To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The 'New Yorker' On Netanyahu's Duplicity, AIPAC's 'Dual Loyalty' And The Israel Lobby's Dangerous Hold On The US Congress

Connie Bruck’s reporting on the backlash against Israel and its primary American enabler, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a powerful indictment against the very “lobby” that New Yorker editor David Remnick himself scoffed at back in 2007 when Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer were launching the book version of their now-infamous treatise.  At the time, Remnick said that The Israel Lobby And U.S. Foreign Policy was “a phenomenon of its moment,” implying that it was an act of scapegoating for “the duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration” as well as “the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran.” All of which had left Americans “ furious and demanding explanations,” Remnick argued. He noted that Walt and Mearsheimer had been accused of anti Semitism, but did not make that direct accusation himself, though the suggestion was there. The timing of his disparagement was noteworthy. Coming just before the book's publication later that week it seemed kind of catty. Remnick obviously had an advance copy of the book.  Why didn't he just review the book itself, instead of writing a jaundiced, PW-style pre-publication notice, especially for a landmark effort that broke a long conspiracy of silence on Israel's corrupting influence in Washington and would go on to became a robust national bestseller?

Bruck’s piece does have a bit of the annoying ethnic insularity that marks the wider journalistic debate about the US-Israel "special relationship;” the subtitle of the digital version is “Are American Jews Turning Against AIPAC?” as if non-Jewish Americans are irrelevant. But the article does not shy from material that raises the issue of “dual loyalty” on the part of AIPAC operatives and their wealthy right-wing Jewish donors, which the accompanying artwork seems to echo.

John Yarmuth, a Jewish congressman from Louisville, Kentucky, told Bruck that “I think there is a growing sense among members that things are done just to placate AIPAC, and that AIPAC is not really working to advance what is in the interest of the United States. We all took an oath of office. And AIPAC, in many instances, is asking us to ignore it.” Another congressman, Brian Baird, ousted in 2011 after getting on AIPAC’s bad side, observed that “When key votes are cast, the question on the House floor, troublingly, is often not ‘What is the right thing to do for the United States of America?’ but ‘How is AIPAC going to score this?’ ” 

Fascinatingly---and irritatingly--- when Baird pressed AIPAC officials on this, he often sensed  a kind of subtle contempt for America itself, a variant of a larger syndrome that might be called goyimhass. “There is a disdain for the U.S., and a dismissal of any legitimacy of our right to question (Israel)—because who are we to talk about moral values? Whether it’s that we didn’t help early enough in the Holocaust, or look at what we did to our African-Americans, or our Native Americans—whatever! And they see us, members of Congress, as basically for sale. So they want us to shut up and play the game.” A former AIPAC official told Bruck that, historically speaking, the lobbying group had a rather grandiose vision that deluded them to think that  “if AIPAC had existed prior to the Second World War, America would have stopped Hitler.”

At the time the Israel Lobby came out, New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who reviewed the book for the New Republic, took authors Walt and Mearsheimer to task for an overreliance on secondary sources.  The two scholars were “dilettantes ” who wrote “about the lobbying activities of AIPAC and other Jewish lobbying and advocacy groups as if they had never set foot in the capital.” Goldberg was particularly disdainful that Walt and Mearsheimer admitted they did no independent reporting, in effect, not interviewing “a single member of Congress for their book about Congress.” In fact, if the book did have a weakness, this was it, although for Goldberg it was a more of a fig leaf for what were at bottom his own ideological objections and ethnic discomfort. Still, by relying on well-placed first hand sources, most speaking to her on the record, Bruck has immunized herself against this kind of criticism.  The result was the kind of “long, dispassionate, names-and-dates-and-quotes” story that the Atlantic’s Jim Fallows, who is no one’s idea of a Washington “tourist,” said marked “a positive step toward realistic discourse.”

It’s said, perhaps too simplistically, that America “lost” Vietnam when Walter Cronkite returned from there in February, 1968 and expressed doubts about the war on the air. The fact that Remnick gave a green light to this piece may not represent the same kind of watershed but it is significant--- a very clear sign that the dam of denial and avoidance on the American "Israel Question" is crumbling. I don't want to push it too far because the US-Israel "special relationship" certainly needs a lot more rebalancing than this kind of magazine article, but there actually seems to be something patriotic going on here. It's an American "win." 

No comments:

Post a Comment