Monday, March 10, 2014

If Netanyahu fails to rally his troops, can Christian Right step into the breach?

 AS Israeli prime minister Netanyahu renewed efforts to rally his troops around Capitol Hill this month, a US politician accused American Jews of selling out Israel by supporting President Obama and not backing additional sanctions against Iran.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, said "The Jewish community gave [Obama] their votes, their support, their financial support and, as recently as last week, 48 Jewish donors who are big contributors to the president wrote a letter to the Democrat senators in the U.S. Senate to tell them to not advance sanctions against Iran."

Interviewed by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a self-described "American conservative Christian group and lobbying organization,"  Bachman said this was against  Israel’s interests. "What has been shocking has been seeing and observing Jewish organizations who it appears have made it their priority to support the political priority and the political ambitions of the president over the best interests of Israel. They sold out Israel."

According to Right Wing Watch. which monitors right-wing movements and politics in the United States, Bachman last month claimed that  “President Obama and John Kerry have preferred Iran" over Israel. Interviewed by Perkins she said  "At the same time while the United States is giving a free pass to Iran, our secretary of state is rattling a saber and effectively calling for an economic war against our greatest ally Israe," Bachmann said. "It doesn’t make any sense.”
 U.S. Rep. Bachmann: American Jews sold out Israel Minnesota congresswoman says U.S. Jews have prioritized Obama's ambitions over the best interests of Israel.  Haaretz | Mar. 5, 2014

Allowing for the over the top exaggeration that we expect from the Republican Right and particularly its god-bothering wing, the congresswoman was raising real concerns that Binyamin Netanyahu must share. He and his government have staked so much on being able to drag America towards launching or at least supporting a war on Iran, so much on cementing an alliance with the American Right, and so much on continuing to enjoy unquestioning Jewish support. .

On February 17 , addressing a 40 member delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,on their annual shindig in Israel, Netanyahu said Israeli -Palestinian peace prospects were poor, U.S.-led nuclear negotiations with Iran were wrong, and advocates of boycotting Israel were just “classical anti-Semites in modern garb.”

In the past anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses,” he said, “and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state.”  The comparison is more than a bit incongruous when Israel is not some poor persecuted tailor or shopkeeper but a strong military power and occupier, and Netanyahu's own ministers boast that its high tech export-led economy - including military equipment sold around the world - can withstand any boycott.

It is Palestinians in Hebron whose shops and stalls are turned over by armed mobs, Palestinian villagers whose olive trees are uprooted and burned. Israel's blockade on Gaza is more effective bullying than any boycott pickets. All that Secretary of State John Kerry has asked the Israeli government to do is restrain its thugs, and make minor concessions to the Palestinians, so as to avoid further boycott calls and make his job of keeping Arab states quiet easier. 

But having suspended the tough macho Likud stance ("Everybody hates us and we don't care!" in Milwall parlance) to appeal to Jewish solidarity, calling on the delegates  to “fight back” against boycott advocates, “to delegitimize the delegitimizers,”  Netanyahu went on to urge them to renew the battle against President Obama's policy on Iran.

" This could be dynamite", wrote J.J.Goldberg, in the Jewish daily Forward. "All  49 members of the Conference of Presidents have seats on AIPAC’s executive committee, so a call to the conference is a call to AIPAC. (America israel Public Affairs Committee, the main Zionist lobby) The last confrontation centered on the interim agreement signed November 24 in Geneva, which set terms for formal negotiations. Iran agreed for the first time to freeze or reduce most nuclear activity during talks. In return the West lifted about 10% of sanctions. Netanyahu called it a “historic mistake.”

AIPAC tried already, in alliance with hawkish US senators to get fresh sanctions against Iran, and Obama's relaxation reversed. Others said Israel was dragging the United States into war, and Jewish peace activists petitioned that AIPAC was not speaking for them. Netanyahu's case was not helped by reports that Israeli intelligence chiefs said the Iranian agreement was a step in the right direction.

AIPAC and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Alderson, a major backer for Netanyahu,  had also failed in calling for action against Syria.  It  seems strange that Israel lobbyists might side with jihadis, some linked with  al Qaida, against Assad whose father once col
laborated secretly with Ariel Sharon.. Well it's complicated. As some people might say "This is the Middle East".  Or, looked at from a different angle, some Americans would not care overmuch which Arabs they were bombing - that is the Wild West.

Anyway, AIPAC admitted defeat.  But Netanyahu wanted them to try again. Or as J.J.Goldberg saw it, "to put their head back in the noose". Because while many people in US politics were complaining at the way these "Jewish leaders" were attempting to steer foreign policy, many American Jews were asking who these "leaders" were, whom often they'd never heard of let alone voted for.

Netanyahu and his rich uncle Sheldon should have known. A couple of years ago the Israeli prime minister was assuring people that President Obama would soon be gone. While lumpen Zionists like Pamela Geller were having fun with the Tea Party, billionaire Adelson donated $10 million to Republican Mitt Romney's election chest,  and said he was willing to spend $100 million or more to make sure Obama was not re-elected.

"In 2012, Mitt Romney slammed Obama for not supporting tougher sanctions against Iran and for not more explicitly pledging that, if sanctions fail to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the U.S. will attack.  In so doing, Romney road-tested the critique leveled by Benjamin Netanyahu and many American Jewish 'leaders'.

"The result? Obama won 69 percent of the Jewish vote. According to an exit poll by J Street (the only organization to ask such a question), Jewish voters preferred Obama to Romney on Iran by a margin of 58 to 26 percent.More recent surveys reveal basically the same thing. A Pew Research Center poll last October found that 52 percent of American Jews approve of Obama’s Iran policy while 35 percent disapprove."

The only 'leader’ who speaks for American Jews on Iran is Barack Obama
Most American Jews support Obama’s policies on Iran - so in whose name are their so-called 'leaders’ sabotaging his nuclear diplomacy?
By Peter Beinart    | Jan. 22, 2014

Of course there was more to US Jewish voting than arguments about Israel or Iranian policy. Many will have preferred Obama's social policies, or those he is accused of, to the hard-line weakest to the wall attitude of which the conservatives are so proud. Many, listening to conservative anti-immigrant and anti-minority rhetoric  will have been reminded, if they were honest, that these were the kind of people who kept Jews out of their clubs and wanted to keep them out of America.

As for the vociferous Christian Right, many Jews value US tolerance and liberal ideas, not to mention taking umbrage when a Pastor Jack Hagee says Hitler was sent by God, or hearing the hair-raising ideas some preachers have for a nuclear Armageddon starting in the Middle East.

Especially now that Ahmadinejad has gone, Iranian mullahs don't seem half so scary.

So that if even Senator John McCain's AIPAC speech, linking the issues of Iran and Ukraine. was not so gung ho as he might have pretended, and Netanyahu avoided criticising Obama, trying instead to deliver his speechwriters' jokes and wax eloquent about peace prospects, there were two reasons.

One may be that their talking tough about Iran is overshadowed by the uncertainty about what to do or even say about Ukraine. The other is that the usual ovations from the loyal crowd at AIPAC echo emptily outside, where its main constituency was meant to be. AIPAC still has big bucks and plenty of politicians in its pockets for now. But as American Jews move away from unquestioning support for Netanyahu and his right-wing policies, more Israelis too may wonder about relying on the US Christian Right.



Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home