American Jewish leader like to give the impression of being vaguely centrist and pro-Israel. Nisht ahin, nisht aher, (“not too much of this, nor too much of that”) as they say in Yiddish. But every once in a while the hopelessly compromised rightward slant of their views is illuminated like a lightning flash. That’s happened in James Besser’s latest Jewish Week story on the reception Yvet is getting among the American Jewish leadership. Certainly no one expected a rapturous reception and he’s not getting one. But what IS surprising is the “live and let live” attitude adopted by some of the more prominent Israel lobby organizations.
When confronted with the ugly face of Israeli racism and fascism, the AJC’s David Harris confronts the issue squarely and firmly and…attacks J Street! That’s right. The problem isn’t Yvet, it’s those no good anti-Semit’n who pass themselves off as Jews.
J Street, you see, really took the bull by the horns and posted a hard-hitting video which laid out Lieberman’s views for all the world to see and, has v’halila, distributed it on Youtube, thus washing Jewish dirty linen in one of the most popular web venues in the world. Not nice, and just not done by groups that truly love Israel—like the AJC, of course. So this is Harris’ response:
“It doesn’t help Israel,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “[Instead of J Street attacks on Lieberman] we need much more focus on the eight ball; what does demonizing the new foreign minister get you?”
…“I’m not sure what they accomplished…He was portrayed in the worst possible way; the images seemed chosen to portray him as a dark, almost demonic figure. He’s there, give him a chance, judge him not by what he says by what this government does.”
“A dark, almost demonic figure…” Gee, maybe that’s because it’s what Lieberman IS. Arabs certainly see him that way. Even American Jews see him that way. He had only a 27% approval rating in the recent J Street poll. Israeli voters aren’t much more positive in the latest Haaretz poll. The Israeli and American Jewish mainstream has a distinct distaste for Lieberman’s hatemongering. The only ones pleading for patience on Yvet’s behalf are the leadership elites like Harris and a few others.
Another one of the pro-Israel elites stumping for the Yisrael Beitenu leader is Jennifer Mizrahi, chief ideologue for the Israel Project. Her comments were even more telling than Harris’:
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, conceded that Lieberman, dramatically different from the suave, Americanized Netanyahu, is a lightning rod for many American Jews.
“Different can be scary,” said Laszlo Mizrahi, whose group works with media to present Israel favorably. “There were people who thought Barack Hussein Obama was scary because of his middle name.”
But ultimately, the issue is “Prime Minister Netanyahu, and what his new government stands for and what it will deliver in terms of peace and security for Israel and its neighbors.”
Now that IS rich. Lieberman is merely ‘different.’ Not aberrant mind you. Not pathological. Not racist. Not violent. Not corrupt. Just “different.” That must be the reason he scores so poorly in the polls I mentioned. People just don’t like his accent.
Also rich, is Mizrahi’s comparison of Lieberman and Obama, as if Lieberman’s Russian name Yevgeny, like Obama’s middle name Hussein, is what puts people off. Considering that Mizrahi was likely one of those neocon Jews who was circulating the Obama smears noting his middle name and accusing him of being anti-Israel and a Muslim, it’s quite humorous to see her try to anesthetize American Jewish hostility to Lieberman by telling us we don’t like him–not because of what he stands for–but because he’s a little different than what we’re used to.
Instead of worrying about Lieberman, she said, Jewish groups should be focusing on “the fact this prime minister wants to create a better economic future for the Palestinians, which is tough to do at a time when Israel itself is experiencing massive unemployment.”
Here again Mizrahi takes us for rubes by passing off Bibi’s avowed aim of bringing economic betterment to Palestinians in place of political freedom, as something substantive. It’s as if she’s saying our fear of Lieberman is merely the fear of the bogeyman, while what’s real and important is Netanyahu’s economic plan. The truth is precisely the opposite: what is real is Lieberman’s racism; what is fake is the new prime minister’s “plan” to improve Palestinians’ lives.
She echoed another theme of mainstream pro-Israel groups: Lieberman isn’t the radical firebrand portrayed in the press.
“I think one of his most significant quotes was that if there’s a sustainable peace, he would give up his own home. How many political leaders can say something like that?”
More importantly, how many political leaders would you BELIEVE when they say something like that? And if you’d believe Lieberman then you’re probably the proud owner of a certain New York City bridge and some beautiful swampland in Florida.
Mizrahi doesn’t understand that with Israeli pols, talk is cheap. It means nothing. Lies mean nothing. Actions speak louder. Inaction speaks louder still. And a frozen status quo practically screams.
If David Harris and Jennifer Mizrahi want to pimp for Lieberman that’s their perogative. But as a character says in Hester Street, “you can’t piss on my back and tell me it’s rain.” Everyone else in this country knows the true Lieberman and “won’t be fooled again.”