Is new Israel lobby bad for Jews?

The Emergency Committee for Israel is an organisation that does not represent Jews, but rather its Republican funders.

Jewish kid Obama poster
In a recent poll, only three per cent of US Jews vote based on Israel rather than domestic issues [GALLO/GETTY]

The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a far-right Republican pressure group, knows that it is still too early to roll out its full “Obama hates Israel” campaign.

However, considering all the money in its coffers, it has found a cause that serves its purpose just as well: assailing the Occupy Wall Street movement as anti-Semitic.

No matter that its evidence is the presence of a total of three lunatics in the Wall Street crowds in contrast to thousands of Jews (see this video). It makes sense for ECI to libel a movement that threatens its wealthy donors’ interests far more than Obama threatens Netanyahu’s.

That is because ECI is not really about Israel. It is all about defending the political and economic interests of its millionaire donors by electing Republicans. That means smearing Democrats who might raise its sponsors’ taxes. And it means lying about the Occupy Wall Street movement which defends working people and excoriates the one per cent Theodore Roosevelt called “malefactors of great wealth”.

Republican support

How do we know that ECI’s supposed devotion to Israel is nothing but a pretext for its defence of the GOP? (See this J Street paper on ECI, for example.)

Because the Emergency Committee for Israel consistently attacks Democrats as anti-Israel while praising Republicans as if they were virtual members of the Israeli military.

To date – in addition to its incessant sniping at the president – it has run ads for one candidate and against four. Most recently, it launched a campaign to elect Bob Turner, the Republican candidate for Congress in New York who successfully campaigned to win the seat formerly held by Anthony Weiner. ECI filled the airwaves with a video purporting to show that the Democratic candidate, Orthodox Jew David Weprin, was no friend of Israel because, as a Democrat, he was associated with President Obama.

In 2010, ECI ran similar ads against Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak and three incumbent House members: Rush Holt of New Jersey, Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio and Glenn Nye of Virginia. Needless to say, all the candidates ECI targeted were Democrats.

And now, the group is virulently and incessantly attacking the people who are demonstrating against economic policies that exploit working people in favour of people who live off their capital gains. Not exactly a surprise.

But it is still rather disgusting. The group, in its never-ending exploitation of Israel to advance Republicans and right-wing economics, repeatedly sends the message that all American Jews care about is Israel. No matter what the issue, the Emergency Committee for Israel, the Commentary crowd, and pretty much all neocons, convey to the public at large that American Jews are only concerned about an imagined “Jewish angle”, as if we are some kind of unique enclave who live in the US but aren’t really Americans.

Reinforcing stereotypes

Even if ECI and its allies believed its propaganda and were not simply exploiting genuine concern about Israel and anti-Semitism to advance a GOP agenda, it would be wrong to convey that impression.

That is because it reinforces the most virulent anti-Semitic canard that still circulates in this country: that American Jews are disloyal citizens whose primary allegiance is to Israel and not America.

God knows, there are organisations that do indeed put Israel first, but – despite their loud voices and political clout – they represent a tiny minority of US Jews. According to an American Jewish Committee poll, only three per cent of Jews cast their votes based on Israel – rather than on American issues.

ECI knows all that but doesn’t care. So what if it reinforces the ugly view that American Jews are bad Americans, so long as it succeeds in moving some votes and money toward the Republicans? Making Jews look bad is not something it worries about.

Obviously it doesn’t worry one of ECI’s three board members, Rachel Decter Abrams, wife of the disgraced former Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams. Like Abrams, the other two board members are right-wing Republican activists: William Kristol and Gary Bauer.

Support for genocide

On October 18, Abrams wrote a blog post celebrating the return of Gilad Shalit. However, rather than simply express joy and relief at the release of the Israeli soldier, she published a call for genocide against Palestinians. Read it.

Then, to make sure that the post would be seen well beyond the readers of one blog, Jennifer Rubin, a Washington Post columnist, tweeted it. It is no surprise that Rubin, a former Commentary writer, has no problem with Abrams’ call for genocide. But shouldn’t the Washington Post have a problem with Rubin?

And on October 25, a Beirut newspaper headlined the story of Abrams’ blog and Rubin’s endorsement of it. The headline reads: “Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin promotes call for Palestinian genocide.” This story will have legs and its legacy will be an ugly one.

To put it simply, these neocons are bad for everyone – but especially for Jews. It is almost as if reinforcing the ugliest and most libelous stereotypes about Jews is their goal.

To its credit, J Street has condemned Abrams and called on the ECI to kick her off their board. But I would not go that far simply because I think that Rachel Decter Abrams and her call for genocide fits in well with ECI. She belongs there, along with Kristol and Bauer.

As for Jennifer Rubin and the Post, they represent a different kettle of fish. One thing is certain: If the great Katherine Graham, publisher of the paper when it brought down Richard Nixon by exposing Watergate, were still around, Jennifer Rubin wouldn’t be. Does she really belong at the once-great Washington Post?

No, she doesn’t. She belongs back at Commentary.

But the Emergency Committee for Israel is just another Republican organisation, and we do have a two-party system. They are entitled to be right-wing Republicans – just so long as no one believes they represent Jews.

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the Media Matters Action Network. 

You can follow MJ on twitter @MJayRosenberg

A version of this article previously appeared on 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 represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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