard Silverstein says
Actually, it’s not an “apology” letter. That word is not used anywhere in the letter. I’d describe it as a letter of clarification and not an apology. But I don’t think it clarified much alas.
While I agree that “New York money people” is an unfortunate locution that obscures, rather than clarifies the issue. The entire substance of his critique is absolutely correct. He merely should’ve changed his locution to “those Jewish leaders whose hawkish views on Iran are not reflected among the majority of the American Jewish community.”
Richard Silverstein says
What is “it?” Anti-Semites have used the term “New York money people” for decades to denigrate people for being Jewish? Or did you mean something different?
I’ve written once in the post & once in reply to another comment that Clark attempted to consolidate a complicated idea in shorthand. Whenever you try to do this in political discourse you tend to get in hot water and this is what happened to Clark. He should’ve stopped and thought what he was really trying to say before uttering what he did.
As far as I’m concerned New York IS full of powerful, wealthy Jews who support Aipac’s bellicose views on Iran. So is Los Angeles and other major Jewish cities. It is the wealthy, politically connected Jewish leaders who support war with Iran. If you polled the mainstream American Jewish community there would be no such support. That’s why I’m not as offended as you seem to be by Clark’s terminology.
People should focus on the substance of his remark.
Not really. Would it make you feel any better to call them “hawkish pro-Israel donors?” If so, that’s fine w. me. When I say “pro-Israel” I mean the term not in the strictly literal sense, but in the sense of supporters of hawkish, nationalist Israeli politics. This is the way the phrase is used almost universally in current political discourse.
Where do you get that from? I didn’t remotely begin to say that no one but Jews support war with Iran. I’d suggest you’re misreading me.
I do say Aipac when I mean to say Aipac. But to restrict this analysis to Aipac alone would be inaccurate. There are many wealthy, politically connected Jews advocating war with Iran who support other organizations (ADL, AJCommittee, AJCongress, ZOA, etc). Together they may broadly be described as “the Israel lobby.”
Glenn Condell says
Well said Richard. The tortured semantics of what to call this powerful and dangerous group of likeminded people are exhausting and the fact there’s no agreed catch-all descriptor helps them, not us. They happily call everyone who disagrees with them anti-Semites, but bristle if you call them Likudniks, Israel-firsters, Zionists, pro-Israelis, the Lobby or whatever. Wes Clark is half Jewish after all (from a long line of rabbis I believe) so it’s hardly classic antisemitism – it might not have sounded very careful, but it had the ring of truth from someone who knows how the game is played and by whom.
Your friend’s comment about diaspora Jews perhaps being on thinner ice than previously thought is spot on. Walt-Mearsheimer opened the floodgates and really it’s still only a trickle, Carter notwithstanding, but much more mayhem in Iraq coupled with the coming Abramoff hoopla, the AIPAC spy case, possible Feith/Mossad involvement in stovepiping WMD bullshit and especially increasing awareness of just how comprehensively the Lobby controls both chambers and the White House, not to mention the media – well, you just hope that the sleeping American public wakes up with a whimper rather than a bang.
The anti-Arab/Muslim propaganda, the effort to lead America into conflict with a billion of them for the benefit of Eretz Israel might keep working a while, but if the wheels come off the US economy amid failure in Iraq/Iran, many Americans will be looking beyond the snake oil for answers in places more likely to yield them. If a meme of betrayal, let alone conspiracy, begins to attach itself to perceptions of Jews among those who are obediently hating Arabs and Muslims right now (the French are apparently OK again at this point) then I’d be worried for the future of the ‘special relationship’. All that’s certain is that those most responsible for the skulduggery will be rich and powerful enough to insulate themselves from the worst of what they’ve wrought.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re referring not to MY friend, but rather to a “Jewish leader” Rosner quotes above. And I don’t at all agree with the paranoia inherent in the thought. The ice is NOT thin as far as Jews being in danger of experiencing anti-Semitic discourse. At least not yet. But believe me, if the American Jewish leadership (aka the Israel Lobby) does lead the charge for bombing Iran, and Bush does it, and the bombing turns into a disaster or at least a failure, then Americans are rightly going to be turning to all those Bushite neocons and Jewish leaders saying: “What hath you wrought?” And they’d better have some answers–but of course won’t.
Robert Hareli says
Hooray for General Clark. How dare ANYONE plot to use our sons and daughters to fight in an unnecessary and costly war; especially using the purse to do it. I object to our administration doing it. I object to African nations doing it. I object to Israel doing it.
If the cost of objecting is being called anti-semetic — and I’m Jewish! — then maybe it’s about time we all got called anti-semitic. Maybe it’s about time that anti-semitism reared it’s despicable head again to put the breaks on these warmongers, who will be so lathered over it the issue will come to the fore.
If this war with Iran does go ahead and Joe Q Public starts to understand what General Oded Tira wrote in ynetnews the last day of 2006, then we’re going to see anti-semitism the likes of which we’ve never known before.
“President Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran. As an American strike in Iran is essential for our existence, we must help him pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party (which is conducting itself foolishly) and US newspaper editors. We need to do this in order to turn the Iranian issue to a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure.
We must turn to Hillary Clinton and other potential presidential candidates in the Democratic Party so that they publicly support immediate action by Bush against Iran. We should also approach European countries so that they support American actions in Iran, so that Bush will not be isolated in the international arena again.”
Israel doesn’t want to use its own nuclear weapons because it will get wiped out in return. So it plans to use ours and endanger our soldiers in Iraq in the process. To me, this is absolutely — ABSOLUTELY — unforgivable. If this makes me a self-hating Jew, call me proud to be one. If bitching about this makes me an anti-semite, call me accused, BFD.
The Polish, Russian, and Moldovan expats running Israel are traitors to the concept of Israel.
Robert Hareli says
One other thing:
I’m no military strategist, but if I were Iran and US/Israel lobbed some nuclear bunker busters at me, the first thing I would do after turning off the spigots would be to toss a football nuke over my border into the Green Zone. I would destroy the US military. THEN I would hit Israel.
These idiots running this country couldn’t figure out that there were sectarian issues among the current Iraqi factions for hundreds of years. They couldn’t read a goddam book? What makes you think they understand the first thing about what they are doing vis-a-vis Iran?
Americans have no clue that Meir Dugan (head of Mossad) DESPISES Americans. Ditto Avigdor Lieberman. They dont give a damn what befalls us so long as they can use our weaponry and our money to fight their foreign policy wars.
I hope General Clark starts singing from the rafters. Ammerican Jews get what’s coming to them for not joining his side.
Is George Soros a wealthy, politically connected Jew who uses large amounts of money to influence the political process?
And is this a good thing or not?
Richard Silverstein says
First, I don’t think you’re anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew. I’ve been called that and worse in threads here for years. I don’t like the terms one bit & I don’t even like them when you use them since it only opens you up to another commenter coming here & saying: “See he IS an anti-Semite, he admits it.”
As for the comment about Israelis fr. the former Soviet Union, I don’t think that’s warranted. Olmert, Sharon, Peretz & others are not “expats” fr. those countries. And besides, there are expats fr. those countries w. progressive views of the I-P conflict. Certainly, olim fr. the former Soviet Union generally (though not universally) have a more authoritarian perspective on the conflict. But I still don’t think ethnicity has much to do w. anything. Politics lie at the heart of the problem. And the politics of Israel’s leadership stinks. The way to change it is not by disparaging ethnicities.
BTW, that’s a terrific Ynetnews link you provided. The statement by Tira is breathtakingly candid & galling.
Jessica Ramer says
THis is the first time I have read your site. I was deeply impressed both by the thoughtfulness and the civility of the dialogue.
I am not Jewish and perhaps most of my feelings are different. On the one hand, I deeply object to AIPAC lobbying to send (mostly non-Jewish) Americans to their deaths to benefit a foreign country that does treat non-Jews like second class citizens on issues like marriage and property ownership. AIPAC and the neocons should be held accountable.
On the other hand, while I don’t like to hear AIPAC and its supporters crying about anti-Semitism , I also recognize this as a real issue. If anti-Semitism becomes common in America due to a backlash against the war, it is NOT the neocons who will suffer. They will be in Europe in their French chateaus or Italian villas. It is ordinary Jewish people–many of whom opposed the war–who will pay the price for neocon folly. This would be an unspeakable tragedy.
Robert Hareli says
I talked to a Mossad guy who told me in the most sarcastic tone that it doesn’t matter one whit who’s in power. He said, quite candidly, that it was the Mossad that makes foreign policy decisions and deposits them on the PM’s desk. Of course, he wanted to make his office more important. 🙂 But his explanation was reasonable: politicians come and go, the Mossad is there for eternity and they have the intel.
Now, ethnicity? You sometimes do have to take it into account; these aren’t Sabras. I direct you to this link:
scroll down to “Foreign Intelligence Mossad”
The net effect of this is here:
Avigdor Lieberman, who arrived in Israel 20 years ago, was a Moldovan disco bouncer. Now he leading the fray in Israel’s political position on the Palestinians.
They’re certainly not listening to reasonable people like this (I’ll quote because the link is gone):
“Ex-Mossad Official Admits Occupation is the Reason Behind “Terror Attacks” against Civilians”
GAZA, Palestine, October 10,2005 (IPC+ Agencies)—Amiram Levin, the then-Deputy Chief of the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service “Mossad, took the unprecedented step in stating that Israel’s continued policy of controlling the Palestinian people will inflict a resounding defeat of the Hebrew state….. Levin [delivering a speech at Van Laer institute in occupied Jerusalem] who said to be one of most Generals of the Israeli army in making a good deal in combating the Palestinian resistance movements admits ” it is an eventual result that controlling another people and occupying his land produce terrorist operations.”
The ex- deputy chief of Mossad strongly criticized the command of the Israeli army due to the pursuit of intimidation, harassment and abuse against the Palestinian civilians. (…) http://www.ipc.gov.ps/ipc_new/en….asp? name=11122
[how do you make those block things to indent?]
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t think there’s much diff. bet. the politics of a Sabra politician or Russians. Admittedly, there is a Russian power base within Israeli politics & it tends to be right-wing, but it’s not like Lieberman is the only Israeli politician representing odious views about Israeli Arabs. There are plenty of native Israeli pols doing the same.
That’s a good ‘find’ regarding the Amiram Levin story, though I would like to find a better translation of his remarks.
To make a blockquote, you add a ‘<' before each "blockquote" below: blockquote> /blockquote>
Nothing substantive to contribute that hasn’t been covered already. Except maybe to say how I feel. Concerns about anti-Semitism should sort lower in the priority list for Americans than whether the United States is being manipulated into an unjust war by a powerful special interest group. The moral myopia on this subject of anti-Semitism vis-a-vis the foreign policy of the United States is astounding. The two things don’t even fit into the same moral problem space. If I had to chose between eliminating anti-Semitism and eliminating American hegemony in the Middle East which is costing hundreds of thousands innocent people their lives – I’d have to say I could live with a little anti-Semitism.
There’s a cure for anti-Semitism. It’s called education. But so far there’s no cure for being dead if you’ve been killed by the United States in an unjust war. Justice in Palestine is the key to every other issue in the Middle East. If we want peace, we have to work for justice.
BTW AIPAC is an acronym and should be all caps instead of initial caps. Of all the things that could get my goat that’s the only one that I can articulate with any authority. Thanks for writing about this important topic.
Richard Silverstein says
Touche. Soros is certainly a “wealthy, politically connected” Jewish donor. However, there are a number of key differences bet. Soros and donors to the Israel Lobby. Soros has diverse political interests and is not a single issue donor like most of Aipac’s donors are. In addition, until recently Soros’ primary political interests didn’t even include Israel or the ME conflict. I don’t even know how much, if anything, Soros donates to the peace camp. Aipac’s donors, of course, have been Israel-focussed (or fixated depending on yr perspective) for decades.
Furthermore, if we were to look at how many “politically, well-connected” donors are affiliated w. Aipac, ADL, AJC & such who support nationalist Israeli politics would there be more or less than those supporting Soros’ perspective? Why don’t we compare Aipac’s budget to any of the progressive Israel organizations. $70 million for Aipac. I’m not even counting the other groups. And I’m not even counting the campaign funds distributed by Israel Lobby donors to Congressional candidates.
How about the Jewish peace camp: less than a million for Brit Tzedek. Somewhat more for Friends of Peace Now; $2-million for Israel Policy Forum. And almost no campaign donations from donors specifically contributing to support the Israeli peace camp.
Gee, which side is more “politically connected” and spends more to support its particular perspective on Israeli politics?
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t really want to argue w. you since we essentially agree on this issue. But I differ w. you regarding anti-Semitism. To Jews anti-Semitism is a sine qua non issue. That’s because it has caused Jews a world of suffering through the ages.
As to AIPAC’s lobbying for war with Iran: if we do go to war and the war is an abject failure, I’m not sure whether it will cause anti-Semitism. I tend to think not. But if there is, it is essential for all Americans to know that despite its bragging to the contrary, AIPAC & its supporters DO NOT represent all American Jews. Not only that, they don’t represent the views of all Israelis and they certainly don’t represent the best interests of all Israelis. The best that can be said is that AIPAC represents the interests of Israel’s nationalist parties and the interests of a conservative national American Jewish leadership.
So anyone who’s tempted to “blame the Jews” for such a war if it ever happens must understand that Aipac is merely a subset of Jews and does not speak for me or a few million of the rest of us.
I used to capitalize AIPAC until I started seeing it at many media sites spelled ‘Aipac.’ I just figured (erroneously) that the organization itself used ‘Aipac.’ But your comment caused me to check the group’s website & they do indeed use ‘AIPAC.’ So thanks for reminding me to check that out.
Excellent post Richard and thoughtful commentaries with much covered already. My comment is to ask whether you are aware of Soros’ initiative mid to late last year to form an alternative lobby that would aim to challenge AIPAC. See also here I don’t know what came of it.
Robert Hareli says
I second ‘servant’s’ comment to you for writing about this important topic.
I just read this article that makes some of the same points you make about Shmuel Rosner:
Robert Hareli says
Ahh…it’s about halfway down, Richard.
Richard Silverstein says
When I first read about the initiative I was tremendously excited & I’ve written 4-5 posts about it in my blog. I’d like nothing more than to see this thing fly. But I’ve heard nothing lately about it. A friend of mind who works for a DC based I-P organization & is in the know about these things told me he gave it no more than a 50% chance of getting off the ground.
I hadn’t read that Salon article. Many thanks for that link. I’m going to blog about the article. It’s so important to keep chipping away at Aipac’s hegemony in our community.
I see I’ve stumbled onto conversations like I’ve never seen before. I’ve heard there were Israeli’s and Jews around the world who didn’t support Israel or who thought of Israel as corrupt. Without being too “gee whiz” about it, I admit unsophistication with the subject matter but genuine confusion and disagreement with some of the comments here.
Understanding Islam to a minor degree, I believe Israel will always have an uphill battle to preserve any modicum of domestic tranquility and I feel in no way swayed or manipulated by an “Israeli lobby” to hold this position. I recognize people are people, lies and malevolence, manipulation and guile are universal, but it seems the predominate voices I hear are those condemning Israel Jimmy Carter style, and not the other way around.
Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to opine. I’m certain I can learn things here.
Richard Silverstein says
Glad to hear that…I think.
I’m not sure whether you’re referring to this blog or comments published here by others. At any rate, I should make clear that I’m a progressive Zionist, which means that I support a 2 state solution to the I-P conflict. There are Jews and Israelis who are anti-Zionist who “don’t support Israel” and think it is “corrupt.” But that’s not how I’d describe myself.
There are aspects of Israeli politics and its Occupation which I believe are corrupting and immoral and I say so here. But I do not view Israel in its entirety as such.
Actually, I believe that eventually (it may take some time) Israel will find “domestic tranquility” in its relations with its Arab neighbors. Violence & hatred are not eternal there.
You don’t hear voices condemning the Palestinians? Where have you been? Perhaps you don’t live in the U.S. where such voices predominate in our political discourse. Just read Little Green Footballs if that’s what you want to see.
Richard, many thanks for the pointer to your past pasts on the topic — interesting genealogy. I’ll be on the look-out for any further developments and will be sure to forward any finds on.
Richard said: “As to AIPAC’s lobbying for war with Iran: if we do go to war and the war is an abject failure, I’m not sure whether it will cause anti-Semitism.”
I wouldn’t worry about it. Some people still blame the Jews for the Great Crash of ’29, Sept 11, the Chicago Fire, and the San Francisco Quake.
I think the anit-Semitism we see in US is a far cry from what had (has?) a tradition of millenia in Europe.
Then there are the folks who dress their Jew-hating in “Pro-Palestinian” clothing.
A personal anecdote re anti-semitism: I was at a meeting where a Palestinian woman related her horrible experiences, as she lives near a check-point, and every time she leaves her house she has to endure the humiliation, the loss of freedom, and …most catastrophic…her mother died in her arms at the check-point because the Israeli soldiers would not let mother and daughter pass to seek medical help.
At the end of her talk, in the midst of a general conversation, a woman (American) made an anti-Jewish slur – ‘The Jews own the media’ or something like that -and I struggled for a few seconds to decide if I should respond, as I always try to respond to anti-any racial or ethnic or sexual choice slur. But jeez..in this case..And while I hemd and hawed, the Palestinian woman, the one whose mother had died in front of her eyes due to to the Israelis, simply and directly responded to the slur, with words to the effect of – ‘one cannot generalize about any group.’
Score one for humanity.
Richard Silverstein says
I’m pleased to hear that anecdote, Ellen. It’s always so much better when someone else defends you or your people rather than forcing you to do it yourself. It somehow has more credibility since you’d be viewed as an “interested party” in the exchange.