Why do Jewish groups ignore Beck?

Jewish organisations avoid criticising Glenn Beck and propagate Islamophobia for the perceived benefit of Israel.

Glenn Beck rally
Despite anti-Semitism advocacy groups purporting to combat an increase in anti-Semitism, they seem to ignore notable figures such as Glenn Beck, who has even cited a Nazi sympathiser’s book on one of his shows [Getty]

Has anyone noticed that right-wingers are really exercised about anti-Semitism these days except when it emanates from right-wingers?

This week in Forbes, Abigail R. Esman pens an utterly over-the-top column called “World To Jews: Drop Dead.” 


She claims that, even here in the United States, anti-Semitism is no longer a “fringe” phenomenon but has gone mainstream. Who knew?

Esman cites by name the trinity of Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez and (Jewish film maker) Oliver Stone as evidence. Naturally, the 90 year-old Thomas is Esman’s marquee example of anti-Semitism even though her offensive remarks were not made on television or radio but to a rabbi with a camcorder at a White House party. (It was almost surely a set-up by a right-wing “pro-Israel” Israel activist with an agenda.)

On the other hand, Esman does not even mention Glenn Beck, whose reach dwarfs anything the Thomas/Sanchez/Stone trio can even dream about. It was Beck who devoted a full week on his program, watched by millions, to raw, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

Nor does she mention one of the most powerful right-wing figures in Hollywood, Mel Gibson, who, in addition to his well-known anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism and misogyny, is now reported to have told Jewish actor Winona Rider that she is an “oven dodger.”

Think about that one for a minute.

By the way, Gibson’s new movie, produced and directed by his friend Jodie Foster, comes out in March. Unlike Helen Thomas, Gibson is still employable despite being a virulent bigot.

What really matters

The silliest part of the Esman column is her assertion that anti-Semitism is a bigger problem in America than Islamo-hatred.

That is a lie, a slur against this country that at the same time trivialises the serious situation Muslims face. It’s a situation which will become even worse when Muslim-baiting Congressman Peter King becomes chairman of a House committee and puts his subpoena power to work inciting against Muslims for being…Muslim. (The irony that this long-time apologist for IRA terrorism is suddenly seeking to expose terrorist cells in America is striking.)

Yes, anti-Semitism was once a problem in this country, a serious problem that contributed to dire consequences. During the 1930s and 1940s, there was so much anti-Semitism here that Jewish organisations didn’t even press our government to do anything to rescue the Jews of Europe. At the very time when Hitler was planning and implementing the Final Solution, the leadership of the now stridently neocon and “pro-Israel” American Jewish Committee refused to leverage its considerable influence to encourage the Roosevelt administration to attempt the rescue of Europe’s Jews — instead, it did the opposite. Its policy was “ssssh, don’t rock the boat.”

At the worst moment of Jewish history, when we really needed a powerful lobby, it didn’t exist. In fact, when the White House asked for Jewish input on what to do, the AJC and the other organisations maintained their policy of not speaking up. And that was because of their fear of anti-Semitism. But that was then. This is now. (Now, they won’t shut up: They’re even invoking the Holocaust to prevent the United States from pushing hard to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace, warning about the dangers of Muslims and, even worse, J Street.)

The truth of the matter

How many Jews do any of us know who are afraid of being attacked because they are Jews here in the United States?

If Jews experienced the weeks of undiluted hate that Muslims experienced during the phony “Ground Zero mosque” controversy, we would be packing for Israel, or to whatever refuge would have us.

But Muslims are attacked. Their mosques are burned. And the right incites this hatred, using powerful media outlets (Fox News and hundreds of radio stations) to get the message across.

The pro-Israel lobby itself is, no doubt, quite pleased about the Islamo-hatred in this country (the ADL’s Abe Foxman was the leading respectable agitator against the Islamic centre near Ground Zero). For them it’s a zero-sum game. Those who hate Muslims are more likely to admire Israel.

That is why the lobby is silent about Glenn Beck.

The lobby believes and teaches its adherents that anti-Semitism means opposing Israel’s policies. Old-fashioned anti-Semitism, the kind that dripped like venom from Glenn Beck’s week-long series, does not concern the lobby. It’s okay to be anti-Semitic, so long as you are pro-Israel. (Note: Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi mass murderer, visited Palestine in the 1930’s and professed admiration for Jewish accomplishments there. That didn’t stop him from being an architect of the Final Solution, which was directed not at Israeli Jews but at those Jews closer to home.)

Making sense of it all

All this could be perplexing, but now along comes Max Blumenthal, a young writer, who begins the job of explaining how and why the lobby has changed the definition of anti-Semitism, and how and why it benefits from (and, in some cases, supports) Islamo-hatred.

Not surprisingly, top donors to AIPAC and its think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), are key funders of the anti-Muslim campaign. He writes:

Years before Tea Party shock troops massed for angry protests outside the proposed site of an Islamic community centre in lower Manhattan, representatives of the Israel lobby and the Jewish-American establishment launched a campaign against pro-Palestinian campus activism that would prove a seedbed for everything to come. That campaign quickly – and perhaps predictably – morphed into a series of crusades against mosques and Islamic schools, which in turn attracted an assortment of shady but exceptionally energetic militants into the network’s ranks.

Besides providing the initial energy for the Islamophobic crusade, conservative elements from within the pro-Israel lobby bankrolled the network’s apparatus, enabling it to influence the national debate. One philanthropist in particular has provided the beneficence to propel the campaign ahead. He is a little-known Los Angeles-area software security entrepreneur named Aubrey Chernick, who operates out of a security consulting firm blandly named the National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination. A former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has served as a think tank for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a frontline lobbying group for Israel, Chernick is said to be worth $750 million.

Read Blumenthal’s piece and suddenly the anti-Muslim mania and the indifference to Glenn Beck and other right-wing anti-Semites make sense. It’s all about discrediting Muslims for Israel’s sake. (This is, of course, a great irony because the “pro-Israel” lobby consistently and forcefully supports policies that undermine the survival of the Jewish state.)

Nonetheless, anti-Muslim types from the wacko racists (like Pam Geller crowd), to the neocon hate mongers (David Horowitz, Rachel Abrams, Jennifer Rubin, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes, Martin Kramer and Commentary), to the organisations (the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, CAMERA, the David Project, and, of course, AIPAC) are deeply implicated in the anti-Muslim crusade. Blumenthal writes that they are:

obsessively fixated on the supposed spread of Muslim influence in America…. [Their worldview] reflects an aggressively pro-Israel sensibility, with its key figures venerating the Jewish state as a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror….

It’s all very ugly, and incredibly stupid. How can any Jew give a pass to any anti-Semite simply because he professes love for Israel? And how can anyone take seriously a “love” that is predicated on, and continually fuels, sheer hatred? As my mother always said, “if they don’t like black people [today I’d add Muslims, gays, immigrants, etc] they don’t like you either.” To me, that touches the essence of Judaism and it is precisely why Jews are, and have always been, liberals and progressives.

And that is part of what unhinges Glenn Beck. Even a degree from Glenn Beck University cannot un-teach the lessons we learned over the last 2,000 years. We know the game Beck is playing and no one should insult our intelligence by pretending it’s about George Soros.

The lobby had better wake up.

MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.