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20 April 2015


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William R. Cumming

Thanks Margaret!

alba etie

Feeling cautiously optimistic that the Iranian deal gets done - in large part because Senator Coker got his bill out of his committee with a 19-0 vote , and the White House 's approval .

Abu Sinan


I know this is off topic, but I was wondering if you saw the massive explosion in Sana'a? Some are speculating that it was a bunker buster bomb dropped by the Saudis, others are saying it hit an arms dump. What is your opinion? I didnt see any secondary explosions after the first. If it was an arms dump, is it possible for it all to go off at once and there be no secondary detonations? Thanks.

Swami Bhut Jolokia

alba etie, here's a good analysis by Daniel Larison:


Margaret Steinfels

Interesting points on why Corker-Cardin is unlikely to bring the agreement down. The sanctions relief delay in the bill may, of course, rile the Iranians. But it may also give France, Germany, Russia, etc., a head start in getting into Iran. They don't have legislative bodies with the same idiotic pretensions as the U.S. Congress.

Would someone take this to the Supreme Court and test the separation of powers?


The problem, as Sir Michael Howard observed, is that peace is an invented human condition made possible by the invention of Westphalian model nation states that can make treaties and enforce their terms on their populations. Non state actors cannot achieve this and sub state actors frustrate integrated national responses.

The outcome is more war.

David Habakkuk

Margaret Steinfels,

Two questions for you and other members of this 'committee of correspondence':

1. Are there any politically significant elements among American Jews who share the fundamental reservations about the analyses and prescriptions of the political leadership of Israel which J.J. Goldberg suggests are widespread among the country's intelligence and military? If there are, who are they, and what are they doing about it?

2. Do the views of the sceptics among the intelligence and military have a sufficient constituency among the Israeli electorate for one to anticipate that they will create significant pressure for any kind of radical change in direction by the country's political leadership at any point in the foreseeable future?


"They don't have legislative bodies with the same idiotic pretensions as the U.S. Congress."

They also don't have states that have such idiotic pretentions. In the US you even have Iran sanctions at the ***state level***.


And here I thought that under the US constitution, it was the the president who is responsible for the relations of the United States with foreign nations. Silly me.

Yes, Obama may make a deal with Iran, BUT HE DOESN'T SPEAK FOR FLORIDA, which will continue to punish companies with investments in Iran's energy sector. Yes, take that, evildoers!


This is a clown show.


thanks for your stimulating post.

"We have become used to the role of non-state actors in international affairs and sub-state actors (corporations, lobbies, etc.). We now have "transnational alliances of sub-state actors."

I am not sure whether I buy the premise in the first sentence. I am inclined to think Goldberg is overestimating the significance. Off the top of my head:

Is that really something new?

In the last centuries we had various flavours of communists, socialists and anarchists, various pan-nationalist and irredentist movements, facism, various pan-religious movements, nowadays neoliberals - many of these ideologies transcended borders, some necessarily.

We had after the Cold War left wing activism in the boradest sense, be it dependent on Russia or independent of it that likewise transcended borders. In Europe we had an atlantivcist consensus that shaped and made European defence policy. There is a general human rights consensus since 1945, with some setbacks (torture in the US being one glaring example). Ideas transcending borders and nation states are nothing new.

Neither is influence takling across borders. We had influence taking by foreign powers in US political affairs before, when during WW-I and WW-II the UK successfully undertook efforts to secure US support against Germany. We had American Irish supporting the IRA. Israel's eforts are another version of that, albeit afaik unparalelled in overt- and assertiveness.

And now, the Israel lobby and the reverse lobbying by the Israeli armed forces against Bibi's is supposed to be novel?

Is it not a mere eflection of how the Israeli government is using the US to advance Israeli/Likud political goals in the US, that - in a move of political Judo - the IDF is using the US to advance Israeli/IDF interests in Israel? Does it not rather reflect the peculiar intensity of the relation between the two states than a sea change in international relations?

The one big thing that has changed is that in the modern liberal* state has empowerd the individual to a greater extent than ever before. Throw in with that the connectivity that modern technology offers, and the free movement of money that has also empowered indviduals considerably. Individual reach ha also increased, with individuals being able to connect globally at the click of a mouse.

Still, this may just be a high water mark, and the pendulum may swing back to a re-assertion of state sovereignty. In a sense, that is precisely what we see in Russia, or 'Putinist' Hungary. The Greeks are showing tendencies to reassert national sovereignty. And that are just three examples of many more.

I don't think the nation state is dead yet, despite the worst US efforts in pursuit of hegemony to damage it by underming its prime prerogative, state sovereignty - be it through drone strikes irrespectiv of pesky obstacles like national borders, war of aggression against 'rogue states' or through trade treaties that (quite deliberately) abrogate national sovereignty over disputes arising from these treaties.

I think that all of these aspects are a far greater threat to Westphalian sovereignty than interests groups in DC or Tel Aviv in the context of the current US-Israeli crisis.

*as in 'pursuit and protection of individual liberties', not the way the word is (mis)used in American political dicotomy.

Margaret Steinfels

Good questions. I have no answer for question 2; others may. Jump in.

As for the first, yes there are U.S. Jews who have grave reservations about Israel's current leadership, just as there are Israelis who do. Recent polling (PEW) suggest that there is a generational shift and that younger Jews are less likely to favor current Israeli political policies. J Street is a middle of the road response to AIPAC and other organized Jewish groups; as far as I can tell it remains in favor of a two-state solution and negotiations with the PA, but opposes BDS and other protests efforts to penalize Israel policies vis a vis the Palestinians.

My impression as an outsider is that even the most liberal of my Jewish friends and neighbors are very cautious in expressing strong views about Israel's current political arrangements at least to outsiders. They may see very clearly the injustice being done to the Palestinians and Arabs who are Israeli citizens, but also sympathize with Israelis who live in fear of rockets and terrorist attacks.

The Holocaust is the trump card in any discussion about Israel, a card that Netanyahu is playing in Europe. Stories and polling about anti-Semitic attacks in Europe get play in the major U.S. national papers and there seems to be an uptick in charges of anti-Semitism in the U.S.(see examples at two University of California campuses where there have also been efforts at promoting divestment and much has been made of them in the press).

Jeffrey Goldberg's (NB., not J.J. Goldberg) recent piece in the Atlantic on European anti-Semitism got a big play and he has been speaking in Washington and New York promoting what, I am not sure. There would seem to be a fine line between genuine worries and simple fear-mongering; I would guess that most U.S. Jews are quite able and willing to distinguish them.

J.J. Goldberg may be better acquainted with Israeli sources than Washington ones, especially defense and intelligence. I have found him to be a reliable reporter on Israeli matters. His story does explain at least part of Obama's risk-taking on Iran, i.e., military/intelligence agree with him about Iran. J.J. Goldberg's regular reporting also suggests to me that there is an opening for a more varied and vigorous discussion about U.S.-Israeli relations than we have had.

William R. Cumming

Thanks for these questions David!

William R. Cumming

Thanks for this comment. My great fear is that the Israeli Jews have again been led into self-destructive policies. IMO the Holocaust largely succeeded and that has led to present belief structures in Israel and the USA.

William R. Cumming

An excellent comment IMO! Many thanks. Prior to 1940 NGO's in the USA were largely religious, including their many sects. Since then the huge rise in the largely unregulated, untaxed NGOs is no longer directly tied to religion. Disclosure my non-profit is NOT tax exempt and I believe NO NGO should be given tax exemption even religions [e.g. Scientology?]!

Time for new MORTMAIN legislation IMO.


Two other obvious additions to #2 would be the Cuba and China lobbies, which for long exercised quite considerable influence on their respective policy fields.

The China lobby was only overcome as Nixon went to China, and the Cuba lobby's iron grip on Cuba policy is only slowly being broken now, after what, 50 years?


(In my opinion) the most significant lines in JJ Goldberg's piece were these:

"Netanyahu, knowing Pardo supported the nuclear talks, canceled the meeting. The Senate delegation leader, foreign affairs committee chair Bob Corker, threatened to return home. "

Corker's behavior signaled a seismic shift: an influential American leader forced Netanyahu to stand down.

Had Obama done anything other than cooperate with such a leader he would have lost the newly-liberated territory between US and Israel.


Westphalia may hold broad framework significance for western political science majors and historians, but where Israel and Netanyahu are concerned, I believe the tension that is being replayed is that between the Jabotinskyites/Revisionists and the less militant zionist vision. The connection between father Benzion and son Benjamin Netanyahu cannot be overemphasized (in my view), and Benzion was staunchly in the Revisionist camp; he may have been more militant than Jabotinsky himself.
He was also an adept at creating tensions between US political parties, then seizing advantages for Israel from that conflict. In fact, according to Rafael Medoff in "Militant Zionism in America: The Rise and Impact of the Jabotinsky Movement in the United States, 1926 - 1948," Benzion introduced the strategy of pitting US Republican party against US Democratic party and extracting concessions for Revisionists (Zionists) from both of them. Most of Benzion's predecessors in lobbying US government in Washington on behalf of Jewish interests concentrated on Democratic politicians. When fruits of those lobbying efforts were slow in coming, Benzion took the innovative step of approaching Republican leaders, in full view of their Democratic competition at the time of a high-stakes presidential campaign. Since that initial gambit (in 1944), both parties have included in their campaign platform "US support for a Jewish state in Palestine."

William R. Cumming

N.B. The difference between PATRIOTISM and NATIONALISM!


Interesting, thanks!

alba etie

Senator Coker is actually representing the best interest of us all in his leadership regarding keeping the nuclear deal with Iran on track .

Babak Makkinejad

Russia and China yes, Germany and France - rather doubtful.


Entering the Iranian market first will be a major risk for any German or French multinational, since any dollar of theirs touching the US banking system will expose them under US jurisdiction overreach to crippling, arbitrary, politically motivated and unpredictable extortion ... err ... sanctions.

Given the at times arcane nature of US law, state sanctions and federal sanctions, US prosecutorial powers that's a veritable snake pit to find oneself in.

It was 8.9 billion in the latest case of BNP Paribas.


Germany and France will want to have guarantees from the US. Absent that, their corporations will see if their bigger market is the US or Iran, and make an according choice.


That is to say, China and Russia are far less exposed in that regard.

David Habakkuk

Margaret Steinfels,

Thanks for your thoughts. You write:

'Jeffrey Goldberg's (NB., not J.J. Goldberg) recent piece in the Atlantic on European anti-Semitism got a big play and he has been speaking in Washington and New York promoting what, I am not sure.'

Unfortunately, Goldberg is an example of the way that Zionism – like many other things – has been taken over by the modern culture of victimhood. What he is determined to believe is that the revival of anti-Semitism among Europeans is the result of the temporary dampening effect of the Holocaust on our supposedly ingrained genocidal Jew-hatred waning with time.

Accordingly, it can be deemed to have little or nothing to do with the policies pursued by the Israeli government and its fellow-travellers in the United States and elsewhere – including Britain.

As regards this country, this is the most complete claptrap.

One part of the picture here is – relatively – simple and not difficult to interpret: the extremely disturbing upsurge in violence against Jews by young Muslims. Changes in the attitudes both of British Jews and the non-Muslim population are much more difficult to pin down and analyse.

Part of the reason for this is that there are complex inhibitions in the way of candour all over the place, but it is also material that attitudes are commonly confused and contradictory, and the changes that matter develop over time, often, at least at first, in thoughts which are only half formulated and expressed.

A journalist of competence and integrity would have sought to probe beyond the inhibitions and to explore the confusions and contradictions. Instead, Goldberg uses sources in an extraordinarily selective and slapdash way.

Consider for instance the research of the 'Community Security Trust'. As he says, this is 'a Jewish organization that monitors anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom' – and indeed, it produces a great deal of very serious research.

In their report for last year, having noted that antisemitic incidents were double those in the previous year, and the highest on record, the CST went on to observe that

'The single biggest contributing factor to the record number of antisemitic incidents recorded in 2014 was antisemitic reactions in the UK to the conflict in Israel and Gaza that began on 8 July 2014 and ended on 26 August 2014.'

(See https://cst.org.uk/docs/Incidents%20Report%202014.pdf )

Meanwhile, Goldberg tells us that

'In a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a quarter of British Jews said they had considered leaving the country; more than half of those surveyed said they fear that Jews have no future in Great Britain.'

One does not like to talk about one's friends, but my wife and I have very old and close Jewish friends, none of whom would in their wildest dreams consider emigrating to Israel. And indeed, one young man who has dual American and British citizenship got roundly abused by an American who overhead him explaining to his Irish (Catholic) girlfriend in a Dublin restaurant why he had no intention of going to work in the U.S.

Certainly our small sample is selective, particularly as our friends are all secular Jews. But it came as no surprise when a quick Google check turned up an article in the 'Forward' by a British Jewish author, Liam Hoare.

This began by explaining how, on seeing headlines reporting the survey, his interest was 'immediately piqued, not least because the idea that a majority of British Jews are without hope bears no relation to my own experience of Jewish life in this country.'

Having pointed out that the sampling methods used by the 'Campaign Against Anti-Semitism' virtually guarantee a highly selective representation of Jewish opinion, and noted the tendentious nature of several of the questions asked, Hoare concluded:

'With their flawed methodology and hysterical questions, the CAA’s irresponsible survey fails to give an accurate picture of Jewish life in Britain – and it undermines the real struggle to rid Britain of whatever traces of anti-Semitism do exist.'

(See http://forward.com/opinion/world/212776/are-45-of-brits-really-anti-semitic-not-so-fast/ .)

Where Goldberg's account of British opinion disintegrated into pure hysteria was when he quoted the writer Howard Jacobson, whose latest novel is apparently 'a study of a future genocide in an unnamed but very English-seeming country of an unnamed people who very much resemble the Jews'.

'I felt as if I was writing out of dread,' Jacobson apparently told Goldfarb: 'It will never go away, this hatred of Jews … and the proof of this is that barely 50 years after the Holocaust, the desire for Jewish bloodletting isn't over'; 'I know this is a dangerous thing to say ... but the Holocaust didn't satisfy.''

I have a fairly broad back, and can live with the insulting imputation that the British have always really been Nazi Germans under the skin. But if Jacobson seriously believes this, and anticipates that at some time we will revert to type and seek to satisfy our bloodlust, then he is bonkers.

Whether what is at issue is simply bullshit, or whether he really is so trapped in trauma that confronting the real world is impossible, I simply cannot say. However, given the willingness of Goldberg uncritically to recycle such ravings, the same question necessarily arises about him.

Any intellectually honest discussion of changing perceptions of Jews in Britain has to confront the question of how far attitudes have shifted as a – hardly unpredictable – result of the neoconservative agendas set out in the 'Clean Break' paper of 1996.

Essentially, these were premised on the belief that the Middle East could be remodelled by the use of American power, in a way that would both make trading 'land for peace' unnecessary, and allow Israel eventually to escape dependence on the United States.

If Goldberg wanted to come to grips with the question of how far, and why, attitudes both to Israel and Jews have changed in Britain, he really would have to reflect on the ways in which the attempts to implement this agenda have impacted on opinion in this country.

But this would involve abandoning the culture of victimhood, and the associated sense of entitlement – something I doubt he is capable of doing.

Margaret Steinfels

Doesn't your analysis of who's in first depend on which U.S. sanctions have been levied by the President and/or an executive branch agency or levied by the Congress? Those of the president/executive branch could be lifted before those of Congress--which, of course, could go on till hell freezes over given the current leadership.

This reminds me of another topic that should be pursued at SST: when does the economic dominance of the U.S. and our penchant for sanctions and financial punishments give way to the rest of the world abandoning the dollar as a reserve currency?

Margaret Steinfels

Well yes. I don't disagree. Westphalia is a word in the headline; it is a concept tossed about in arguments about international relations. The land grabs of the 16th-20th centuries should put it in the dustbin of history. However, if Canada invaded Maine (and why shouldn't they?), you can be sure that Westphalia, borders, national sovereignty would be invoked. So there is something there!!! Old ideas.

But to the point and in defense of JJ Goldberg's "trans-national alliance of sub-state actors," in the case of the military/ intelligence establishment: it may help to explain the Obama Administration's confidence in sticking to the efforts for an agreement with Iran. Having the generals on your side must count for something when many of these Congressional "strategists" have never served in the military.

I grant you it is an alliance that may have its dark side on information sharing (one-way), etc.

Margaret Steinfels

Thanks for the links, which I will pursue.

Somewhat earlier I think we had a round on the differences on this issue between the U.S. and the UK. I may only be repeating some of what I wrote then.

Why this is such a fraught subject in the U.S. in contrast to the apparently cooler discussion in the UK must certainly be complicated by great differences in our histories. The U.S. is still an immigrant nation (and we often forget that along with Hispanics and Africans, there are also Russians and Eastern Europeans Jews who came in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s). Issues of identity (ethnicity, religion, national origins) may be in the background of many national discussions, but it doesn't take long for the seams to appear.

Fifty years of sanctions on Cuba at the behest of Cuban immigrants seems crazed now, but its active promotion by those immigrants, various congressional figures, political agendas, anti-Communism and acquiescence by most Americans kept them in place. Indeed, these may have encouraged the idea that sanctions rather than diplomacy or military action (Iraq, Iran, etc) will solve whatever problems we have.

Evangelical Christians are big supporters of the Zionist project in the West Bank for reasons that rational Israelis should fear!

Failing to end the Holocaust during the war is regularly invoked, which then brings on nightmares of the future Holocaust.

These are among the currents that surface in discussions of Israel, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

Charges of anti-Semitism are particularly powerful and, of course, hard to refute when the definition is left in the hands of those who accuse. I have been the object of such and it is both painful and perplexing. Raising questions about the U.S.-Israel relationship in public or in print is sure to bring on the dreaded charge. In fact, a few years ago, a journalist friend called me to say that Jeffrey Goldberg had asked him if I was anti-Semitic because of something I had written at Commonweal, I was astonished. Another journalist called with the same question but would not name the source of his query.

Will cooler and calmer heads prevail? If so, many of them will have to come from the Jewish community, hence my appreciation for J.J. Goldberg's (NB, Not Jeffrey) reporting and writing on the subject.

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