Everyone knows about Joe McCarthy’s red-baiting during the 1950s. Nowadays, the pro-Israel right in this country engages in Israel-baiting especially when it comes to electoral politics. Every two years the Republican Jewish Coalition gets some rich Jewish chump like Shelly Adelson to ante up a million or two to shrey from the rooftops that the Democrats are soft on Israel. The stunt works as well for them as Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme ended up working for him. Many of you will remember the RJC and its affiliated henchmen taking out ads in the Jewish press arguing that Barack Obama was anti-Israel because of an insufficient deference for some Aipac-touted position or other. We’ve come to expect it of the Republicans and the Israel lobby. It’s their MO.
But hearing Israel-baiting (the Jewish equivalent of red-baiting) from the heart of the Democratic Party is a new one on me. Knowing of M.J. Rosenberg’s distaste for Jane Harman and her slavish devotion to Aipac, I suggested that he look up Marcy Winograd’s progressive primary challenge against Harman. He replied, obliquely mentioning something atrocious Henry Waxman and Lynne Woolsey had pulled. It took me a while to find it, but I did.
Those of you who follow my blog regularly may remember that I’ve taken on Jane Harman several times over the years as one of Aipac’s most trusted Congressional flunkies. A few years ago she even enlisted Haim Saban to pressure Nancy Pelosi to name her chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Harman knew that Pelosi knew that if Saban wanted the former in that job he held an enormous financial sword over the House Speaker’s head since the wealthy Israeli-American was a major donor to the Party. For a federal official to ask anyone to intervene on her behalf with another federal official in this fashion is illegal and I thought she at least should’ve been indicted. A separate story came out that as part of an intelligence operation the FBI heard an Israeli agent of influence ask Harman to intercede for a favor.
Thanks to her personal wealth ($112-million and 3rd wealthiest Congress member), political sway and Israel lobby connections she managed to dodge the bullet–this time.
Recently, I came across as astounding speech by Marcy Winograd, who is running against our friend Jane Harman…Ms. Winograd’s views on Israel I find repugnant in the extreme.
What alarmed Waxman so much? The fact that Winograd is a progressive Jew who says, along with many other progressive Israelis I might add, that the time for a two-state solution has passed due to Israeli intransigence. The fact that Winograd opposes U.S. aid that supports Israeli “institutional racism.” The fact that she doesn’t want to be associated with “occupation or extermination.”
To be clear, my views aren’t the same as Winograd’s. I’m still hanging on to the possibility for a two-state solution though the prospects grow dimmer by the day. But I completely reject the notion that such views are “repugnant” or beyond the Jewish pale or whatever. In fact, we already have over 400 members of Congress who are clones of Waxman’s and Harman’s pro-Israel views. To have one member of Congress who refuses to toe the Aipac line would not undermine the republic.
Waxman fulminates further:
…The notion that a member of Congress could hold such views is alarming. Ms. Winograd is far, far outside the bipartisan mainstream of views that has long insisted that U.S. policy be based on rock-solid support for our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
In Winograd’s foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Winograd’s vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights…Jane’s victory will represent a clear repudiation of these views…
I ask you to join me in showing maximum support for Jane…
This bit of hasbara is standard Aipac boilerplate. Waxman can probably recite it backwards and forwards and does so thrice a day just as Orthodox Jews recite their daily prayers. A few problems though: the only democracy in the Middle East leaves out Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, and…the Palestine Authority which duly elected Hamas in a democratic election. A bit of pro-Israel myopia seems to have crept into Waxman’s argument. And it seems to me that arguing that Palestinians don’t respect “democracy or human rights” ignores the fact that Israel has a few challenges on the human rights front itself. As for democracy, we can argue about the nature of Israeli democracy, but Hamas actually won a democratic election. So ignoring Palestinian democracy is at best a glaring omission.
Winograd has drafted her own response to Waxman here. It reads in part:
Like you, I am intimately aware of our Jewish history. On my mother’s side, my great-grandparents escaped the Russian Pogroms to make a better life for themselves in Europe. On my father’s side, my great-grandparents were killed in the Jewish Holocaust of Nazi Germany. Because of our collective experience with persecution, it behooves us to stand in opposition to persecution anywhere and everywhere, rather than sanctify reductionist state policies that cast all Jews as victims who can only thrive in a segregated society. Furthermore, we must stand in explicit opposition to the Israeli persecution of the Palestinians; the brutal blockade of Gaza, an act of war by international standards, denying children clean water, food, and medicine.
We are better than that…
To stop the suffering of the Palestinian people and to end the rocket attacks on Israelis near the border, I am ready and willing to accept a negotiated peace agreement that adheres to principles of justice and recognizes a two-state solution based on withdrawal of illegal settlements to the 1967 borders or a mutually-agreed exchange of territory.
To be fully candid, I think Winograd is in a tough spot here as a Congressional candidate. If you’ve endorsed a one-state solution you’ve potentially marginalized yourself among your Jewish constituency and other pro-Israel forces. I wish this wasn’t the case. But it is.
All that being said, I think times are changing and that Winograd should confront this slightly differently than she has. I think she should say look, no one in Congress gets to determine whether there will a one or two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president and secretary of state and the parties themselves will make those determinations. The main thing any member of Congress should stand for is dignity, respect and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. The main thing any member of Congress should oppose is any legislation that demeans or diminishes the rights of either Israelis or Palestinians.
Marcy Winograd hasn’t spent 30 years in the Beltway attending Aipac briefings and Israel junkets. She hasn’t been fed the standard Likud line as have Congressmembers Harman and Waxman which parrots back Israel right or wrong talking points. For all the time her opponent has been in Washington, Marcy’s actually been living with her middle-class Los Angeles family dealing with the travails of everyday folk as a teacher and community activist. She hasn’t had a chance to develop the polished vacuous statements churned out by the Waxman-Harman political machine.
But you know what–Marcy Winograd spoke from the heart in her All Saint’s Church speech out of a sense of pain as a Jew at the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. And if that’s a hanging offense for Harman’s buddies at Aipac, so be it. Nothing she said in her speech can be remotely construed as hostile to Israeli Jews or Israel’s security. In addition, there are tens of thousands of Israelis who were shocked and scandalized, as she was, by the terrible suffering inflicted by the IDF on Gaza. So Congressman Waxman, if you smear Marcy Winograd for caring too much about Gazan suffering, you’re smearing those courageous Israelis who believe that what their government and armed forces did their was wrong regardless of the reason for doing so.
Maybe on their next Aipac junket, Harman and Waxman will visit more than the Knesset and meet with other leaders than Bibi and Shimon. Maybe they will meet with Israeli human rights NGOs like B’Tselem and Peace Now. Maybe, God forbid they’ll visit the West Bank and Gaza, as Congressmembers Baird and Ellison and Senator Kerry did last year. Maybe they’ll try to see how the other half lives in the Middle East. And then maybe they’ll understand that what Marcy Winograd believes isn’t so outrageous after all. In fact, she has nothing to apologize for. If anything, it is Harman and Waxman and their slavish relationship with Aipac who have some explaining to do.
Returing to Winograd’s letter above, it also contains a cogent denunciation of the inadequacies of Jane Harman and her betrayal of values that most members of the Democractic Party hold dear.
If you feel like me that Marcy Winograd is not treif and that she represents a true progressive voice that should be in Congress, I hope you’ll join me in supporting her in any way you can (but especially with a financial contribution).