This is a false understanding. The Trump peace
plan was brought to you by the Jewish community.
Over the last 20 years any real and vigorous
opposition to the Jewish right– AIPAC–inside the
Jewish community has been fitful and meaningless.
Liberal Zionists have enforced that line by refusing
to organize as equals with the community Israel is
Yes, the liberal Zionist wing of the American
Jewish community has opposed settlements on
principle for at least 20 years. But whenever push
came to shove it has sold that principle out in
favor of Jewish communal cohesion and support for
the Israeli government. And it has helped to crush
real and effective dissent. Jewish groups that
forcefully opposed Israeli policy (Jewish Voice for
Peace, for example, and IfNotNow too) have been
repeatedly ostracized by the Jewish community as
heretics and self-haters.
The clearest expression of what I am saying was
the presence in the White House yesterday of Malcolm
Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the
rightwing Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein loves Trump’s plan.
Malcolm Hoenlein has access and a lot of power over
U.S. policy. Malcolm Hoenlein came in and out of the
Obama White House too.
And Malcolm Hoenlein’s salary is paid in part by
Americans for Peace Now, the anti-occupation group,
because it is a member of the Conference of
Presidents. Other liberal members of the Conference,
Ameinu and the National Council of Jewish Women and
the Reform Jews, also pay Hoenlein’s salary. And J
Street would do so too, if the Conference would only
let them in.
They do so because ultimately these Jewish groups
place a greater value on a, Jewish communal
solidarity in support of Israel and access to the
halls of power than they do on human rights.
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If they really cared about the occupation, they
would have quit the Conference of Presidents a long
time ago. And undertaken some real action like
IfNotNow’s young Jews do all the time, at AIPAC and
the Damascus Gate (where Israeli police brutalized
Member of #IfNotNow is dragged away from
Damascus Gate on Jerusalem Day, May 24, 2017
Let’s look at a key moment in the history of
Israeli expansion/colonization and the politics of
the Jewish community: 2009-2011.
At that time it is arguable that a leader could
have saved the two-state solution. Maybe you could
have actually created a viable Palestinian state. To
do so you had to stop and then reverse the
settlement project. Obama said he wanted to do that
after his inauguration and J Street worked with that
goal in mind, to give Obama political capital inside
the Jewish community so that he could oppose
Obama cratered, and so did J Street. They
completely reversed themselves in 2010-2011, because
of opposition from the Jewish community. It was
clear that even if a lot of Jews had misgivings
about the settlement project, maybe even a majority
of the grass roots– the organized Jewish community,
the political Jewish community, was not going to go
along with Obama. So Netanyahu lectured Obama about
the 1967 lines, humiliating the president at the
White House, and Obama vetoed the very thing he said
he was for, a resolution against settlements at the
UN Security Council, and J Street changed its
campaign from opposing settlements outright to,
Let’s set borders. I.e., let’s accept that Israel
will get the settlement blocs under an eventual
agreement, and let’s just talk about where the
border will be so we can keep the possibility of two
Obama and the liberal Zionists crumpled for
simple reasons: because the center of the Jewish
community was too far right on the issue, and Obama
was dependent on that community for financial and
Never forget these facts about Obama’s
political/establishment base: When he wanted to
appoint Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State he
reached out to her through Hoenlein, the
rightwing Israel supporter, sending the signal,
Foreign policy will flow through the Israel lobby.
When Samantha Power wanted to become ambassador to
the U.N., she needed to overcome her own record of
criticisms of Israel so she acquired a sherpa to the
Jewish community, Shmuley Boteach, a rightwing
wingnut extremist; and it worked. When a rightwing
racist Israeli prime minister– Netanyahu– came to
address the Congress in 2011 and say that Jerusalem
was the ancient Jewish homeland and not a
settlement, the head of the Democratic National
Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, led the
Congress in countless standing ovations.
More: After Netanyahu defied Obama on the Iran
deal, he was invited into the Democratic Party’s
thinktank for a fawning interview by the head of the
thinktank who crowed (in a leaked email) that if she
had alienated her own staff, she had attracted a
major donor by doing so. That thinktank purged
intellectuals who dared to criticize AIPAC, and
deferred to Alan Dershowitz in doing so.
This is not the place to lay out Why the
Democratic Party bends over backwards to the Jewish
community. We are a traditional Democratic
constituency of course. We are also the financial
warchest for the Democratic Party. Just listen to
the head of Emily’s List and JJ Goldberg of the
Forward tell a
J Street audience in 2016 about the “gigantic”
and “shocking” degree of dependence by Democrats on
Jewish donors. Their comments echo what Jimmy
Carter’s political gurus warned him
about in the late 1970s when he was about to
lose a second term, in part because of his
alienation of the Jewish community– due to his
opposition to Israeli settlements.
But what happened under Obama was that the
liberals in the Jewish community deferred to the
principle established by AIPAC: Jews must use our
influence to make certain there is no daylight
between the US government and the Israeli one.
Now let’s consider the noble tradition of Jewish
rebels inside that community who actively oppose
Israeli policy and what has happened to them.
In the mid-70s the great Rabbi Arthur Waskow and
other leftwing Jews of an anti-occupation group
called Breira met with members of the PLO to discuss
Palestinian self-determination. They were crushed by
the official Jewish community, including Wolf
Blitzer, who worked for AIPAC then the Jerusalem
story told by Michael Staub). A few years later
the great journalist Leonard Fein dared to say much
what IfNotNow said yesterday, that the rightwing
leader Menachem Begin was lying when he said he
represented American Jews, “and the roof fell in,”
related years later.
I depended on wealthy liberal Jews to support
Moment magazine. Money was withdrawn right and
left from its support.
Then there’s Peter Beinart. I have great respect
for Beinart. Again and again he has called out the
official Jewish community for its support of the
persecution of Palestinians. He wrote a
groundbreaking article in the NY Review of Books in
2010 saying much of what I’m saying here, titled
“The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.”
The piece was read by people who wouldn’t touch me
with a bargepole. He then published a book called
“The Crisis of Zionism,” where he said that by
ennabling the occupation, American Jewish
organizations had endangered the existence of the
In that book, Beinart bore witness to Palestinian
suffering in indelible ways. That book came out
eight years ago, when arguably the two-state
solution was still viable. J Street recognized
Beinart’s charismatic appeal to young Jews and sold
t-shirts with the slogan, Beinart’s Army.
But that army never came to pass. The crisis of
Zionism didn’t penetrate the American Jewish
Beinart failed his own mission, because even
though he had seen a crisis, he could only take
half-measures. He supported Boycotts against the
settlements only and distanced himself from
Palestinian solidarity activists, debating them on
BDS. He did so, imho, because he did not want to
alienate the Jewish community, it is his world. His
choice is very similar to Peace Now continuing to
pay Malcolm Hoenlein’s salary. Or Richard Goldstone
folding under pressure from his South African Jewish
community. For historical reasons relating to our
minority status/persecution, Jews didn’t want to
create a public fracture over Israel…
That makes you politically feckless. It’s really
like being a good white southerner in the 60s and
insisting on organizing only with white people.
Because you fear the agenda of the black people, who
are the ones being oppressed, after all.
The true Jewish heretics get crushed, as Leonard
Fein and Arthur Waskow did in their moment. J Street
has exhibited a similar communal politics. It
invites a lot of rightwing Jewish leaders to its
stages, but it never invites Jewish anti-Zionists
who support the nonviolent Palestinian program for
liberation, BDS. We are ostracized from the Jewish
community. Jeffrey Goldberg said anti-Zionist Jews
have Jewish parents — i.e., we aren’t Jews. Yossi
Klein Halevi, who is invited to both AIPAC and J
Street, says we have placed ourselves outside the
Jewish community. When I became an anti-Zionist, I
got fired from good liberal institutions that
depended on establishment Jews, the Observer and the
In short, any real and forceful resistance to the
occupation inside the Jewish community was crushed
in the name of Jewish solidarity. And yesterday
Malcolm Hoenlein, whose salary is paid in part by
the anti-occupation group Peace Now, did an endzone
dance at the White House, alongside Sheldon Adelson.
Why has Americans for Peace Now helped pay this
man’s enormous salary for decades if it considers
the occupation a real crisis?
I admit that something has been achieved by Peace
Now, J Street and Peter Beinart in the last ten
years: They have ended the daylight policy and
fractured the Israel lobby into two parts. A
rightwing lobby that supports the Greater Israel
vision that Trump embraced yesterday in the White
House. And a liberal lobby that opposes it.
They have helped to politicize Israel. We might
actually see a real fight in American politics over
Israel, but with very limited parameters. Both sides
must love Israel. And the rightwing lobby has a big
footprint inside the Democratic Party.
That fracture has taken place because the Jewish
community has finally split openly over Israel.
That split may be very meaningful in American and
Jewish politics, but it is not going to affect
Palestinians very much.
Palestinians are living as second-class citizens
and worse under one government that controls all of
Israel and Palestine, and their battle is for equal
rights inside that state. Whose side are you on?
Only a few American politicians even say this aloud.
The organized Jewish community opposes that
discourse, and helps pass laws to marginalize it,
because it means the end of the official paradigm of
a Jewish democracy.
Liberal Zionists are now in crisis over that
paradigm and doing all they can to save it.
Their crisis is the death of their own dream. It
is very selfish. They still refuse to organize as
equals with the people directly affected by Israel’s
policies, Palestinians. They don’t ultimately care
about Palestinian human rights.
There is only one real group trying to work
inside the Jewish community that does that, Jewish
Voice for Peace– and IfNotNow is catching up. They
are both marginalized. Because I have such a deep
attachment to my original community, I honor what
JVP does as Jews. They are the only Jewish future.
H/t Scott Roth, James North and Adam
Philip Weiss is senior
editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the
site in 2005-06.
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