Archive for the ‘Israel Lobby’ Category

Bogus Rumor: Sarah Palin Is Jewish

October 27, 2008

David Bernstein included a curious anecdote in his insightful long article on Sarah Palin — that tears came to Palin’s eyes when a supporter likened her to Queen Esther of the Bible. In the story of Purim, Esther is a Jew who keeps her identity hidden until put into a position where she can save the lives of her fellow Persian Jews. (Bernstein’s piece, incidentally, represents the best of journalism in the Phoenix, a long article that combines reporting, color and analysis.)

Now comes a rumor in a strange new light. Several websites make the assertion that Sarah Palin, like John Kerry and Madeleine Albright before her, has hidden Jewish roots.

Ron Kampeas, the Washington bureau chief for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, has investigated the claim and come to the conclusion that it is false. Kampeas links to a genealogy of Palin that appears to put the story to bed. Kampeas has every incentive to check this story out. When I was the Washington bureau chief for the Forward, a national weekly Jewish newspaper, I spent a month trying to discern whether Hillary Clinton had a similar story in her background. (She had a Jewish step-grandfather.)

Having said that, I think Bernstein’s Phoenix piece provides some detail as to why the claim is resonating on the right. By the way, it seems to also be circulating among those suspicious of the “Israel Lobby’s” power on the Left as well.

I found the contraband signs in the damp grass. They had been rounded up and now lay in two piles by the opening in the chainlink fence where security and campaign officials had screened the 5000 or so people who came to see Sarah Palin speak at Salem High School’s Grant Field this past Wednesday, October 15. It was the third Palin rally in New Hampshire I had attended that day, and I knew that the security guards were keeping out more than just dangerous weapons — campaign staff was also filtering out signs, pins, and shirts that might, to a now highly attuned national audience, appear harsh or offensive.

So, while the crowd was still cheering Palin, who had finished her 30-minute speech and had begun signing autographs, I headed to that entrance and found about a dozen handmade cardboard signs. I don’t know whether other rejected slogans had already been removed, but most in these piles were pretty tame. The only potentially offensive phrase on one was “NOBAMA.” Another read “CONSERVATIVE WOMEN HAVE RIGHTS TOO.” “ACORN IS NUTS,” one claimed, while another, carefully lettered, declared “PALIN — BABIES GUNS JESUS.”

But the two most striking were adorned with Jewish stars. One read “PALIN — TRUE NORTH.” The other, “SARAH — FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.”

That last phrase comes from chapter four of the Old Testament Book of Esther. Apparently, the idea of Palin as the Queen Esther for our time has made it to New Hampshire.

The theory has been around since before John McCain picked Palin in late August — it was circulating on religious Christian blogs in early June when news outlets reported that she was on McCain’s short list. After the announcement, it picked up steam — particularly after it was reported that Palin, at the suggestion of her pastor, had, upon becoming governor of Alaska, patterned herself after Queen Esther.

Soon after the Republican National Convention, an e-mail went viral in conservative Christian circles, in which Pastor Mark Arnold claimed to have found himself next to Palin at a rally in his hometown of Lebanon, Ohio. According to the account, Arnold came face-to-face with Palin, and God spoke through him, telling the governor that “God wants you to know that you are a present-day Esther. . . . Keep your eyes on God and know that He has chosen you to reign!”

Palin, according to the account, immediately began to cry — as did her husband, Todd, when Arnold then repeated the news to him. Arnold also told McCain that the Palins are “called of God and she is an Esther.”

Esther, for those not up on their Old Testament, was a Jewish woman plucked from obscurity to become Queen of Persia after winning a beauty contest. This placed her in the right place, at the right time, to intervene in a plan to annihilate the Jews. In a nutshell, when she revealed herself to be Jewish, the king halted the slaughter and instead hanged Haman, the official behind the plot.

Jews recount the tale on Purim with much gaiety and, for most, little concern about historical accuracy.

Palin, of course, was a beauty-pageant participant (while McCain has oft commented that he “never
won Miss Congeniality in the Senate,” Palin won that title in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest), now plucked from obscurity to be in a position to advise the powerful should John McCain become president.

The big question, of course, is for what vital role — what “time such as this” — is Palin being groomed?

One common theory among the Christian cognoscenti is that, just as Esther stopped a threat in Persia to wipe out the Jews, Palin must stop a threat from modern-day Persia — Iran — to wipe out Israel (which would be anathema to conservative Christians, who believe Jews must control that land when Christ returns).

Jon Wiener, blogging last month on thenation.com, took note of this suggestion and pointed out that, in the Biblical account, Esther also got the king to grant the Jews the right “to destroy, to slay . . . every people and province that oppress them,” including women and small children. Wiener suggests that, to the Christian fundamentalists, the Book of Esther appears to authorize the bombing of Iran — regardless of civilian casualties.

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Sickening WordPress “Hawt Post”

February 15, 2008

 

I find it sickening that for the second day the WordPress “Hawt Post” comes from the vitriolic “Desert Peace” blog.

The “Hawt Post” is typically a WordPress blog post with the most hits that particular day, but it can be one that WordPress technicians deem hot based on their own criteria. My blog is also a WordPress blog.

This particular post, titled “Legal Slave Trade in Israel” combines a routine criticism of the security wall between Israel and the Palestinian Authority along with a critique of the treatment of non-Arab foreign workers in Israel. The post makes no reference to the wave of suicide bombing terrorist attacks which prompted Israel to construct the barrier; nor does it mention the fact that it succeeded in curbing violence against innocent victims.

It then segways into an indefensible rant against Israel and everything connected to Zionism. “Israel does not discriminate in who they discriminate against… racism, exploitation, occupation, and now slavery are an integral part of their system… I wonder what Abe Foxman would say about all of this…. I’m sure one of his cronies will direct him to this post.”

Typical of the site are the comments the post draws. Consider this from “Sharpinchitown”: “Why do they always have animal names like Foxman, Wolfson, Wolfowitz? Are they human or animals? by their behavior our answer is received.

“I understand that comments do not reflect the views of the blogger. I don’t agree with many of the comments made by commentators to Gitell.com. Having said that, I do note that the likening of Jews (such as the names listed in the comment above) to animals was a classic component of Goebbels-Hitlerite anti-Semitic propaganda.

Bill Clinton Stands Up For Truth

October 26, 2007

I’ve been noticing the way the 9/11 conspiracists infiltrate political events and gatherings. I wrote about this phenomenon on the anniversary of 9/11. One thing that has bothered me about when these guys start hectoring celebrities and politicians about Building 7, they seem to have the rhetorical advantage. They put the person they are quizzing on the defensive. Well, they tried this recently with Bill Clinton, and he really put them in their place.

Clinton also has been the most effective person at articulating the peace deal that Yasser Arafat rejected at Camp David and Taba.

At a time when the country is hopelessly polarized, a circumstance that is augmented by the existence of the blogosphere, Bill Clinton knows how to occupy the center. If Hillary Clinton follows his lead in this regard, as she appears to be doing, she will be the next president.

Foxman Confronts “The Israel Lobby” Thesis

September 10, 2007

Abraham Foxman, who spent his childhood in Vilnius hiding from the Nazis, has a new book out critiquing Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer and Jimmy Carter (two of whom, Mearsheimer and Carter, were prominently featured in CNN’s “God’s Warriors.”)

For Mr. Foxman, the current arguments have an ugly resonance given the historical context: He cites the Dreyfus Affair, Hitler’s allegations that Jews undermined the German effort in World War I, and Stalin’s doubts about Jewish loyalty as significant precedents to the recent charges. “To survive Hitler and to survive postwar communist Europe and to relive these hideous canards, just because they’re being paraded by professors with titles from Chicago and Harvard, does not change their reality,” said Mr. Foxman, making clear he does not equate the current authors with either Hitler or Stalin.

At stake, says Mr. Foxman, is the ability of Jews to engage in American democracy as citizens, much like Irish Americans, Cuban Americans, Italian Americans and members of other ethnic groups. “Will Jews be less willing to act out their full citizenship on issues for fear of being accused of being disloyal or not loyal enough or more loyal to Israel than America?” If some American Jews want to advocate on behalf of Israel or any other cause, he added, “that’s what American democracy is all about.”

“The Deadliest Lies,” which Mr. Foxman hopes will find its way onto academic reading lists that include the books addressed in his account, provides a litany of errors and illogicalities in the works it disputes. Among the offenses: the “denigration” by Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer of Israel’s offer to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000; their “minimization” of Palestinian-Arab terror attacks on Israeli civilians; their account of the demise of Senator Charles Percy of Illinois, the only politician they believe was forced out of office by the “Lobby,” in an electoral defeat that Mr. Foxman attributes instead to the power of Chicago’s Democratic machine; and numerous examples, omitted from the work of Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer, of American administrations acting in opposition to Israel and its advocates.

Regarding Mr. Carter, Mr. Foxman quotes Kenneth Stein, a former aide to the president, to dispute the former president’s assertion that Menachem Begin ever made any commitment during Camp David discussions on settlements in the West Bank, and certainly none involving stopping their growth.

Mr. Shultz goes even further in refuting the idea that any “Israel Lobby” dictates American foreign policy, enumerating America’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia during the Reagan administration and recounting Reagan’s decision to visit the Bitburg cemetery. He also cautions against scapegoating. “When we make a wrong decision – even one that is recommended by Israel and supported by American Jewish groups – it is our decision, and one for which we alone are responsible,” Mr. Shultz writes. “We act in our own interest. And when we mistakenly conclude from time to time – as we will – that an action or policy is in America’s interest, we must take responsibility for the mistake.”

Read more here.

Boston Lawyer Takes on the “Israel Lobby Gang”

September 10, 2007

The authors of “The Israel Lobby”, Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer, are getting a lot of press these days. These are the university professors who contend that “The Israel Lobby” has hijacked American foreign policy and proved the U.S. war with Iraq. To me, this smacks all too much of anti-Jewish scapegoating at a time of an unpopular war.

Jeff Robbins, a partner at the Boston law firm of Mintz, Levin, has a terrific op-ed in The Wall Street Journal rebutting this thesis. He reports an anecdote about Saudi Arabia’s attempt to purchase positive opinion in America in the wake of 9/11.

“Not long after Sept. 11, 2001, I received a call from a major defense contractor asking for a favor. I was serving as president of the Boston chapter of the World Affairs Council, a national organization that debates foreign policy, and the defense contractor was one of the Council’s principal sponsors.

The Saudi Arabian government was sponsoring a national public relations campaign to cultivate American public opinion, and was sending Saudi emissaries around the country to make the case that Saudi Arabia was a tolerant, moderate nation worthy of American support. Would the Council organize a forum of Boston’s community leaders so that the Saudis could make their case?

While this was patently no more than a Saudi lobbying effort, we organized the forum, and it was well-attended by precisely the slice of Boston’s political and corporate elite that the Saudis and their defense contractor benefactor had hoped for. The Saudis maintained that their kingdom should be regarded as a promoter of Middle East peace, and that the abundant evidence that Saudi Arabia was in fact promoting a virulent brand of extremist Islam should be discounted.

Saudi Arabia paid for the trip of its emissaries to Boston, for the Washington-based public relations and lobbying company that organized the trip, and for the Boston public relations and lobbying company that handled the Boston part of the visit. And it drew upon the resources and relationships of the defense contractor, which sells hundreds of millions of dollars of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, to support and orchestrate its public relations effort.”

Here is Robbin’s essential point: “It is apparently the authors’ position that, even in the face of the overwhelming leverage of an Arab world swimming in petrodollars, with a lock on the U.N. and an unlimited ability to pay for pro-Arab public relations, American Jews are obliged to stay silent. In essence, Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer have repackaged the “the-Jews-run-the-country” stuff which has long been the bread and butter of anti-Semites.”

Two other important points. Longtime readers will remember this 2002 story.

“A series of radio advertising spots ran in 30 cities across the United States in early April. One, titled “Occupation,” extolled the Arab League’s “fair plan to end the senseless violence in the Mideast.” The plan, according to the advertisement, involved Israel’s “withdrawal from the Palestinian land it has unjustly occupied for years…. There will be no more midnight raids and random searches, no more violence.” It did not condemn Palestinian terrorist bombings aimed at Israeli civilians. Another ad, titled “Peace Plan,” stated: “To stop the cycle of violence, we must first end the military occupation of Palestinian towns and neighborhoods.” Again, no mention of Palestinian terrorism and no mention of the peace offer made by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, which would have given the Palestinian Authority possession of 97 percent of the West Bank — an offer Yasser Arafat turned down in 2000. Both ads concluded with the slogan “Start the peace — end the occupation,” followed by the words “paid for by the Alliance of Peace and Justice.”

Must be just another grassroots group fighting to get Israel out of the West Bank, right? Not exactly. The ads were placed by Sandler-Innocenzi, a political-advertising agency that has done spots for Republican House majority whip Tom DeLay and the Republican National Committee, among others. A Sandler-Innocenzi staffer contacted by the Phoenix acknowledged involvement with the ad and gave a phone number and address for the Alliance of Peace and Justice. The address — 8484 Westpark Drive in McLean, Virginia — is the home of media firm Qorvis Communications. Where does this complicated trail lead? To the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, according to the federal government’s Foreign Agents Registration Act office, hired Qorvis on March 6. Qorvis did not respond to phone calls requesting comment on the ads.”

I will post a link to my feature story on a new book rebutting the “Israel Lobby” thesis. Here’s my write-up of a June encounter with Stephen Walt.

Joe Lieberman’s War

June 12, 2007

Disagree with Joe Lieberman’s suggestion of military action versus Iran, if you want. Argue that America doesn’t have the military capacity to start another front right now. But let’s keep it in perspective shall we. Lieberman’s reacting to an Iran that has embarked on military adventurism across the Middle East.

I write in The New York Sun: “Iran’s role in training fighters in Iraq, Iran’s aiding Hezbollah, which is destabilizing Lebanon and threatening Israel, Hamas battling Fatah and threatening Israeli areas bordering Gaza. To these can be added recent reports that NATO forces have detected Iranians bringing explosive materials into Afghanistan. All of these actions are not equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor yet, perhaps, but, taken together, they suggest a regional effort by Iran to destabilize the Middle East.”

Many commentators — including one in an e-mail comment read last night on CNN — have suggested Lieberman is merely carrying water for Israel. Drudge even ran a photo of Lieberman with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to illustrate the Iran story. We’re back to the “double loyalty” canard. I suppose one might argue that a nuclear Iran dominant from Gaza to Afghanistan only affects Israel — not America. Perhaps this is the foreign policy reordering that such bright lights as Steve Walt are advocating for — one that has us behaving far more like France or Germany than America. That would mean we’d also have to sell out oil-producing Sunni countries such as Dubai and Kuwait, who depend on us to keep Iran away from them.

Lieberman’s raising a difficult option to a tough problem. I thought that was what members of the U.S. Senate were supposed to do.

Steve Walt, “Israel Lobby” Author, Speaks at the Harvard Club

June 9, 2007

It’s no secret I’m deeply opposed to the “Israel Lobby” thesis put forward by Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer. What bothers me most is not their singling out of the pro-Israel community, a charge that borders upon the old double loyalty canard, is that it’s not accurate. I remember covering the nascent effort to oust Saddam Hussein from Iraq beginning in 1998 and the organized pro-Israel community wanted absolutely nothing to do with this cause. Their concerns were the discussion between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the threat of Iran developing WMD, a point made by Ariel Sharon prior to the Iraq War.

Yesterday, Steve Walt, who is already an academic dean at the Kennedy School of Government, spoke at the downtown Harvard Club of Boston. I was there. It was interesting to see Walt, whose claim is that he is seeking more dialogue and debate on the Middle East, attempt to shut down his critical questioners. He said, “Everyone should be aware of what’s going on here, which is fairly classic. We pointed out in our original paper that anybody who criticizes Israeli policies or anybody who criticizes the Israel lobby immediately gets attacked for being anti-Semitic. This is the standard operating procedure.” So much for dialogue.