I don’t know how many of you caught the echo of the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup (“To war, to war, Fredonia goes to war!”) in my post title. But apparently, as Aipac joins in eager anticipation with the Israeli political élite for an attack on Iran, the progressive policy wonks at Media Matters and Center for American Progress have taken aim at this war fever. And Aipac doesn’t like it one bit. M.J. Rosenberg, Eli Clifton and Matt Duss have used their blogs to poke holes in the arguments behind the Israeli-neocon march to war. They’ve been tweeting and posting furiously, doing what they can to make the case for diplomacy, pragmatism and moderation. All of these qualities are anathema to Aipac and Israeli interests.
The first public shot across the bow came from Politico’s Ben Smith who attempts to stir up a hornet’s nest within the Democratic Party by claiming that CAP and Media Matters are little more than fronts for the Party:
The Center for American Progress, the party’s key hub of ideas and strategy, and Media Matters, a central messaging organization, have emerged as vocal critics of their party’s staunchly pro-Israel congressional leadership and have been at odds, at times, with Barack Obama’s White House…
If Smith had said this about J Street he would be dead-on accurate, as that group is a liberal mouthpiece for the Party in the Jewish community. But I’ve never heard this said, and it strikes me as ludicrous to make the claim about Media Matters. Claiming that they or CAP are a “core institution” for the Party implies there is no way to be progressive unless you’re affiliated with the Dems. In fact, I’d argue that if you’re too affiliated with Dems you can’t be progressive. Anyone who takes one look at Obama’s foreign or national security policy can see that.
Having read the posts and social network messaging of many of the individuals under scrutiny, it’s false to say that their attack is on a Party. Rather it’s on the views of individuals whether Republican or Democratic. To say that they’re taking special aim at Democrats or that they have an underhanded plan to turn the Democrats against Israel is beyond ludicrous. Does being against a disastrous war being cooked up by Bibi, Barak and Aipac mean you’re anti-Israel? In which universe is that reasonable?
I think Smith’s stirring up a tempest in a teapot. He may argue that the analysts above are critiquing the Party’s positions (though they’re tweaking a pro-war position shared by many in both parties), but they aren’t doing that from within its ranks. Rather they are independent observers, and that’s as it should be.
Aipac though has set loose its attack dogs, including some who, like greyhounds, we’d thought were retired from the races. Josh Block until a year or so was Aipac’s chief flack. He’s the brain who decided The Guardian’s Chris McGreal should be rendered persona non grata at the Aipac conference two years ago, and be provided a security escort and frog marched out of the conference hotel. Josh has now moved over to the Progressive Policy Institute (the Party’s hawkish rear guard). Smith laughingly calls PPI “center-left.” Which tells you a lot more about the reporter’s political views than it does about PPI. Returning to Block and his former Aipac affiliation: his heart is still with daddy and his old buddies.
Justin Elliot reports in Salon that Block took advantage of a neocon journalist listserv, moderated by TNR’s Jamie Kirchick, to promulgate talking points to advance a media blitz against the groups and individuals I mentioned. He reminds me a bit of the Manchurian Candidate, as whenever Aipac needs him, he can be activated by flashing a blue and white Star of David card in front of his face. His master’s voice has told him to try to organize a widespread right-wing barrage.
Frankly, I don’t see how it can succeed. First, the material he’s offered for this expose is just plain retarded. For example, OMG, Matt Duss tweeted that Jennifer Rubin was a “douchebag.” That’s Block’s idea of “evidence.” Of what? Of the fact that Duss uses Twitter as almost every other one of its members does? Tweeting vigorously, even aggressively at times? This is improper? Gimme a break.
Oh and in case you didn’t know it already, Eric Alterman is an anti-Semite. Alterman, the mildly liberal-Zionist columnist (who calls himself a “proud pro-Zionist Jew”) whose views on Israel are faintly to the left of Ethan Bronner and certainly in synch with Gershom Gorenberg. THAT anti-Semite?
Poor Josh doesn’t much like M.J. calling his old friends “Israel Firsters.” That’s because Aipac sees Israel’s interests as the same as America’s. So they can’t possibly be disloyal to U.S. interests. That’s why Block calls such views “anti-Semitic.” But they’re not. They are a reasonable political attack on views which have political, and not religious repercussions. The important purpose of this attack on Aipac is to deny them the claim that America’s interests are the same as Israel’s. This is a deluded notion that must be rebutted forcefully. Saying America’s interests diverge from Israel’s is not anti-Semitic. It’s realistic, pragmatic. It’s the Aipac-ers who are extreme on this point. And I should point out that I am not arguing that Israel’s interests aren’t legitimate (from their point of view). They are. But they are Israel’s interests, not ours.
What’s Aipac pissed about? Not that they favor war with Iran, because they do. Apparently what they’re pissed about is that their support for war is qualitatively different from that of others. And they’re also allergic to the Walt-Mearsheimer-like claim that the Israel lobby is lobbying for war (which they are). It strikes them as anti-Semitic to claim that Jews are leading the nation to war when lots of other people are too:
…The suggestion that AIPAC is leading an Iraq-style drive for war with Iran also angered leading Jewish Democrats, many of whom are close to AIPAC.
…“There’s a great difference between the widespread concern for Iran within the Democratic and Jewish communities versus the far right. Some extreme right-wingers may be beating the drums for war, but the vast mainstream — certainly including AIPAC — is most definitely not, said David Harris, the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, when asked about the AIPAC’s statements.
The real truth of the matter is that just as Bibi and Barak want to go to war against Iran, Aipac does too. Claiming otherwise is simply a smokescreen. Sure, you can say we’re for sanctions, we’re for this, we’re for that. But at the end of the day any sensible person, whether left or right, knows that sanctions can’t work. And what will you be left with? Since no U.S. president can apparently do the sensible thing and offer negotiations and compromise to engage Iran, the only choices you are left with is war or no war. Everyone knows where Aipac comes down regarding this choice. War.
It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re for war reluctantly or enthusiastically. In the end, you’re for calling out the bombers, dropping the bunker busters, and sending the Iranian nuclear facilities back to the Stone Age, if not earlier. And as a supporter of war, you share responsibility for the aftermath, which will be round after round of bloodshed as Iran exacts its own form of revenge.