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).