Why AIPAC Is Good For The Jews — and For Everyone Else
Published on: April 5, 2010
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  • Joe


  • Samuel Schwartz

    As Mark Steyn writes, anti-semitism, “‘the oldest hatred’ didn’t get that way without an ability to adapt.”

    Paul Berman believes that in every generation, the Jews are identified as being opposed to general society’s most lofty principles, whatever those principles are in a given era. In the middle ages the Jews were seen to oppose universal redemption. During the enlightenment, Jews (and Christians) were hated for opposing universal justice and happiness. After the treaty of Westphalia, Jews were hated for insisting on their national distinctness within existing states.

    Today, Berman writes, “we have arrived at yet another idea about how to bring about universal peace and justice – the loftiest, most advanced idea of our own time. Instead of looking on well-established states with solid borders to keep the peace, Westphalia-style, we look on states as a formula for oppression and war. Lofty opinion nowadays calls for post-state political systems, like the European Union. Unfortunately, nowadays the Jews possess a state. Thus one hates the Jews in the name of lofty opinion, no longer because the Jews lack a state but because, on the contrary, they have a state. They seem keen on keeping their state. And once again the Jews are seen to be affirming a principle that high-minded people used to uphold but have now rejected as antiquated.”

    This is not the anti-semitism of Coughlin. That is why the rise of anti-semitism in the U.S. is not inconceiveable.

  • Luke Lea

    Mead: “If the disease of anti-Semitism were to take hold in this country, it would be directed at a perceived anti-American, anti-middle class conspiracy involving the elite media, Wall Street, Hollywood and liberal pressure groups like the ACLU. Anti-Semites would accuse Jews in the media of reporting anti-American, anti-strong defense stories in an effort to destroy America’s self image as an exceptional nation. Wall Street — which would be depicted as dominated by Jews — would be out to destroy middle class life by promoting globalization and financial schemes to transfer wealth to the hands of a few. . .”

    The best way to head off that eventuality would be for American Jews in academia and on Wall Street to take the lead in defending the interests of America’s hurting middle-class in the new global economy — not by opposing the forces of globalism but by acknowledging the negative consequences they have on the welfare of working families in the United States and elsewhere and finding ways to address them that are consistent with free trade and free mobility of capital. Across the board wage subsidies financed by a graduated consumption tax would address the problem in a manner that every working American could understand and appreciate. PLUS it would foster close cooperation between the United States and all its major allies in Europe and elsewhere. Why? Because implementing a graduated consumption tax (GCT) requires ending all secret bank and brokerage accounts around the world.

    In theory a GCT is the only fair and efficient way to raise a lot of revenue without discouraging savings and investment and entrepreneurial risk-taking, a point on which even John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman (and a lot of other great economists) agree.

    We live in a global economy with an international banking system. There are no national solutions to our economic problems anymore. A constructive cosmopolitanism is precisely what the middle-classes need.

  • WigWag

    “Anti-Semitism is a kind of social mark of Cain that indicates a society or culture that is not ready for prime time and which will fail the tests of modern life; when anti-Semitism gains a foothold, the canary in your coal mine has just keeled over and died.” (WRM)

    I wonder if Mead thinks the same thing is true of other forms of bigotry. In particular, I’m thinking of the growing anti-Semitism of the left and the anti-Muslim bigotry of the right that is increasingly prevalent in Europe.

    As anti-Semitism of the left continues to pervade European society and as Europeans increasingly manifest their mistrust of Muslim immigrants by banning their religious garb and limiting their right to construct houses of worship, does Mead think this signals that European society is “on its way down — economically and politically as well as morally?”

  • AJG

    A great post by WRM, and a great point by Samuel Schwartz. I would argue, however, that this lofty principle — state-less cosmopolitanism — is so far from the ordinary American’s conception of a just and proper worldwide political system that anti-Semitism on that regard is a near-impossibility. That is why, actually, you see a kind of anti-Zionism and its uglier cousin on the elite left.

    One question for Mr. Mead: doesn’t this argument suggest that, were ordinary, non-Jewish Americans to “discover the truth” — namely, that AIPAC does not in fact represent American Jewish opinion with regard to Israel — they would turn against American Jews for all the reasons you highlight? Isn’t AIPAC’s immunization from anti-Semitism based, on your analysis, on a kind of helpful untruth?

  • “the Jews” – really? Can you recite their names for me? It’s on a list, right?

    Two cheers for AIPAC isn’t the most popular sentiment in the foreign policy world, but it is on Capitol Hill, where it actually matters.

    Can you cite anything other than your own posts and a silly little popularity contest to prove that a majority of Americans support the policies of the Israeli government? I didn’t think so.

    Tobacco kills people, yes, but the comparison breaks down after that. For instance, internal memos showing Big T knew their product causes cancer can persuade people that tobacco is bad. Any chance similar memos from the Israeli government will penetrate the American consciousness?

  • As far as picking up the blogging medium, you’ve obviously mastered the strawman argument, but your linking still needs work. My advice is to cut down on previous posts, wikipedia, top level domains, and Amazon (I wonder which book?), while increasing actual news, including other bloggers.

    The real question is whether AIPAC’s public advocacy of US support for Israel ultimately must bear responsibility for anti-American sentiment, including support for al-Qaeda and other militant groups, giving Iran influence in the Arab world and endangering American soldiers.

  • “AIPAC, in other words, is good for the Jews, regardless of whether the positions it advocates are good for either Israel or the United States from a foreign policy perspective. And because AIPAC and its allies help defend this country against a potential upsurge in anti-Semitism, these groups provide a valuable public service that has nothing to do with the merits of the policies they support.”

    This is a completely specious argument – as you admit thankfully. But the quoted paragraph is particularly bad. As long as no upsurge in anti-Semitism occurs, AIPAC deserves a pat on the back. And if it does, AIPAC certainly isn’t to blame, you say. But who’s to say anti-Semitism is upsurging or not? We’re not likely to see more neo-Nazis marching in the streets. For one thing, the Tea Baggers have completely destroyed the prestige of the Nazi brand by associating it with Obama. Btw, if no Tea Baggers have made an anti-Semitic poster by now, it ain’t gonna happen. Their common decency standard is already very low.

  • “First, in America, you can’t forget God.”

    God, can I at least forget that I can’t forget God?

    Or maybe less ironic understatement and more incendiary bombast: God damn America! Or back to cynical detachment: God damn – America!

    The rest of the paragraph would be a perfect place to practice linking. Rather than name drop Cotton Mather (I’m partial to Increase, myself) and write “there is plenty of evidence”, you could actually prove your point by linking to the evidence. You have a crack research staff and budget at Chez Kissinger-Mead, correct? Go for it!

  • Susan

    Hispanics and Black Americans now have higher rates of antisemitism than White Americans. It is true that Hispanics born in America have lower rates of antisemitism than Hispanics born outside of the US. Meade doesn’t address this type of antisemitism.

  • “proof that America’s God is real”? Really?

    Btw, congratulations! God and Gold is almost 100,000 spots ahead of America’s God.

    In what sense do liberal and/or theological moderates feel the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land is a proof not just of G-d, but the American version? (and I’m not talking about the iPad) Or if you can’t describe it, name some names and cite some sources. How about Jim Wallis? He fits the bill. What are his views on the parallels between the divine plan for the Jews and the US of A. Does he in fact believe in a divine plan? Do you?

  • Getting through the rest of that section is difficult, but I managed somehow. I have to limit myself to just one empirical tidbit to comment on:

    “For scores of millions of people in this country, loyalty to the United States, support for Israel and love of God all go hand in hand — and America’s special relationship with Israel is a sign of America’s special relationship with God.”

    Prove it.

  • “It’s no more un-American for Jews to back Israel a little too hard than it is un-American for Greek and Armenian Americans to get too emotional about Turkey.”

    Your analogies are terrible. How does shielding Israel from sanction for undeclared nuclear weapons compare with a Greek-American getting hot under the collar? What is he going to do, wrap something in phyllo dough?

    In more practical terms, House resolutions about the Israel-Palestine conflict don’t pass committees by one vote. And they aren’t opposed by the WH either.

  • “it’s going to be hard to argue that Jews are termites trying to destroy America from within.”

    It is always hard to argue that Jews are termites. Where do you get this stuff?

    Over and out. Looking forward to replies. And please don’t focus on the number of comment boxes. I would use less if there was less absurdity in WRM’s posts. Just address the points within them.

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  • steve

    Brilliant analysis. Why do I notice that non-Jewish writers like Walter Mead, Mark Steyn, George Gilder and Victor Hansen understand the importance and position of Israel in the American mind so much better than any Jewish writer I can think of? It is a strange anomaly.

  • Yehudit

    “…were ordinary, non-Jewish Americans to “discover the truth” — namely, that AIPAC does not in fact represent American Jewish opinion with regard to Israel — they would turn against American Jews for all the reasons you highlight?…..”

    All the gentile conservatives I know are at least bemused and at worst really annoyed at the liberalism of American Jews. The prevailing opinion is “why are these people so blind to their own self-interest, why so culturally suicidal? We admire Jewish values and revere Judaism as the mother of our Christianity, we stand against the people who want to destroy Israel, against an openly antisemitic Left, yet liberal Jews continue to hate and fear US.”

    They ask me “what is wrong with you people?” I try to explain the complexity of liberal Jews feelings about the “Christian Right” and what liberal Jews think Jewish values are (see Norman Podhoretz)… and they shake their heads and roll their eyes. I mean, my liberal fellow Jews do look pretty silly: we think Sarah Palin is a greater danger to us than Ahmadinejad.

    So conservatives see AIPAC as a sign that American Jews aren’t completely self-destructive. And in any case, no matter how meshugeneh we are, they will continue to try to save us from our own stupidity.

  • Yehudit

    The funny thing about Berman’s formulation of the nature of Leftist antisemitism (which I think is true), is that while statelessness is a virtuous necessity for everyone else, they fervently support nation-statehood for the Palestinians. And of course for any Arab state created in the 20th century, like Jordan or Saudi Arabia. And their disdain for nation-states is selective. I keep waiting for them to castigate the Japanese for their racist nationalism, but never happens.

  • JZ

    Finally I have a great response if anyone ever accuses me of dual loyalty.

  • I could write quite a long response to this post, Walter, but I won’t because I just don’t have time. But I would make just three telegraphic points that you will understand, but many others may or may not.

    First, the general analysis I share; as you know, chapter 5 and other parts of my book Jewcentricity make a similar argument. Aaron David Miller’s recent book The Much Too Promised Land makes a similar argument, as well. But what the great, broad masses of non-Jewish Americans believe and think is only part of the question. The kind of resentments that AIPAC tactics have created over the years within the mid-ranks of the bureaucracy, civilian and military, are not insignificant. A lot of these people buy false but superficially logical linkage arguments that, in effect, blame U.S. support for Israel for anti-American antipathy in the Middle East that imperils American soldiers there. You even have former diplomats and one President characterizing Israel as an apartheid state, outrageous and terminally ignorant as the comparison is. This kind of “thinking” is not entirely unrelated to the tone and sway of AIPAC lobbying, in my view. And since foreign policy making and implementation is less a mass than an elite affair, I think the post in effect ignores the downside of the kind of lobbying you yourself characterize as wrongheaded and annoying.

    Second, the reasons that anti-Semitism is so scant in the United States go beyond what non-Jews believe about Israel and how pro-Israel lobbying affects their perceptions. Historically, the main difference is that while Jews were the most prominent “other” in nearly every European society for centuries, in the United States that special role was filled by blacks. The particular shape of American racism did a lot to blunt popular anti-Semitism, despite the fact that those who have tended to be the most virulent racists have also tended to be the most anti-Semitic. This is a complex matter and we will not exhaust it here.

    Third, you did not mention this, but AIPAC-style lobbying, while it rolls harmlessly or positively over large numbers of ordinary Americans, also irritates a lot of Jews. The rise of J-Street in recent times illustrates the divisions that this sort of lobbying has caused. For all I know, this sort of “not me” posturing is sincere. The problem is that to the naked eye it is indistinguishable from the behavior of a Jewish parvenu, described so sharply by Hannah Arendt, who wants to ingratiate himself into elite liberal enclaves. When these enclaves send up, so to speak, key advisors to the President of the United States (maybe named Emanuel and Axelrod), then, again, it’s not mass politics but elite politics that matter, and the effect is, at best decidedly mixed.

    In sum, Walter, I don’t disagree with what you have written as such, but I think you’ve analyzed only a part of the situation.

  • “It’s not just that Israel is ‘good’ — democratic, pro-American, etc. Its enemies (Iran, Hamas, Hezbolleh and so on) are ‘bad’. They are anti-American and anti-democratic. They practice terrorism.”

    Let us be clear: the greatest importer of terrorism in the mideast is Saudi Arabia. Sorry for being “politically incorrect,” but the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudi nationals (as were most of the 9/11 hijackers). And the Saudi state religion is the 18th century Wahhabi cult, a group that hates the Shia as much as they do Christians and Jews. I do not disagree that Israel might have problems with Iran (home to the second largest Jewish population in the mideast), Hamas (once tacitly supported by Israel in order to weaken Arafat) or Hezbollah (those pests who stand between Israel and the annexation of the Litani River). Isn’t it a little consdesceding on the part of the U.S. to pretend that a regional superpower with nuclear arms really requires our “sponsorship”? I think one of the messages that P.M. Netanyahu was sending out on the 2 or 3 recent occasions when he insulted our government is, “Hey guys, we don’t need you.” Given America’s economic crisis, perhaps we should take him up on it.

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  • Pete Pettywick

    American support for Israel is weaker than you think. I was in a room full of Republican fatcats recently and let me tell you they were NOT pro-Israel! Israel needs to stand on its own and American Jews need to decide which nation they are loyal to…us or Israel. And enough with this “anti-Semite” bit… so tired of it. Not approving of Israel’s actions does NOT make you an Anti-semite!

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