Now, I’ve seen everything. Back in the day, an Israeli prime minister wouldn’t breathe a word about his personal political preferences regarding U.S. presidential races. Israel’s leaders knew that they’d need to work with whoever became president, and for them discretion was the better part of valor. There was a certain humility in recognizing that Israel needed the support of whichever candidate won, and couldn’t be seen to be playing favorites.
Bibi Netanyahu has thrown caution to the winds and doubled down on Mitt Romney, who everyone and his brother knew was supporting Romney to begin with. Now, Politico reports that a pro-Israel 501c4 called Secure American Now, has produced a campaign ad (view it) that it plans to run in Florida which will feature Netanyahu. Frankly, I’ve never heard of an Israeli leader making an ad as part of a U.S. presidential campaign. It runs the risk of stirring a harsh response from Americans who believe that foreign leaders shouldn’t be injecting themselves into partisan American politics.
Presumably, the ad sponsors believe that in this critical swing state, the prime minister will have some impact on elderly Jewish voters. But given the fact that the majority of American Jews support a two-state solution and allowing sanctions against Iran to work before pursuing an attack, and Mitt doesn’t (nor does Bibi, but that’s for another discussion), which Jews will be persuaded by the ad’s shrill, strident tone?
Secure America Now was founded a year ago by a (nominally) Democratic and Republican pollster, Pat Caddell and John McLaughlin (who has polled for Netanyahu as well), who sought to inject national security issues into the 2012 presidential elections. Regardless of claims of bipartisanship, the ads it airs are stridently hawkish and rooted firmly in neocon views. They decry the closure of “black sites” on foreign soil at which torture was used against Muslim detainees and the abandonment of brutal interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
The Netanyahu ad opens with the hawkish leader begging American viewers to understand why someone has to attack Iran before it’s too late. If that someone isn’t the U.S. then by God, it’ll have to get out of the way and let Israel do the job. It closes with the tagline: “The world needs American strength, not American apologies.” The apology trope is a false one claimed by the far-right regarding Barack Obama’s first interview as president, which was with a Middle Eastern news agency.
As a 501c4, Secure America Now is non-profit and doesn’t have to list its donors. It’s website is a virtual tabula rosa, which doesn’t list any names at all of either staff or directors.
The campaign features a $1-million ad buy in Florida. The question is: who’s paying? No one knows, though given Netanyahu’s participation, it’s a likely guess that Sheldon Adelson, his chief financial benefactor, can’t be far behind.
My one pet peeve about the ad, above and beyond its patent propagandistic nature, is the misuse of the wonderful Armenian wind instrument, the duduk, to convey an ominous, threatening tone in the soundtrack. For God’s sake people, the duduk is a beautiful, soulful instrument. Don’t turn it into a musical caricature used for the purpose of spooking audiences into menacing thoughts of Middle Eastern terrorism.
The ad is shameful. The sponsoring group is shameful. Bibi’s participation is shameful. Not surprising, but shameful nonetheless. I just published a tweet that said (pardon the strong language–it was a tweet after all):
Bibi demands red lines and so do I: stay the fuck out of U.S. electoral politics!
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.