President Obama secured what might be the biggest foreign policy victory of his six years in office yesterday as forty Senate Democrats and two left-leaning Independents banded together to filibuster a Republican-backed bill to kill the nuclear deal with Iran. Afterward, the President and his supporters waxed triumphant, while those who opposed the deal vowed to continue to raise the issue—although it seems unlikely they’ll get a different result on the filibuster, and certain that they cannot override the President’s veto. The deal will stand.
And because the deal stands, one hoary old myth should fall: that of the “Israel Lobby”, and its supposed secret, malign control over the U.S. government. The Israeli state and major U.S. pro-Israel organizations were foursquare against the deal. Yet, not only did they not defeat it, but they couldn’t even get a bill of rejection to the President’s desk.
But even as late as yesterday, we saw evidence that an insidious form of the old myth seems to be becoming more acceptable in mainstream, center-left sources. Look for instance at the graphic the New York Times ran before yesterday’s vote—now infamous on Twitter as the “Jew Tracker”:
But the myth of the omnipotent Jewish lobby is not rational, and belief in it hinges on feelings more than facts. It rests on anti-Semitic tropes that many people swallow without ever examining: that “the Jews” are a united bloc relentlessly pursuing a single agenda, that “Jewish power” through its control of the media and its vast wealth determines the outcome of political battles on issues of importance to the Jews, that democratic processes are helpless when “the Jews” weigh in.
All over the world, people blame George W. Bush’s policies (perceived as more pro-Israel than they were, but no matter) on “the Jews”, though more Jewish votes and Jewish money went to his opponents. And all over the world resistance to Barack Obama’s perceived “even-handed” policies is blamed on “the Jews”, though he got more Jewish votes and Jewish money than his opponents—and continues to enjoy high levels of Jewish support.
To the extent that they have a political ethos, the ethos (even among very wealthy people) is liberal, but American Jews aren’t a monolithic voting bloc. There are some high-profile wealthy Jewish political activists who donate heavily to conservative, pro-Likud politicians; there are more wealthy Jewish donors who contribute heavily to liberal, anti-Likud politicians like President Obama. But Jewish donors and activists, like other Americans, act as individuals supporting their individual beliefs.
To believe otherwise isn’t “sort of anti-Semitic”; this is exactly how anti-Semitism distorts peoples’ perceptions of reality.