"If more American Jews recover sufficient imagination to realise that the implacable opposition by AIPAC and other elements of the Israeli lobby to any attempt to shift U.S. policy away from its current unqualified support for Israeli hardliners poses dangers to themselves, the position of the lobby may crumble." PL quoting DH
In response to the recent post in which Colonel Lang quoted Grant Smith's observation that the secret that AIPAC is an organisation that has been breaking US laws ever since its emergence in 1963 was "now officially 'out of the bag'", "The Beaver" linked to a most interesting interview with the former AIPAC lobbyist Keith Weissman. It was Weissman who, along with his colleague Steve Rosen, was indicted back in 2005 on charges of illegally conspiring to collect and disseminate classified secrets to journalists and to Israeli diplomats – charges that were dropped in 2009, in somewhat controversial circumstances.
As Smith suggests in a commentary on the interview, Weissman's account of his role in shaping AIPAC's Iran policy, in which she portrays himself as 'a lone progressive hero fending off the Israel lobby's push for regime change from AIPAC's Iran desk' merits a rather more sceptical treatment than the interviewer, Robert Dreyfuss, gives it.
However, this in no way detracts from the very great interest of Weissman's comment that the reason he is telling his story is that:
we may be going down a path, helped along by the American Jewish community, and maybe even Israel, that is going to be worse even than the one we're on now - some sort of military confrontation with Iran. That worries me. Because they will be able to blame [it] on the Jews, to a great extent.
Irrespective of whether Weissman is rewriting the historical record, his apprehension that a war with Iran – which he says would be 'the stupidest thing I ever heard of' – could provoke an anti-Semitic backlash is quite patently genuine and deeply felt. It may also be indicative of a changing climate.
In the triumphalist period ushered in by the retreat and collapse of the Soviet Union, it came to be widely taken for granted – in my own country, Britain, just as much as the United States – that there was some natural course of history leading to the remodelling of the world in the image of the post-war West. It also came to be taken for granted that American military power could be used as a catalyst of this transformation.
So great was the climate of euphoria – whose classic statement was of course Francis Fukuyama's 'End of History' article – that the possibility that military ventures in the Muslim world might go disastrously wrong was largely ignored by mainstream opinion, non-Jewish and Jewish alike. The warnings of people with real expertise and experience of the societies which were supposed to be remodelled by American military might about the problems involved were disregarded, and such people marginalised.
So there was little reason for American Jews to be concerned that these adventures might have negative effects on them – and few were.
One discordant voice came in a strange, strangulated article entitled 'Leviathan' published in the New York Review of Books in May 2003 by the co-founder of that journal, Jason Epstein – who, curiously, also happens to be the husband of Judith Miller: the title being an allusion to ‘Moby Dick’, the classic tale of a suicidal quest to eliminate evil.
Among other things, Epstein described the way many German Jews shared the then prevalent enthusiasm for war in 1914 -- recalling Martin Buber's vision of it as a "sacred spring" which would finally unite Germans and Jews in a "joint historical mission": to civilise the Near East.
And Epstein went on to quote a comment by a notable Jewish opponent of the war, the great Viennese satirist Karl Kraus. In Kraus's view, that catastrophic conflict was the product of 'a disastrous failure of the imagination and an almost deliberate refusal to envisage the inevitable consequences of words and acts...made possible above all by the corruption of language in politics and by some of the major newspapers.'
As Weissman very fairly stresses, the positions taken by AIPAC have reflected the preferences of a minority of wealthy and right-wing American Jews, sympathetic to the Likud, who provided a very large share both of the organisation's funding and of Jewish funding of political parties and candidates. As he says, their views do not reflect those of the majority of American Jews.
However, it has also to be said that – at least until very recently, and still to a substantial extent now – evidence of deeply-committed and energetic opposition among other American Jews to the directions in which the Likud and its American fellow travellers have attempted to move not only Israeli but US policy has not been abundant. There are of course glaring exceptions – prominent among them the admirable Philip Weiss – but these have remained relatively isolated.
One of Grant Smith’s complaints against Weissman is that he shows concern for the possible impact of a war on American Jews, rather than its ‘broader potential consequences’. However, in the real world, our impulse to rise from lethargy and try to prevent situations developing in catastrophic directions is often very directly related to the extent to which we can imagine our own interests being directly at risk.
If more American Jews recover sufficient imagination to realise that the implacable opposition by AIPAC and other elements of the Israeli lobby to any attempt to shift U.S. policy away from its current unqualified support for Israeli hardliners poses dangers to themselves, the position of the lobby may crumble – and do so quite rapidly. David Habakkuk
Habakkuk has revised his earlier piece to make it more complete. pl