American Jews are extremely sensitive to the charge of dual loyalty. That is, that they might see their loyalty to Israel as equally or superseding their loyalty of the United States. This charge makes me uncomfortable as well for obvious reasons.
But I have to say that Israel advocacy groups like The Israel Project and StandWithUs practically invited these charges since they not only support Israel, they act as extensions of the Israeli government in this country. And yes, in effect, they are acting as agents of Israel. Presumably these groups are smart enough not to violate U.S. law and accept actual funding from the Israeli government. That would force them to register as Israeli agents. But they do everything short of this.
In fact, deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, in acknowledging that the Israeli government officially supported StandWithUs’ lawsuit against the Olympia food coop, which was dismissed in Superior Court recently, called StandWithUs and other advocacy groups, Israeli “force multipliers.”
I’ve recently learned that another American Jewish group is acting as Israel’s agent in dealing with the local community here in Seattle. Wendy Rosen, the regional director of the American Jewish Committee, has personally booked Ambassador Michael Oren’s media and other public appearances in Seattle on at least two occasions. I would think that the Ambassador, who has an entire consulate and staff in San Francisco that covers the Pacific Northwest, would have a staff to do this. But Rosen personally booked a speech for Oren at St. Mark’s Cathedral that was to have taken place tonight on June 8th, from which he withdrew. She also booked an appearance for Oren on the KUOW talk show, Weekday.
That 14-minute interview was arranged with host Steve Scher to have no public call-ins and no guest joining him to present an alternative viewpoint. In fact, I’ve complained directly to Scher, his producers and station manager, Wayne Roth, about the unfairness and lack of balance of this segment. The response I received from a producer named Jason was that I could suggest questions for Scher to ask during the interview (which I did). When I asked why they accepted the conditions offered by Rosen of no public questions and no co-guest, Jason told me Rosen and Oren would’ve refused to appear. To which I replied: “So, what’s so bad about that?” I asked why they couldn’t have given a guest with an alternate perspective 14 minutes following Oren’s appearance in which to present a different perspective. I was assured that this would not be the last word on the subject, that other voices would be heard, etc.
I await proof of KUOW’s commitment to do this. Though I have booked two guests for Weekday speaking about the Iran-Israel conflict, the most I personally have ever been offered was a few minutes as a call-in guest during Operation Cast Lead. I have never been an in studio guest. This despite the fact that I’ve used KUOW’s studio to be interviewed for the BBC!
Returning to the AJC, if American Jewish groups want Americans to think of American Jews as independent actors, they must be independent of official Israel. American Jews may, even should, support Israel. But they may not become extensions of official Israel. They may not become agents of Israel, extensions of the Israeli government. If they do, then they invite the charge of dual loyalty and make the job of those like me who detest the notion that much harder.
So my unsolicited advice to both the Israeli government, Ambassador Oren, American Jewish pro-Israel advocacy groups, and Wendy Rosen is…let Oren use his own staff to book his schedule. Despite the fact that local Jewish groups may know the territory and characters better than consulate staff, everyone pays a price when things like this happen. So if the AJC wants to continue being Michael Oren’s talent booker, they have only themselves to blame when its critics call it Israel Firster or an agent of the Israeli government. That is, in effect, what they are.
I wrote about this issue in more detail as it unfolded in the secret transcripts I published of diplomatic conversations which confirmed the willing collaboration between American Jewish leaders and Israeli government officials to monitor American Congress members deemed hostile to Israel. It even involved the ghost writing of op-eds published in prominent U.S. newspapers by embassy/consulate staff for Jewish leaders. To an outside observer it appears seedy and furtive. To the American Jews involved, it’s a badge of honor. Which indicates the divide between American Jewish pro-Israel advocates and the rest of us.
On a slightly different subject, the local American Jewish Committee also appears proud of its collaboration with Christians United for Israel. Leadership of the former group attended a CUFI Hispanic outreach event at a local church which was keynoted by CUFI Pastor Carlos Ortiz. Prominent Jewish community leader Carol Gown, pictured above, endorsed the event with breathtaking enthusiasm:
It was quite amazing. Overwhelming, actually!
This is the same CUFI whose founder, John Hageee, is an avowed Islamophobe and homophobe. Who has called for using nuclear weapons against Iran. Who has called gays the “anti-Christ.” Who has said liberal Jews caused the Holocaust. Who has donated $250,000 to a West Bank settlement. Who has warned Israelis not to return an inch of God-given soil to the Palestinians in a peace agreement.
Gown is known as a liberal in local politics. For that reason I’ve appealed to her in the past for help when the local newspaper, JTNews, has either slandered me or engaged in especially lopsided coverage of an Israel-Palestine issue. When I appealed for help during the recent pinkwashing controversy, she never responded. I guess I can see why now. Also pictured above is David Brumer, last seen in these parts as the then-StandWithUs board member who gay-baited me and said I should be spanked publicly for my political views. It appears he’s joined the upper rent district by moving from SWU to AJC, where the leadership is more refined, better educated and less thuggish (than SWU).
Deïr Yassin says
Michael Oren is right in refusing a co-guest with an alternative view: imagine if that guest did a Bob Simon stunt and asked Oren an embarrassing question such as “How can you give a speech at the annual Global LGBT summit in Philidelphia – where Israel (surprise, surprise) was a ‘special guest’ – and then go off to meet notorious homeophobes (and antisemites) such as Hagee ?”
Oren would have to answer with the now just as classic as Bogart’s “Play it again, Sam”, : “There’s-a-First-Time-To-Everything-Bob”.
John Hagee: The anti-Christ is Gay, partially Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler
I guess I’m going to play the Hagee-card next time some hasbarista mentions the Mufti…
Matt Graber says
Yet how seperable are the American Jewish establishment and the Israeli government? Who else is responsible for the ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine? This is not a rhetorical question, as I know that other Europeans have played a significant role. And yet, who else has provided impunity to the government of Israel? American Jews have done so because they share responsibility for Israel’s crimes
Well said, Matt! This is not just an abundance of enthusiasm for the “old country” (for Jews, the “new country.”) It is something else altogether: American Jews have helped finance Israeli policies all along the way, including the illegal policies and even tolerates affronts to the American President (remember the Jewish editor calling for Obama’s assassination?). This dual loyalty thing that gives RS the willies is something more than just enthusiasm. It is the extension of the Israeli state into the very social/political fiber of the US and these American Israeli state functionaries pretend to be America Firsters while pursuing politics and policies dictated by the right wing Israeli government. This “entanglement” of American Jewry with the Israeli government has paid big dividends, but it also runs a very big risk. When the tide changes, these innocent Americans doing Israel’s business will be in a very bad place. And outright Israeli agents, like Richard Perle, may end up being charged with treason. (Personally, I think that the Jewish neo-con involvement in precipitating war with Iraq was a species of treason as it did not promote American interests first and foremost. IMHO.)
The sleaziness of Israeli government stooges like the ADL and SWC in American is beyond the line as well. What other country has phoney baloney non-profit social justice organizations in America whose agendas are linked to Israeli government agents and to policies of that foreign state?
RS maybe “hates” the very notion of dual loyalties because, once the door is opened, the body of evidence for such agency is truly overwhelming. And rightly, RS maybe doesn’t want Jews condemned for the actions of these agents, however numerous and however nefarious they may be. I can see that, but then so can these agents and maybe, just maybe, they are extorting silence from the rest of us. Just a thought.
There is an organization in the US called “Friends of the IDF” which has chapters in some major cities – New York, Miami, San Francisco among others – and it puts on regular fundraising dinners for the IDF to the tune of $1,200 a plate (or more). Can you imagine the Russian Army having a booster group in the US? Or the Chinese? Of course not; but no one bats an eye if rich Zionist Jews want to throw their money at a foreign army. There oughta be a law, really.
“Friends of the IDF” This is pretty brazen stuff. I wonder if there are chapters internationally or is it just in America that the Israel Firsters feel so comfortable underwriting the military establishment of another country? It is hard to imagine a French or Italian chapter.
And talk about “multipliers’! American taxpayers will give $24 a piece to Israel this year for military purchases. In addition, the IDF’s “friends” will give on their own. Maybe the $3.1 billion earmarked for Israel should be reduced dollar for dollar for all US charitable donations to Israeli military or to WB settlements? After all, official US policy opposes the settlements. This official policy should be (could be) hard-wired into a dollar for dollar reduction type of law.
This friends organizing is all the more painful when you consider the mythology which likely informs it and the unseemly identification of well-off Zionist givers with what they take to be the heroism of the IDF, on the one hand, or perhaps the unfettered expansion of Israeli power (hence their own power), on the other.
There ought to be a law: There probably is.
Deïr Yassin says
“It’s hard to imagine a French….chapter”.
Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine, and when I first heard about it, I simply thought it was a rumour, but no, French Zionist organizations regurlarly organize Dinner-Gala parties to collect money for the IDF or the MAGAV.
In January 2008, there was some fuss about such a Gala because groups of pro-Palestinian activists tried to block the event in a well-known music hall protected by the French police, the Jewish Defense League (not forbidden in France) and Betar-France. I read about another Gala back in March 2002 where the entrance ticket was 150 euros including entertainment by a musical group from the IDF during the dinner.
And in a documentary on French national television some years back, there was a sequence about the JDL training “self-defense” in an official building protected by the French police.
The informations that I’m posting here are all on the net (in French), including the sequence about the JDL.
To me, this is just obscene. Israel collects donations as if it is a charity. American citizens give money to support a foreign army. We have at least one Israeli spy in our prison system, yet we allow money to be sent? Also, the US turns a blind eye when American Jews donate to organizations helping to build illegal settlements.
Deïr Yassin says
Yep, and while Zionist organizations across the US can collect money for a colonial enterprise, ethnic cleansing and random killing, Palestinians/Muslims are imprisonned for collecting money for the Palestinians.
I’m thinking of The Holy Land Foundation and that parody of a trial where Palestinian Ghassan Elashi – among others – was sentented to 65 years in prison, if my memory is correct, and this other trial against Palestinian university professor Sami Al-Arian.
Here’s a multi-awarded Norwegian documentary about the 5,5 years of living hell that Sami Al-Arian and his family went through before he was cleaned of ALL charges. His wife at a moment clearly expresses (a scene in the kitchen in the beginning) that he’s only guilty of being Palestinian.
Sami Al-Arian is free now, but I often think about Elashi and a photo of him and his beautiful daughter Noor, taken during a visit in prison. There’s so much love and pain in that photo that it simply breaks your heart.
Oh my G*d — the obscenity is so huge, such an affront to well-meaning people, including Americans, everywhere. For purposes of handouts, Israel is a basket case and this explains why discussions of Israel’s economic “success” is so muted in the I-P rags and blogs. The Zionists cannot very well tout Israel’s economic success while accepting virtual handouts from, sadly, all over the world.
I have personally regaled the IRS on these “exempt” organizations and their documented support of the settlement program. I have sent study after study, requested information about these “charities” and have been told that this information — the tax status of a charitable organization — is confidential. The US taxpayer underwrites the settlement program by allowing exemption from taxes of a good number of organizations and I, a taxpayer, cannot even know which organizations benefit from my subsidy!
It is one picture and the war against Zionism is, at the same time, a war to publicize Zionist interests in the US from the SodaStream charade to the bought and paid for US congressmen.
France, as well, huh? Wow!
On the other hand, if you donate to an organization that helps people in Gaza, and if the money is handled or administered in any way by Hamas, you can be charged with material support for terrorism. If you’re an American and wish to join a flotilla or convoy to Gaza, you can be similarly charged. But money can be freely given to settler groups in the West Bank (which Sheldon Adelson and other well-heeled American Jews have done) whose business is both to steal Palestinian land and murder Palestinians.
Matt Graber says
Last November, I did a radio broadcast about former PA Governor Ed Rendell’s support for the removal of the MEK from the US terrorist list.
Rendell was mayor of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2000. His chief of staff was David Cohen. In particular since Rendell’s terms as Mayor, Cohen has been a golden child here in Philadelphia. He was formerly on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Today, Cohen is the Vice President of the Comcast Corporation, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of Pennsylvania.
I first came across Cohen’s name last November, when he and Ed Rendell hosted a fundraiser for the Friends of the IDF in Philadelphia. Then, in February, Cohen and the President of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann, published an op-ed in the UPenn daily newspaper, in which they said that they strongly disagree with the political stance of the BDS conference at Penn, and reiterated their university’s support for Israel.
When Alan Dershowitz was hosted at UPenn, Cohen was one of several speakers who welcomed Dershowitz to the campus.
Then in April, David Cohen hosted a fundraiser for the Jewish National Fund.
Since all of this has gone on, I’ve been incredibly curious to know David Cohen’s Zionist credentials. Why does he feel such loyalty to the State of Israel?
Furthermore, what influence has he had over the ways in which these institutions – the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Comcast Corporation, and the University of Pennsylvania? He has been at the very top of all of these organizations, undoubtedly exerting influence. But how/in what policies may his Zionist credentials shine through?
Jews own the media in America? Maybe not. But a culture of silence is most certainly enforced at the Comcast Corporation.
Matt Graber says
And while David Cohen was fundraising for the Friends of the IDF in Pennsylvania, Barbara Streisand was at the top of the bill for the FIDF fundraiser in Los Angeles.
“It is the extension of the Israeli state into the very social/political fiber of the US …” as I commented above. This sort of “lifting the veil” however is tricky and nerve-wracking for me personally. I try not to let my misgivings dominate my actions because this fear then extorts silence from me and from people who should know better and should do something. But, it is ugly, troubling stuff to point out the actors, their mistaken priorities and how the support of Israel dovetails with colonialist exploitation through militarism and with a vile racist agenda. Matt’s sort of investigation must go on and must be supported, but we don’t have to like doing it.