(On CounterPunch September 9, 2016, 6900 words, and below.
The scurrilous attack in summer, 2015 on Alison Weir and If Americans Knew by Jewish Voice for Peace and US Campaign to End the Occupation, has threatened Weir and her audiences with violence. On March 30, Weir spoke at the Walnut Creek, CA public library, about her book Against Our Better Judgment, about Zionist influence on foreign policy. A few weeks before, Weir had been warned by Walnut Creek police of hateful on-line incitement to disrupt the talk; the threat referred to the JVP-USC material against Weir. The Walnut Creek Parks and Recreation Department received phone calls from people planning to protest the talk.
The talk, sponsored by the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center and Rossmoor Voices for Justice in Palestine, was well-attended, including by members of Stand With Us, an Israel propaganda outfit. They protested with signs and handed out fliers, also referring to the JVP/USC material. At the talk, five protestors seated themselves in the front row, and more stood at the back of the hall holding signs. During the talk, SWU protestors shouted repeatedly at Weir, prompting some audience members to call for them to stop. Only by speaking loudly, directly into the microphone, could Weir make herself heard.
Helen Lowenstein of SWU, a significant donor to pro-Israel organizations, according to Weir, was escorted from the hall by Walnut Creek police. She “swiped at” an audience member who was recording her, and was arrested and taken away in handcuffs. The Bay Area Jewish press decried an outbreak of anti-Semitism in their version of events.(1) As of this writing, the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office has not prosecuted Lowenstein. One supporter later wrote to Weir, “Alison, your equanimity was extremely impressive—I think that really strengthened the message, because it made clear that facts and reason are on our side and the Zionists are nasty bullies.” Weir said that she didn’t actually feel calm, but was glad it seemed that way.
Weir, a journalist in the Bay Area, became interested in the Palestine question upon the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, uprising against Israeli occupation, in fall, 2000. She became an activist and founded If Americans Knew (2), dedicated to informing the public, following her return to the Bay Area from a two-month trip to Palestine in early 2001. JVP was at that time also based in the Bay Area, and Weir felt some of them were from the outset whispering accusations of anti-Semitism, for her endorsement of the Palestinian right of return and a single democratic state. For a decade and more, Weir and IAK published studies of the media, reports on Israeli human rights violations, historical articles, and videos, about many aspects of the Palestine issue, in Palestine and the US. Weir traveled and spoke extensively, gaining a wide following. At the same the time attacks on Weir by left Jewish groups and individuals continued. (3)
In 2014, Weir published independently a book, Against Our Better Judgment. How the U.S. was used to Create Israel (4), 93 pages of dry prose and 135 of footnotes and bibliography, which has sold an extraordinary 27,000 copies, according to Weir. (5) None of her facts are new, but many are obscure, and their sum acutely depicts Zionist influence in the US from before World War I to Israel’s establishment. She notes the formation in 1913 of the Parushim, Hebrew for “Pharisees,” a secret society of elite US Jews, dedicated to the advancement of Zionism. The Parushim took an oath of secrecy, and were told to regard their commitment “as greater than any other in your life—dearer than that of family, of school, of nation.” (6) ManyParushim were also publicly Zionist; the oath and secrecy reveal their fanaticism.
The Parushim were founded by Horace Kallen, an academic who devised the idea of “cultural pluralism” as an alternative to the “melting pot” model of American liberalism. Pluralism allowed liberalism to accommodate a degree of ethnic identification. TheParushim were the least “ethnic” of American Jews, their backgrounds assimilated German Jewish, not the ethnically distinct Yiddish of the immigrants who arrived by the million starting in 1880. The “Jewish distinction” to which they aspired was Zionist racialism, the myths of the “Jewish people” and “land of Israel,” not the actual (non-racialist) Yiddish culture. Kallen’s “cultural pluralism” exploited liberalism in order to advance Jewish separatism, exploited Jewish success under liberalism in order to subvert it, showing how insidious Zionism is, how tempting and corrupting to Jewish intellectuals. (7)
The eminent jurist Louis Brandeis was a member of the Parushim,and he resigned his public affiliations upon his appointment to the Supreme Court by President Wilson in 1916. Yet Brandeis remained covertly active for Zionism and other causes through a network of associates and proteges, notably Felix Frankfurter, who was also appointed to the Supreme Court, in 1939, and carried on the pattern. This was was highly unethical, later scholarship has argued.
As early as November, 1915, Kallen suggested to a well-placed British friend that Britain declare support for Zionism in order to encourage US Jewish support for US entry into World War I, an idea that gained wide currency, and may have played some role in the US decision. Certainly, it produced the Balfour Declaration of November, 1917, by which Britain promised to facilitate creation of “a Jewish national home” in Palestine. Zionists were in the US delegation at the postwar peace conference at Versailles, as well as represented by their official delegation, and the Balfour Declaration became part of the postwar settlement in the Middle East.
These and myriad other facts doubtless aroused JVP, whose chief objection to Weir is her emphasis on the Israel Lobby, mainly Jewish institutions, as the chief reason for unconditional US support for Israel. JVP claims, after Noam Chomsky and others, that the US-Israel relationship is due to Israel’s value as a US “strategic asset,” and that the Lobby is powerful only when it supports US interests. The first article in JVP’s 2004 book Reframing Anti-Semitism. Alternative Jewish Perspectives bemoaned “the Jewish conspiracy theories of some on the left,” those for whom “a Jewish conspiracy is much simpler” than the “complexity” that belies any decisive Jewish influence. (8)
The US Campaign to End the Occupation shares that aversion to the Israel Lobby critique. In 2011, Medea Benjamin and Code Pink called for a national demonstration against the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, at which the top of the federal government and half of Congress make obeisance. (9) US Campaign and JVP have never attempted to organize such a demonstration, and they carefully “endorsed” it, while doing nothing to encourage turnout.
Phyllis Bennis, a perennial figure at the US Campaign, and a minor writer on “strategic asset,” has long opposed efforts to disseminate the Israel Lobby critique. (10) She refused to debate the Israel Lobby with Jeffrey Blankfort, on the grounds that it “wouldn’t be useful,” echoing verbatim the demurrals of Chomsky, Beinin and JVPer Mitchell Plitnick. (11) Somehow, despite her “strategic asset” advocacy, Bennis wound up presiding over the program of talks about the Israel Lobby at the Code Pink AIPAC protest.
Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the celebrated The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, were unavoidably featured in the plenary sessions, while Stephen Sniegoski, author of The Transparent Cabal. The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel was proposed, but rejected. Alison Weir and other writer-activists, including Jeff Blankfort, photographer (12) and journalist, (13) Janet McMahon ofWashington Report on Middle East Affairs (14) and Grant Smith of Institute for Research: Middle East Policy (15) were relegated to a workshop in the basement, which was very well attended. Code Pink repeated the event in 2012, and the Israel Lobby critics were allowed only to hold an event in the hall afterward, with the hall stripped of all Code Pink identifying material, and the audience invited to further events scheduled else- where at the same time. One hundred twenty-five remained in the hall to hear the Lobby critics. In 2013, the critics were banned from the program altogether.
Bennis was a “board-nominated” candidate for the JVP board of directors election in August, 2016. A “board-nominated” candidate is the JVP leadership’s way of instructing the membership how to vote, and Bennis was duly elected. The nomination may have been in view of services rendered over the years. Speculation in Washington last summer focused on Bennis as the éminence grise of the attack on Weir, though details were naturally scarce.
All of the candidates for the JVP board save one were board-nominated or incumbent, as in earlier elections; the first-ever “self-nominated” candidate lost. The election required a quorum of 20% of the JVP membership, or 1250, which was achieved only in the final hours of a 10-day period of on-line voting. This gives the impression of an organization run by and for an autocratic leadership, licensed by a small minority willing to select among the list of approved candidates, a democratic facade common on the authoritarian left. It is also perhaps common in the organized Jewish world that the leadership is accountable mainly to itself and its donors, while presuming to define the collective destiny.
JVP claims great importance as “a national organization closely connected to a growing grassroots base. We have 200,000 supporters on our email list, 10,000 individual donors, over 60 chapters across the United States, a staff of 25. . . ” After twenty years of existence, JVP is really about 1300 people nationwide, less than 5% of the number who purchased Alison Weir’s book in two years. Their donor base is less than 40% of the readership Weir garnered in two years. If Americans Knew has 16,000 on their email list, and 175,000 Facebook followers, all as a byproduct of research, publication and speaking, with no attention to organization building. The programs, literature and outreach of JVP suggest that building the organization is their main task. Like the rest of the Israel Lobby, JVP has little to do with the views of the American people, but imposes itself by being relentless, highly organized, and lavishly funded.
Its 2013 tax return, the latest available, filed May, 2015, (16) shows revenue of $1.407 million and expenses of $1.144 million. The amount of $280,382 was retained, adding to net assets now totaling $709,141, overwhelmingly in “cash, non-interest bearing” ($97,832) and “savings and temporary cash investments” ($607,802). Most of the expenses were for salaries ($651,073, 9 staff). Total expenses were divided among $773,288 for “program service,” $168,127 “management and general,” and $202,664 for “fundraising.” Program services were described as “Trainings for students, rabbis and chapter leaders. . . vigorously protested against the war in Gaza in summer 2014. . . production of six-minute video explaining the situation in Israel/Palestine.” The Gaza war began on July 8, after the end of the tax year, which ran from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. JVP has apparently claimed expenses not incurred in the tax year.
The claimed “close connection to a grassroots base” may be judged by the disbursements for “chapter expenses” on the tax return, $23,783, an average of $400 for each of the claimed 60 chapters, confirming the impression of an autocratic leadership clique backed by a small minority of members. JVP has since announced $2 million raised, presumably to be added to $700,000 assets, in part, as Palestinians beg on-line to fund their educations and other luxuries. The tax return does not disclose funding sources, which are categorized as “fund-raising events,” and “other contributions, gifts, grants, and similar amounts.”
The JVP membership was not consulted by the leadership over the campaign against Weir, and criticism erupted when the attack became public in the spring of 2015. The online JVP member forum, which in early July replaced an email list, was full of discussion, much it opposed. In mid-July Stanford professor Joel Beinin, historian of the modern Middle East and founding member of JVP, contributed his own attack on Weir. At the end of August, after two months of mutiny, the forum was taken off-line for a month, with stern warnings about “civility,” a familiar censor’s ploy, and at least one person was ejected. When the forum opened again in October, there was no further discussion of Alison Weir.
(This writer had access to the forum as a dues-paying JVP member. The forum guidelines state that material should not be used without permission, but also state that material should be considered public. JVP’s attack on Alison Weir is a public matter.)
Beinin recounted his personal “disassociation” from Weir over her “objective anti-Semitism”
In light of the ongoing debate about JVPs decision to disassociate from Alison Weir, I’d like to offer the following:
My own experience with AW goes back about a decade, when I was on a panel with her sponsored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. She spoke about her then recent study of the New York Times reporting on Israel/Palestine.
http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/nyt-report.html) The study itself is based on good research and documents what many of us have long known about the NYT’s coverage of the conflict and the frequent conflation of its news perspective and editorial views.
The problem begins when she explains why this is the case. The text of the study only hints at her explanation: that the NYT’s reporting is “inconsistent with normal journalistic standards.” Did the NYT report accurately on the Vietnam War, the revolutionary movements in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the Iranian revolution, the 2003 Iraq War (before or after)? Did the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal? We know that they did not.
Under questioning at this event, AW did not acknowledge that the corporate media as well as NPR generally report international issues in line with US foreign policy. Rather she said that the disproportionately Jewish ownership of the NYT and other media (this much is true) explained its approach to I/P.
This is an objectively anti-Semitic view because it attributes unique capacity to Jewish power and money to distort reporting (and ultimately government policy) on this issue. It does not consider that both media reporting and US policy on I/P are consistent with the imperialist character of US policy everywhere in the world. I tried to speak with AW after the event, but she was not moved in the slightest by anything I offered. I have personally declined to appear on the same platform as AW since then.
The phrase “consistent with” is meaningless, designed to hide the radical differences between “US policy everywhere in the world” and policy in the Middle East. It is a truism that the Middle East is the most subjugated subsystem in the international relations system. Since 1945 the US has written further ghastly chapters, beginning with the destruction of Arab Palestine in the late 1940s by Zionism. The nascent Israel Lobby secured US support for partition of Palestine against the advice of the US military and diplomatic establishments. It also obtained vital, illegal, clandestine military and economic support from US Jewry, to which was added official aid after the Israel Lobby obtained diplomatic recognition for the Jewish state. Beinin is a cardinal to Noam Chomsky’s pope on “strategic asset” dogma, which has ignored the debut of the quasi-sovereign Israel Lobby, until a recent, untenable attempt to impose the “asset” view on the 1940s. (17)
The intermediate origins of US Middle East policy lie in the reaction against the left and liberal cultural and political movements of the 1950s and 1960s, represented by Ronald Reagan’s political career, culmi- nating in his election as president in 1980. The Jewish neoconservatives were key allies in the reaction. The term was invented by the socialist Michael Harrington, to described a group of Jewish intellectuals, journalists and academics, mostly Democratic, even Marxist in their youths, who opposed the political and cultural ferment of the 1960s. Their fundamental concern was US support for Israel, a concern that deepened after the June, 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the anti-war Democratic presidential candidacy of George McGovern in 1972, and the October, 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The neocons opposed the policy of detente with the Soviet Union of President Nixon and national security advisor Henry Kissinger, then under attack from the right, and supported the “rollback” of Soviet communism. President Jimmy Carter’s heterodoxy over Israel confirmed the neocons’ antipathy toward the Democrats; they were firm supporters of Reagan in the 1980 election, and many received national security appointments in his Administration.
It is argued that the neocons were important in Reagan’s rise and election. Their eastern establishment connections and liberal backgrounds gave credence to Reagan’s hard-line anti-Communism, and prevented him from being characterized as a far-right warmonger, as Senator Barry Goldwater had been in his presi- dential bid in 1964. Allied with the Israel Lobby, the neocons helped pass Reagan’s foreign policy agenda in Congress. This ascendancy marked the takeover of the traditional right by neoconservatism. That right (e.g., Goldwater) was fiercely anti-communist, but indifferent to Israel, often anti-Semitic (not Goldwater, whose father was Jewish, though he was raised Protestant), and isolationist, where the neocons were pro-Israel and fiercely belligerent for “regime change” and “nation-building,” especially against Israel’s enemies.
The neoconservatives funded new and captured existing think tanks, and purged traditionalists and in- stalled their personnel. The Republican Party was transformed the same way, “at least in regard to its national security policy; there they have replaced not only the traditional conservative figures, but also the more moderate establishment wing that was identified with the elder George H. W. Bush.” (18) The conservative flagship National Review succumbed, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal became a neocon platform, a decade before Rupert Murdoch founded Fox News as the Wurlitzer organ of the right.
Paul Wolfowitz was the leading neocon in the government. In the Defense Department in 1979, he chaired a 1979 study emphasizing an Iraqi threat to the Gulf oil fields, which was then so outlandish that Defense Secretary Harold Brown feared alarming Iraq and Saudi Arabia if the study should leak. Wolfowitz joined the Reagan State Department in 1981, where he became “one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Reagan Administration.” (19) After Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in August, 1990, Wolfowitz and and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney unsuccessfully advocated an attack in western Iraq that threatened Baghdad and the Saddam Hussein regime, and protected Israel.
Outside the government, “George Bush’s success in leading the American public into war might never have been possible without the energetic cooperation of the [neoconservative] punditocracy.” (20) The punditocracy “celebrated American military prowess with a degree of reverence that bordered on worship. Then, in the war’s aftermath, they proceeded to ignore many of its considerable costs, as well as nearly all the fundamental questions it should have raised.” (21) The January, 1991 congressional war vote was the closest since the War of 1812, and the Israel Lobby may well have provided the margin. AIPAC’s influence “was crucial, especially in helping the White House pick up Democratic support. . . Democrats who have benefited from large contributions by pro-Israel political action committees were among the swing votes, and the administration said that having pro-Israel liberals behind the resolution made it easier to hold moderate Republicans as well.” (22) (Joel Beinin viewed the war as the fruit of abstract oil interest and militarism, omitting the politics of actual decisions. (23))
The neocon ascendancy in the Reagan and Bush Administrations was continued in the Clinton Admin- istrations by Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, creatures of the Israel Lobby if not neocons themselves. Ross served in the Carter Defense Department under Wolfowitz and with interruption in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. Ross and Martin Indyk, then an AIPAC “research director,” co-founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 1985, which became a key node of pro-Israel personnel and policy. Indyk became director of Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, a post Ross had held a decade before, while Ross became special coordinator for the Middle East.
In defeating Iraq in 1991 the US had prepared the ground for an opening to Iran, after supporting Iraq against Iran in their 1980-89 war. The Iranian leadership was receptive and US foreign policy experts and business interests favored it, but Indyk imposed “dual containment” of Iraq and Iran, which was also designed to coerce Iran to stop supporting the Lebanese Hizbollah and to cease its nuclear research program. By 1995, resistance to dual containment welled up, as opposing equally two states that were bitter enemies seemed pointless and expensive, and Iran awarded an oil concession to US firm Conoco. Yet the Israel Lobby prevented Conoco from accepting the concession, and strengthened the sanctions on Iran, against adamant opposition from a substantial business lobby of firms with stakes in Iranian and regional markets. (24)
Out of power, the neoconservatives grouped themselves in think tanks as “essentially a ‘shadow defense establishment.’” (25) In 1996 one group wrote the “Clean Break” manifesto for an Israeli think tank, urging the overthrown of the Saddam Hussein regime as the key step in reordering the region to secure Israel. In 1997, a wider group of neoconservatives and radical gentile allies founded the Project for a New American Century, which pressured the Clinton Administration to attack Iraq. PNAC members took national security positions in the George W. Bush administration, and Clean Break became “ ‘a policy manifesto for the Israeli government penned by members of the current U.S. government.’” (26) The 9/11 attacks gave the war party its opening.
Osama bin Laden’s path to jihad began in his youth, in reaction to the burden of Arab defeats, in 1948, 1956 and 1967. His father hated Israel passionately, and his mother noted her son’s moody piety and acute concern for Palestine. Young bin Laden concluded that Arab failures were due to their abandonment of Islam, above all of jihad. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan let him practice his beliefs, by assisting and helping lead the “Arab Afghans” who came to join the Afghan resistance to the USSR. The experience deepened and radicalized bin Laden’s outlook and view of Islam’s enemies, and produced Al-Qaeda.
The US did not “create” Osama bin Laden. The CIA had no contact with bin Laden in the 1980s, while he was supporting the Arab fighters, and later fighting, in Afghanistan. (27) The Arab contribution to the Soviet defeat was negligible, though bin Laden distinguished himself in battle. Bin Laden disagreed with the acknowledged leader of the Arabs, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian Islamic scholar, and one of the few scholars who acted on his principles. Azzam opposed forming an Arab organization separate from the Afghans, and only after his assassination in 1989 did bin Laden emerge as leader of what became Al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden called Palestine “the mother of all Islamic issues,” and it was the primary motive for the 9/11 attacks. (28) “The notion of payback for injustices suffered by the Palestinians is perhaps the most powerfully recurrent in bin Ladens speeches. . . Speaking just before the 2004 presidential elections, bin Laden himself voiced amazement that Americans, deceived, he supposed, by their government, had yet to understand that he had struck America because ‘things just went too far with the American-Israeli alliances oppression and atrocities against our people.”’ (29) The 9/11 attacks let the war party contrive grounds for invading Iraq, and strong-arm the rest of the government, leading to the cardinal disaster. (Joel Beinin’s account of the 2003 Iraq invasion states that “the pro-Israel lobby, whose principal Jewish component is the American Israel Public Affairs Com- mittee (AIPAC), became a significant force in shaping public opinion and US Middle East policy after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.” Its influence predates World War I and it matured in the 1940s. This is one of many questionable statements in my view. (30))
Stephen Walt dates “the decline of the American empire” from the 1991 Gulf war. “Indeed, one could argue that this invasion was the first step in a train of events that did enormous damage to the United States and its position in the world.” Walt argues that the 2003 invasion “wrecked Iraq” and “destroyed the balance of power in the Gulf and improved Iran’s geopolitical position.” (31) The ascent of Iran in Iraq put Saudia Arabia and its Gulf allies on the warpath against Iran and its allies, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Syria and Iraq. The US animus against Iran (mainly a function of the Israel Lobby), Gulf machinations, and Turkish leader Erdogan’s grandiose, neo-Ottoman ambitions have led to the attempted dismemberment of Syria. Russia has intervened to protect its own interests, leading to imminent collision with the US as of this writing.
US Middle East policy is the worst thing in world affairs since the Axis aggression of the 1930s and 1940s. It is fundamentally a Jewish Zionist design, laid on a foundation of Israeli militarism and irreden- tism, advocated most crucially by the US neocons and the Israel Lobby and their Israeli allies interested in balkanizing the Middle East. In 1982 Israeli journalist Oded Yinon published in the World Zionist Organi- zation journal Kivunim (“Directions”) the article “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East,” which was translated by Israel Shahak, the late Israeli human rights activist and faculty member at the Hebrew University. Yinon argued that Israel could break up all the Arab states and Iran into ethno-religious statelets that it could dominate. “Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states.” Iraq’s “dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. . . In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines. . . is possible.” Zionists and Israeli foreign policy makers had long floated such designs, which compel surrender to Israel’s domination of Palestine. Israel and the neocons wanted the US to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 1991, but had to wait for the 9/11 attacks.
Obviously, the interests of the military-industrial complex were congruent with those of the neocons. The war party at the top of politics is comprised of gentile radical nationalists like Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney, as well as the neocons and the wider Israel Lobby. The neocon-radical alliance dates from the 1970s, and they and the Israel Lobby were not junior partners, but key enablers, in the Reaganite reaction, in the 1990 Gulf War, dual containment, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the ghastly sequelae. The argument can be made, in my view, that Zionism has radicalized US foreign policy, has activated potentialities in the US imperial polity, from coercing US support for Zionism in the 1940s onward, that would otherwise not have existed.
The Middle East has become the “eastern front” of the US empire, what eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were to Nazi Germany, site and sight of its most depraved deeds and ideologies: the “clash of civil- isations,” the “war on terror,” Islamophobia, and the burgeoning US police state. US Middle East policy is “about oil” like the Nazi invasion of the USSR in 1941 was “about Russian oil and wheat.” In both cases we look to radical nationalism, militarism and genocidal racism.
US policy in the Middle East is not consistent with US policy elsewhere, it is on a different plane entirely, in its destructiveness, at home and abroad, and also in its US advocates. In the matter of media coverage, which exercised Joel Beinin, Mearsheimer and Walt found that the Israel “lobby’s perspective on Israel is widely reflected in the mainstream media in part because a substantial number of commentators who write about Israel are themselves pro-Israel.” (33) Media critic Eric Alterman found that for “reasons of religion, politics, history and genuine conviction the punditocracy debate of the Middle East in America is dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel.” (34) Their tabulations are dominated by Jewish writers, editors and publishers. It appears to be a qualification forNew York Times Israel correspondents and op-ed columnists to have a son in the Israeli military, (35) or are married into the Israeli establishment. (36) No Latin American dictator, no South African apartheid regime, ever enjoyed such partisanship.
As she has become more prominent Alison Weir (along with the Council for the National In- terest and Washington Report on the Middle East) has become a major spokesperson for the view that the US-Israel alliance uniquely (unlike US alliances with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, for example) harms US national interests (which she does not define). While this is objection- able in its own right, it might not be a sufficient reason for JVP not to associate with her. Her uncomfortably frequent association with types like white supremacist Clay Douglas right wing racists like The American Free Press, and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof make her a liability for the movement.
CNI and Washington Report on Middle East Affairs focus on Israel because they were founded by US government officials whose careers were damaged or destroyed by the Israel Lobby. CNI and WRMEA understand the role of Israel, together with its US lobby, as a dynamic, radicalizing, destabilizing force, central to the catastrophe wrought by the US in the Middle East. A conference on the Israel Lobby orga- nized by CNI, WRMEA, and IRMEP in 2014 featured an impressive array of former government officials who catalogued Israel’s damage to the US and found that Israel is if anything an enemy, not an ally or a “strategic asset.” (37) Beinin, Chomsky, et al. ignore this vociferous criticism from national security veterans, who in their view can only be deluded about “US interests.” Nor is it clear that CNI and WRMEA support the current US relationships with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The nominal cause of JVP’s “disassociation” and US Campaign to End the Occupation’s expulsion of If Americans Knew was interviews she gave to right-wing journalists (among hundreds given to other outlets), such as Clay Douglas, an obscure figure with a tiny audience who is trumpeted as another Hitler by the
Southern Poverty Law Center. All parties to the attack on Weir denounced Douglas as a “white supremacist” and anti-Semite. Douglas’s blog states: (37)
We Americans were born in a country founded on a violent and treacherous land grab from the original inhabitants, who themselves did not deal in real estate sales or mortgage fraud. Virtually every treaty made by the US government was broken by the US Army, which conducted the first modern extermination program, today known as “ethnic cleansing.”
The legal system of a country based on African slavery and extermination of its natives can only be an exercise in fraud and hypocrisy. (38)
The version of Douglas’s web page from last summer, when the attack on Weir became public, is avail- able on the Wayback Machine internet archive. (39) It contains a picture of Sitting Bull overlaid with the “Twelve Lakota Virtues,” from Unsiiciyapi (Humility) through Woksape (Wisdom). A biography page states, about the 1960s, “we stopped a war,” and recounts pursuits and avocations from head shops, marijuana legalization and libertarianism, to marine businesses, motorcycle manufacturing, firearms, making documentary films and writing novels. (40) Douglas has clashed with authorities ranging from his former father-in-law, to the federal government (near- fatally), to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Douglas’s web pages also detail interests in Donald Trump, chem trails, Bitcoin, survivalism and other popular obsessions. The pages are crude, obviously made by a self-taught programmer.
JVP was especially incensed that Douglas cited the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Russian anti-Semitic forgery, among other anti-Semitic references on his pages. Douglas is not the only critic of Israel to cite the Protocols. The late activist and scholar Tanya Reinhart referred to the “present situation with the US lobby—as if the Protocols of the Elders of Zion had come to life.” (41) TV comedian Jon Stewart referred to the “elders of AIPAC” in a piece on presidential candidate pandering. (42)
Veteran Israeli politician Uri Avnery wrote that “if the authors of the falsification were to return to the scene of their crime today, they would rub their eyes in disbelief: this figment of their sick imagination looks like coming true.” (43)
Whether one views Douglas as an anti-Semite, or someone with a crude, ugly misapprehension of the real problem of Jewish power, perhaps depends on whether one views the Israel Lobby thesis as “objective anti-Semitism” or basically valid. JVP and End the Occupation collapse the complex, contradictory per- sonality of Douglas into a “hate” figure in order to smear Weir (after SPLC and the Jewish obsession with right-wing populism, rather than elite Zionism, as the font of evil).
Beinin uses vague, menacing, show trial language like “associating with” and “consorting with” to make granting interviews seem sinister and ominous. Rather than being spurned, it is probably better that far right audiences hear about distinctions between the Jewish public and organized Jewish leadership, as Weir drew, and hear that Muslim opposition to the US is the product of US policies, not Islamophobic motives. Douglas, and other right-wing outlets that interviewed Weir, such as American Free Press and Mark Dankof, have also interviewed Jewish critics of Zionism like Ilan Pappe, Jennifer Loewenstein and even Rebecca Vilkomerson of JVP, as well as many non-Jewish critics, who were not attacked for anti-Semitism by JVP and US Campaign.
The most fundamental question that any movement must ask is, “Who are our friends and who are our enemies?” Alison Weir has chosen to consort uncritically with people who are not friends of any progressive, anti-racist movement for social justice. If she had done it once or twice or if she acknowledged it as an error, it might not be a major issue. Doing it repeatedly and affirming that there is no problem about this as long as she does not explicitly endorse the views of her interlocutors is naive at best. Whatever her intentions, this behavior gives our enemies more credibility when they assert that support for Palestinian rights, criticism of Israeli policies, BDS, and anti-Zionism are necessarily anti-Semitic.
JVP should oppose AWs “soft” anti-Semitism just as we would oppose the more naked form of those she consorts with. This is both a matter of broad progressive principle and of particular importance for us as a Jewish organization. We cannot be maximally effective in supporting Palestinian rights if there is any basis for our enemies to claim that only Jews who consort with anti-Semites (or people who are “soft” on anti-Semitism) support Palestinian rights.
The “most fundamental question that any movement must ask” is what it stands for. JVP stands for, among other things, Jewish control of the Palestine movement, behavior as old as “the occupation” itsself. A generation ago New Jewish Agenda sought to remove from progressive politics the goal of reducing US aid to Israel. (44) Today JVP seeks to suppress the Israel Lobby critique, and uses the charge of anti-Semitism for its ends, just like mainstream Jewish groups. Weir was accused of violating the “anti-racism principles” of the US Campaign to End the Occupation, (45) by unnamed member organizations. The “anti-racism” principles claim to “oppose Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, all forms of racism, and any other expressions of bigotry directed at any person or group.” JVP also claims that “our central tenet is opposition to racism in all its forms.” (46)
The “anti-racism principles” were drawn up in 2013, likely as part of a long-term plot against Weir. The “principles” mention only anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, which was protested. (47) Islamophobia has no followers in Palestine ranks, and “anti-racism principles” are unnecessary to oppose it. The “principles” ignore the history and literature of Zionism as a form of racism (48) and of Jewish anti-gentilism in the “diaspora.” This suggests that the purpose of the “anti-racism principles” is to support accusations of anti-Semitism, a common gambit of “anti-racist” politics world-wide. The insistence of US Campaign and JVP that they “oppose all forms of racism” while they use “anti-racism principles” that omit Zionism to mount a show trial over anti-Semitism calls to mind Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
This was so egregious that, last summer, when the campaign against Alison Weir was at its height, the JVP leadership promised a “Zionism study group” to which members could “apply,” which would formulate a position on Zionism. Unsurprisingly, the idea died, until one member raised the question again this spring, and was eagerly seconded by eight other members. Facing another mutiny, Professor Beinin again donned his commissar hat to explain why taking a position on Zionism was inadvisable. Unlike his charges, Beinin understands that examining Zionism would expose the racialism and racism on which JVP is based. Like the discussion of the attack on Alison Weir, the Zionism study group discussion died.
As the attack on Alison Weir shows (among many things), JVP’s “Jewish politics” is power and privilege. “Jewish identity” can only be a personal, individual matter; outside a religious congregation, collectively, it is a form of Zionism.
As Peter Beinart observed, “privately, American Jews revel in Jewish power. But publicly, we often avoid discussing it for fear of feeding anti-Semitic myths.” (49) Or confirming them, as in the references to the Protocols noted above, the attack on Alison Weir, and the thuggish disruption of her talk in Walnut Creek.
Such reveling has for 50 years suppressed the critical tasks of the left: 1) a critique of Zionism and the Jewish people idea as Jewish race doctrine, opposing Jew and gentile everywhere; 2) a candid analysis of the Israel Lobby, from its debut in World War I to its maturity in the 1940s to its present cumulative radicalization; 3) recovering the classical liberal traditions, products of the Enlightenment and Jewish emancipation, which rejected Zionism categorically.
These include classical Reform Judaism, which rejected Jewish peoplehood and affirmed the position of Jews as a religious minority. Marxist internationalism viewed nationalism as an impediment to the unity of the working class and Zionism as colonialism. The late Israel Shahak dated “the modern secular [non-] Jewish tradition” from Spinoza, the greatest of the 17th c rationalist philosophers, who was expelled from his Amsterdam synagogue for his modern ideas. Shahak rejected Zionism as pre-modern recidivism. These traditions are the antipode to Zionism, and also to anti-Semitism, rather than backroom slanders about “objective anti-Semitism.”
Count Clermont-Tonnerre spoke for Jewish emancipation in the French National Assembly in December, 1789. The
adversaries of the Jewish people attack me. This people, they say, is not sociable. . . The worst of these reproaches is unjust; the others are only specious. . .
No doubt these religious oddities will disappear; and if they do survive the impact of philosophy and the pleasure of finally being true citizens and sociable men, they are not infractions to which the law can or should pertain.
But, they say to me, the Jews have their own judges and laws. I respond that is your fault and you should not allow it. We must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation and accord everything to Jews as individuals. It is repugnant to have in the state an association of non-citizens, and a nation within the nation. . . In short, Sirs, the presumed status of every man resident in a country is to be a citizen. (50)
The quasi-national organized Jewish society and sensibility violate the liberal compact that Clermont-Tonnerre outlined. Their quasi-sovereign power usurps the democratic sovereignty embodied in the US government, as famously stated in the Preamble to the Constitution. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union. . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (51) The principle of democratic sovereignty, however corrupted and attenuated, makes the government accountable to its citizens, as the If Americans Knew web site states. “In a democracy, the ultimate responsibility for a nation’s actions rests with its citizens. The top rung of government—the entity with the ultimate power of governance—is the asserted will of the people. Therefore, in any democracy, it is essential that its citizens be fully and accurately informed.” (52)
Alison Weir entered politics to address her fellow citizens, and was attacked by the left Jewish establishment of völkisch sophistication, a variation on Jefferson Smith’s reception in the Frank Capra movie, Mr Smith Goes to Washington. The liberal foundations of the modern world remain the only way of addressing the issues raised by Zionism and the state of Israel, as Weir understands, if the Jewish left does not.
(1) http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/77314/student-protesters-scary-lesson-at-anti-israel-talk (note Weir’s comment on the article)
(6) Weir, Against Our Better Judgment, 12
(7) Naomi Cohen, The Americanization of Zionism, 1897-1948, 73-4, for a debate between Kallen and a Jewish critic
(8) Jewish Voice for Peace, Reframing Anti-Semitism. An Alternative Jewish Perspective, 5
(18) Stephen Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal. The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel,42; see Chap. 3 and references therein
(19) James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, 405-6
(20) Eric Alterman, Sound and Fury. The Making of the Punditocracy, 229
(21) Sound and Fury, 235
(22) David Rogers, “Pro-Israel Lobbyists Quietly Backed Resolution Allowing Bush to Commit U.S. Troops to Combat,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 1991
(24) John R. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, 286-91; see also Sasan Fayezmanesh, The United States and Iran. Sanctions, wars and the policy of dual containment
(25) The Transparent Cabal, 83
(26) The Transparent Cabal, 90
(27) Steve Coll, Ghost Wars. The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, 87
(28) Michael Scheuer, Osama bin Laden, 98
(29) Max Rodenbeck, “Their Master’s Voice,” New York Review of Books, March 9, 2006http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2006/03/09/their-masters-voice/
(33) The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, 169
(49) Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, 5