Israel, Politics

Help defend Kristof – a brave voice on Israel

(note: an interesting point from a friend who passed it on- RK)
One of the most courageous and talented journalists in America today is Nicholas Kristof. He has traveled from the brothels of Cambodia (to rescue child-prostitutes) to the refugee camps of Darfur (to report on genocide) often at great personal risk. On March 18, 2007 he took what may be seen as his greatest professional risk. Namely, he took on the Israel Lobby in his column Talking About Israel.
Read it with a deep sigh of relief, because Kristof is a powerful ally to Palestinians and Israelis seeking peace. This is in part a result of his deep and widely respected humanism. But it’s also because over the past few years, his concern for Darfurian victims of genocide in the Sudan was championed by an impressive array of American Jewish leaders. Select quotes include these gems:
“There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans…” regarding Israel.
“American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves.”
“American politicians just don’t get it.”
“Hard-line Israeli policies have profoundly harmed that country’s long-term security….”
“… [S]ecurity for Israel will emerge only from a peace agreement.…”
“…[L]et’s be better friends—and stop biting our tongues.”
Never mind that these views are practically the consensus among journalists, diplomats, scholars and most American Jews; what matters is that our political elites behave as though they were the captive of a small yet powerful special interest group. An interest group that shrewdly manipulates reasonable concerns regarding terrorism, Israel’s survival and anti-Semitism to silence, smear and defame any opposition.

Democratic Party activists are gearing up for a wonderfully open primary race. While no one expects über-war supporter and AIPAC cheerleader Hillary Clinton to evolve – nor would anyone believe it – there is still room for pressuring other worthy candidates, such as John Edwards and Barak Obama. Some of us have been thinking about such a campaign for some time, but now it’s official. Thank you, Nicholas Kristoff, for kicking it off. Let’s hold our leaders – esp. the Democratic nominees for the Presidency – accountable on the Israel debate.
Join us in saying thank you to Nicholas Kristoff and demanding a real conversation on US policy towards Israel.

36 thoughts on “Help defend Kristof – a brave voice on Israel

  1. “On March 18, 2007 he took what may be seen as his greatest professional risk. Namely, he took on the Israel Lobby in his column Talking About Israel.”
    That is a huge risk. The Elders are no doubt on his trail as we speak. We all know what horrible things happen to those who dare to criticize Israel. After the fatwa, Tony Judt was never the same – oh, wait.
    Maybe in his spare time, Kristoff can enjoy some safe journalism – like, say, a critique of Islam or Mohammed.
    “what matters is that our political elites behave as though they were the captive of a small yet powerful special interest group. An interest group that shrewdly manipulates reasonable concerns regarding terrorism, Israel’s survival and anti-Semitism to silence, smear and defame any opposition.”
    Captives of a small yet powerful group. Shrewd. Manipulative. Silences and smears opposition. Where have I read this before? What are the protocols of the learned editors of Jewschool respecting what gets written here?
    For another view of the Kristoff article, especially the “victim” numbers he manages to pass off out of context, see this:

  2. I love love love the idea that around 2% of the American populace could have such an effect on the political landscape. Perhaps it is time for people to consider that maybe, just maybe (as Michael Oren argues) that the American public en mass supports Israel for their own, historical and personal reasons. That despite the tragic nature of Arab-Israeli relations, that moreover the ideological and political similarities between the the two nations keep them (for better or worse) linked. And not, say, the power of one lobbying organization.

  3. Nicholas Kristof is not only a brilliant journalist, but a courageous one. I have nothing but admiration for his coverage of the Darfur genocide and his efforts to shed a light on the horrors of sex trafficking.
    What Kristof is not particularly good at is birds-eye view analysis of trends and issues – he makes a rather mediocre stay-at-the keyboard columnist. (Friedman may write the same column 15 times, but at least that column often sheds genuine insight onto an issue.) Kristof’s latest column is a rehash of left-wing talking points on Israel, which appear to be composed by the Israel Policy Forum. Wake me up when somebody has something genuinely innovative to say about moving forward towards a solution rather than banal platitudes against Israeli policies.

  4. Groups far smaller have enormous influence over US policy. The Bush family, for example, represents an very small group, yet they were able to steal an election.
    Drug companies, trial lawyers and other have lots of power too. The question isn’t how many there are, but how the choose to exert power.
    The Israel Lobby has misused it’s mandate to protect Israel, and instead protects Israeli governments.
    Someday, AIPAC will be like theNRA among Democras and progressives. Beyameinu, amen.

  5. “There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans…” regarding Israel.
    No serious political debate, or no serious political disagreement? (There’s a difference. You can have a serious debate, and in the end decide to agree with your opponent.) Let me echo Adam by suggesting that politicians are of a similar mind on Israel not because of AIPAC but because they basically agree with the following tenets: 1/ Israel and the United States are two robust democracies and thus share an affinity and common interests. 2/ A two-state solution is the preferrred, even inevitable, solution. 3/ For nearly a decade after Oslo, Israel and the United States were engaged in a good-faith if imperfect effort to reach such a solution with the Palestinians. 4/ 2001 marked a watershed, during which the Palestinians abandoned the negotiating table in favor of Intifada and radical Islam declared war on the West. 5/ While Washington and Jerusalem still support a Palestinian state, the rise of Hamas and a pattern of Palestinian rejectionism makes it a political and and pragmatic non-starter for either country to wade into another failed diplomatic effort. Politicians don’t like to be on the side of failure.
    You don’t have to accept any of these premises, but I think they paint a more accurate picture of lawmakers’ thinking than quake-in-their-boots fear of “The Lobby.” Put it another way, if AIPAC went out of business tomorrow, in what ways would the political debate change?

  6. The term ‘Palestinian rejectionism’ just makes me grind my teeth. Israel cease from it’s status of an occupying power at any time. Just get out of the West Bank, to the Green Line. It’s Israel that ‘rejects’ that solution, while the Palestinians are fine with it, including Hamas.

  7. Jew Guevara: are you prescribing unilateral withdrawal? ’cause that’s what it sounds like. if so, ask yourself whether it’s worked out well for Gaza. and if you tell me the rockets raining from Gaza are a result of continued occupation of the West Bank, then you have a very feeble grasp on the situation. then again, this is a guy that thinks Hamas would be “fine with” a withdrawal to the Green Line (i.e. a total repudiation of one of the main tenets of their movement).

  8. b”h, you know what’s wonderful: john brown’s sarcasm aside, this is one of the most productive, informative, and non-hostile conversations i’ve ever seen take place on this site about such a sensitive subject. it gives me hope that we’re getting closer towards working things out.

  9. Thanks Mobe!
    I advocate the Israel stops being an occupying power regardless of what the Palestinians do. But it can’t be ‘half an occupying power’ by giving up GAza while retaining control of the borders and preventing free passage. Way to break up families, Olmert….
    I say, Israel maintaining the occupation is like Richard Pryor holding a gun to his head and saying, ‘if anyone moves the nigger gets it!’ Israel in effect is committing a disaster that will afflict Judaism and the Jewish people for generations to come, and sets the stage for more horrors. Sort of like how the Hasmoneans’ corruption set the state for Roman occupation later on.
    I’d rather see a peace deal worked out with the elected reps of the Palestinians of course. But failing that – save what you can Israel. Time is running out. The occupation is a cancer which is metastasizing inside Israeli society. Cut if out raw and bloody, and toss it in the bin for messianic waste. Do it now, before it kills you.

  10. asc,
    Acknowledging messy facts like Oslo, Camp David, the post-Oslo Intifada, the withdrawal from Gaza or Olmert’s aborted West Bank withdrawal plan disturbs the Narrative.
    All discussion of Israeli policies by enlightened people must be premised on Israel having a Likud government that completes rejects any self-determination for the Palestinians and seeks to plant additional settlements in between major Palestinian population centers. Next time, to put yourself in the right frame of mind, I suggest putting on some Bon Jovi, Tiffany or Whitesnake.

  11. Look, Kristoff may be right. And i personally greatly dislike aipac, but in the way of having a distant relative who gets things done even though (nay, because) he’s a schmuck. All of you are like, aipac twists arms, they don’t play nice. They, i.e. the people in aipac, who i’ve personally had policy discussions with, and on whose regional board my father sits on against my wishes, won’t tell you that they do. They play politics, nothing more or less. And politics isn’t nice. I don’t expect any of you of the greatly idealistic stripe, with no empirical backing other than your philosophical convictions, to admire or even understand aipac. but they get the job done. they work within the american system of government and win.
    i will continue to take isse with aipac. what i will NOT do is focus the country on this discussion. because i don’t care how you rationalize it, this path of argument may lead to terrible anti-semitism and will certainly hurt israel. and i don’t mean that in a ‘if you’re not with us, you’re an anti-semite’ way. i completely understand your distaste. but this is not the way we should be doing it; not on the op-ed parts of the most public parts of american discourse. on the other hand, jewschool is a perfect place for this topic, and i look forward to discussing this further with you.

  12. I agree. You’ve got issues with AIPAC’s ties to the neo-cons? Fine. Think they need to better represent mainstream US Jewish opinion? Fine. But the barn-burners need to fall back a bit.
    This AIPAC backlash is (IMHO) misguided in a lot of ways, but more than that it’s just not a good look for the Jews. I really don’t need to see a Time magazine cover on the “Jewish Lobby: Who’s Running US Foreign Policy?” or whatever.
    Folks just need to be careful how they go about this; won’t be long before there’s Pat Buchanan vs. Charles Krauthammer on Larry King debating the power of the Jews in America.
    The Israel-indifferent among the American population (not to mention the haters) will NOT draw the correct conclusions from such a debate, I can guarantee you that.

  13. Beyond anything else, it is just another battle of platitudinal statements that leads to an even (more frustrating) stalemate. So if those defenders of Palestinian rights want to scream about an all-powerful Israel lobby, I say that it does nothing but further hurt the interests of the Palestinian people. Because the moment that we as a people feel threatened in any sort of existential way is the moment that (for better or worse…ok, I know I have used that in both posts) we as a community will enter self-preservation mode. So rather than irrationally and disproportionately attacking, how about a little constructivenes of working with those who are dedicated to a just settlement?

  14. Yeah. Those conniving pro-Israel Jews sure are crafty alright. And powerful too. From behind the scenes they deftly “silence, smear and defame any opposition.” Before arranging for them to perish in unfortunate “accidents” that is…
    And paying off the survivors with mega war profits funneled by Halliburton and Exxon through the bank accounts of Dick Cheney, FOX News and Freemason lodge #278. In fact I heard the bills are even printed with the blood of adorable Iraqi children. You can’t let your eye off those “shrewd” Elders of Zion for even a second, I tell ya’. They’re “shrewd manipulators” par excellence they are.
    It makes you wonder though: If the supporters of one tiny country the size of New Jersey can do all of this to America…what do you suppose really big countries like France, Russia and Japan are capable of? The HIDDEN HANDS are all around us!!!!!!!

  15. Eric, this isn’t about ‘supporters of one tiny country.’ Most Jews do not actually support AIPAC, nor have they been asked to do so. And most supporters of Israel are actually Christian Zionists.
    Your sarcasm fails the test of reality.

  16. JG,
    What is your actual evidence of your claim (not saying that I entirely disagree, but–is somewhat hard to gage). I would say that most American Jews don’t, say, support AIPAC’s relationship with evangelicals. However, I would say that on the whole most American Jews are generally supportive of the lobbying efforts of AIPAC and have traditionally been. Even those who are often anti-war in the US do understand that the dynamics are different in Israel and tend to be somewhat more hawkish; as shown by (the usual–with specific exceptions) overwhelming support of Israeli actions vis-a-vis Hezbollah, Hamas, etc…

  17. Big risks?ROFL let him say something about an organization like the moslem/nazi group CAIR who has quite a few members sitting in prison for supporting Al Qaida he would have a law suit on his hands.Now about AIPAC i don’nt like them their much to far to left

  18. I cannot let one comment above stand: It was Cleavon Little, not Richard Pryor, who held the gun to his own head in “Blazing Saddles.”

  19. Adam, I don’t say that most Jews actively oppose AIPAC, only that the organization doesn’t, doesn’t need, and doesn’t rely on the majority opinions of Jews. That explains why Rabin had to chastise AIPAC in the 90s for standing as an obstacle to peace efforts, supported in polls by most Jews. That’s why AIPAC feels good about supporting a war in Iran even though most Jews are horrified by the prospect.
    Where an organization to exist that the middle ground of all US Jews, it would probably have someone like Eric Yoffe as the head. A slightly less liberal voice that Peace Now, but more or less endorsing the same politics. I say this on the basis of polls (which I’m not bothering to look up) in which Jews express opposition to settlements, opposition to the Iraq war, support for Democrats, and opinions on social issues that correspond to the average liberal, secular Israeli.

  20. JG, i appreciate your comments, but you must realize yur view of the mainstream is tainted by something. It was like when I lived in Berkeley for four years: i knew the world should be liberal, i knew it should have certain values, and yet it doesn’t. In fact, Bush was reelected when I was in Berkeley, and the protests against Iraq, even in the Berkeley area, have continued to be weak. All this is by way of saying something larger: don’t purport to have the pulse of all Jews. It’s an extremeley general statement (before you and I even have a discussion of who a Jew might be or if we should care what a ‘Jew’ in name alone thinks).
    Ultimately, your claim that the largest supporter of Israel is evnaglical christians may be correct in that there are just a ton of them in the US, but your statement smacks of ‘no truly thoughtful jew, and surely not a majority of them, could support israel this way’ (or, at all, in your opinion?). And that really just looks like you being surrounded by too many like-mindeds. but then again, that’s just my opinion. i could be wrong.

  21. BearsforIsrael, reality is a bitch. I’m trying to change it though… some of my efforts fall flat, some of them feel like successes.
    On this blog, with this handle, I’m a bit less strategic, censored, and productive. It’s nice to let my ego do the arguing without the id interfering….
    One way I make a difference by tinkering with the climate of assumptions that make easy -but wrong – answers possible. Things like: all Jews support AIPAC. Most supporters of Israel’s right wing are Jews. Jewish orgs are representative of ‘the Jews.’ All false, but all seen as ‘common sense’ by many folks.
    With that in mind, AIPAC is short hand for some really complex realities. But by framing the debate as ‘AIPAC = small coterie of out of touch, far right wing money slinging Jews in bed with Christian fanatics’ we help create more space for ‘pro-peace Jews = sensible majority misrepresented by ADL, AJC, etc.’ On those grounds, I fully support an increase in visceral, negative reactions towards AIPAC even at the expense of an increase in border-line anti-Semitic expressions. Let’s be clear: AIPAC and the occupation are doing far more to increase anti-Semitism, but I’m no dummy.
    Of course, if AIPAC, ADL, AJC and so on would stop the posturing that they are somehow neutral representatives of a solidly normative Jewish mainstream, and own the fact that they have a conservative, ideological bent that is up for debate, why THEN, and only then, would I take a few steps back in the level of rhetoric. We all choose the tools we have access to, and this is an incident of asymmetrical conflict.

  22. JG, a couple of points, in reverse order i guess.
    Have you ever worked with ADL on a legitimate anti-Semitism case? Do you know how many issues they deal with on college campuses alone every year? I admit that they have placed themselves on truly dangerous ground with regards to israel issues. but, to show you how complex that may be, here was the case: a group on campus (i.e. students for justice in palestine) had a holocaust survivor who was supposed to come on campus and say that Nazi Germany was like the palestinian territories today. now, you may disagree with the occupation, which you obviously do, and still admit that this speaker, if she’d said what had been advertised, would have comprised anti-semitic speech. if you disagree that that speech would have been anti-semitic, then we really have nothing to talk about because i know that your idea of what the mainstream is must surely be off. in any event, ADL worked from day one to help support students on campus, calling me multiple times a day to check in. so don’t just go knocking them, they do a great service to american jews.
    finally, reading the beginning of your post, i was deeply saddened. you KNOW that you are glossing over issues. you KNOW that you are speaking half truths to reach a goal, namely to discredit aipac and certain other group of jewish orgs. don’t you realize the ramifications for that attitude when we get token jewish pundits on news shows calling for exactly what you are? i understand you’re being loose with speech, but that kind of speech hardly counts as intellectual discourse. it’s just blathering to convey an emotion. i would hope that you’d get down to business and actually say what you think rather than chant slogans that you know to have significant untruths as part of them.

  23. BearsForIsrael: Guevara has made it clear that he will gladly sacrifice truth in the service of his own goals, in this case the end to the Israeli occupation.
    It recalls the thread a few weeks back when he admitted to gladly sacrificing innocent Iraqis if it meant hastening the collapse of the US’s influence in the world.
    Truth-as-casualty-of-ultimate-goal, innocents-slaughtered-in-service-of-ideology. These is classic communist bullisht. Read some Mao or Stalin; it’s all in there.
    You know, like referring to “asymmetrical conflict” and calling oneself “Jew Guevara.”

  24. There seem to be two parallel arguments being put forth here.
    1. AIPAC’s policies are misguided and harm Israel (we’ve seen arguments for and against in this thread).
    2. AIPAC is not representative of mainstream Jewish opinion (not much disagreement here apparently).
    We can disagree about the first all day. After all it goes to your political stance on Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, her stance in the region, her alliance with the US, etc.
    But the 2nd argument is more interesting. There seems to be a consensus here that AIPAC is not representative of mainstream Jewish opinion. It’s an opinion that’s been bolstered by all this poll data people keep presenting (the methodology of which I have yet to see discussed or examined BTW). Nonetheless, some think it’s OK that AIPAC is not representative of mainstream Jewish opinion (since it’s just one lobbying group and doesn’t need to be the democratically elected arm of US Jews), or that its bad that AIPAC is not representative of mainstream Jewish opinion.
    But I think the assumption that AIPAC is not representative of mainstream Jewish opinion is in itself not necesarily correct. To the extent that AIPAC is helping to strip congress of oversight powers over the president, sure it’s probably not representative. But to the extent that it guarantees vital military aid to Israel every year (which, lest we lose sight of the forest for the trees, is the main focus of AIPAC’s efforts), and to the extent that AIPAC lobbies the US to shield Israel from mistreatment in the UN, and to the extent that AIPAC lobbies for stronger monitoring of countries attempting to acquire WMD and nukes, I’d say AIPAC is actually very representative of mainstream Jewish opinion on many issues.

  25. Rootless Cosmo, I don’t ‘sacrifice truth.’ Show me where I’ve done this.
    I do engage in vigorous debate, which includes expressing passionately my opposition to AIPAC.
    I did not say I’d gladly sacrifice Iraqi innocents. I prefer that no Iraqi innocents die; but if some Iraqis die and the end result is a strengthened US empire, I oppose that more strongly than if the goal is a weakened US empire. That’s because US empire is a root cause of the current bloodshed there.
    Seems to me, you are the one stretching the truth here….
    BTW, I’m not so happy with the ‘JG’ name myself. I’m happy to take suggestions for a new handle. I’d like something humorous, but without a specific ideological connotation. Like, ‘musit lo kusit’, or kippa-licious.’ I’m not a Communist – at least not since the 90s…..

  26. OK JG I want to push you a little on these points:
    “On those grounds, I fully support an increase in visceral, negative reactions towards AIPAC even at the expense of an increase in border-line anti-Semitic expressions.”
    Forget the “borderline”; would you favor this anti-AIPAC campaign if it led to a real, bona fide anti-Semitic backlash? Is it worth it? How far are you willing to go here?
    These aren’t abstractions. Like I said above, we need to be careful about how we go about attacking AIPAC; the results may not be to your liking.

  27. And JG, regarding the Iraqi thing from a previous post: With all due respect, you are backpedaling. You now say that if Iraqis die, you’d rather have it be at the expense of US empire, than in furtherance of it.
    Fine. But last week (In the People of Faith Ally Against the War thread) you were presented with the possibility that retreating from Iraq would lead to more Iraqis dying rather than less if they stayed. Your response was: “I don’t care too much about what happens with Iraq, except for three outcomes.
    1. I want US power eroded throughout the world, because I think it is, on balance, the main cause of war and suffering in the world….”

    In other words you seemed to favor a violent US retreat to a peaceful (yes I know, it’s a hypothetical) US presence. All because you place the degradation of US power above all else.
    So just so you know, I was not mischaracterizing what you said. Misunderstanding perhaps, though I frankly don’t see how.

  28. Rootlesscosmo,
    I completely agree with your concern about how we chalenge AIPAC. I am not a fan of AIPAC and do not think they represent most of us but I also realize how the perception that the “lobby controls the US” plays into ugly antisemitic stereotypes.
    In addition to be a Jew, I am also Latino. A few years ago, there were attacks on women at the Puerto Rican Day parade. Many of us began to challenge sexism in our community. However, we had to remember that this played into certain racist myths about us: macho, sexist beasts. We had to be careful in our challenge.

  29. I’m gonna make an effort to be serious and respectable, although that’s not usually what I’m up to on Jewschool….
    I believe in human rights, peace, and justice for all. I sincerely wish life, liberty and happiness for all. Furthermore, I think that this will best be accomplished when people – and peoples – realize that we are all one. No Iraqis, Israelis, or Palestinians should die or suffer.
    Sadly, despite my best wishes, this happens anyway. And the question is asked, what might minimize or end the suffering?
    My conclusion, after studying the issues, is as follows:
    The global quest for mineral resources is fueling conflict. The US is more guilty than most of using military force to dominate and control the Middle East, site of some really important oil reserves. This underlies all the talk of ideology, religion, values, democracy and the rest of it.
    Whatever Americans and others can do to the US to sabotage its ability to project power abroad will benefit the cause of peace. Just as waging a war to ‘release’ a few kidnapped soldiers makes no sense, protecting the rights of Iraqis by maintaining the very occupation that has fueled the violence which kills Iraqis is nuts.
    By the same token, what fuels Israel’s occupation is a desire to dominate. Sure, there’s a whole line of reasoning marshaling existential fears, religion and the desire for peace…. but at the end of the day, it’s about domination. The Arab world and the Palestinians offer equality and coexistence, as spelled out quite clearly over the past few years (most explicitly in the Saudi proposal of 2002, endorsed by nearly all the Arab countries). Israel says no. It’s ability to maintain a strong ‘no’ in the face of the world is the strongest factor in keeping the conflict bloody.
    What can we do, to weaken Israel’s no, to take away the arsenal of tools that allow it to maintain the ‘no’? Now that’s a conversation I can get behind. Is it weakening US support for the Israeli ‘no’? Is it educating the public about how Israel’s ‘no’ is immoral and unjustified? Is it sapping the enthusiasm of its supporters by referencing Jewish opponents of the ‘no’ and vile crimes committed by its agents?
    Yes, Yep, and oh yeah. Amazingly, no actual distortions of truth are needed…..
    And while such tactics might appear to increase the amount of anti-semitism in the country, its nothing compared to the increase caused by Israel’s grand rejection of peace, in favor of dominance. Ending Israel’s ‘no’ is the best defense I can think of when confronting anti-Semitism disguised as concern for Palestinians.

  30. Woahhhh dude.
    “The Arab world and the Palestinians offer equality and coexistence, as spelled out quite clearly over the past few years (most explicitly in the Saudi proposal of 2002, endorsed by nearly all the Arab countries).”
    The Saudi proposal also calls for the return of about 4 million Palestinians into Israel proper. Thus no more Jewish state. How is that an offer of equality and coexistance? Both states have to exist in order for coexistance to be a possibility. Might I remind you that it is the official policy of only Israel (and not the PA) to recognize the need for a two-state solution?

  31. “Rootless Cosmo, I don’t ’sacrifice truth.’ Show me where I’ve done this.”
    Well, JG, I can’t locate the thread but a while back you claimed that the USSR “always” supported Israel. I not only claimed otherwise, I provided evidence from two peer-reviwed academic journals to refute your claim. Your continued stating the USSR always supported Israel but provided no evidence. I’ve noticed you doing this a few times on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, you’re totally entitled to your opinion but not to twist reality.
    Here is one of the sources in case you forgot:
    By Isabella Ginor
    MERIA JOURNAL Volume 7, Number 3 (September 2003)
    Abstract: The Soviet warning to Egypt about supposed Israeli troop concentrations on the Syrian border in May 1967 has long been considered a blunder that precipitated a war which the USSR neither desired nor expected.
    New evidence from Soviet and other Warsaw Pact documents, as well as memoirs of contemporary actors, contradicts this accepted theory. The author demonstrates that this warning was deliberate disinformation, part of a plan approved at the highest level of Soviet leadership to elicit Egyptian action that would provoke an Israeli strike. Soviet military intervention against the “aggressor” was intended to follow and was prepared well in advance.

    By Rabbi Arthur Waskow *
    On March 12, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives voted to take out of the war spending bill a provision that would, with some exceptions, require the president to seek congressional approval before using military force in Iran.
    According to Congressman David Obey, the provision was dropped because it was drawing enough opposition to endanger the whole effort for Congress to set a date for ending the Iraq War.
    But why were so many Congressmembers ready to oppose an effort to uphold their own Constitutional powers against a runaway President?
    On March 8, CQ Today reported that “Hawkish pro-Israel lawmakers are pushing [to strike out that provision]. The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee also is working to keep the language out, said an aide to a pro- Israel lawmaker.”
    CQ Today is a daily offshoot of the Congressional Quarterly. It has a long and excellent reputation for getting its facts right.
    Why was AIPAC trying to eliminate this provision?
    No question, we’re a free country. AIPAC has the legal right as a matter of free speech to urge any cockamamie idea that floats into its head. People who view with special horror the idea of an “Israel lobby” sometimes seem to think that using energy and money to affect Congress is undemocratic. (Or is it Jewish energy and money that’s the problem? I recall much less venom when the “Irish lobby” was urging US support for terrorists against the British Empire.) This kind of criticism is nonsense.
    The legal right — sure. But — wisdom? Concern for decency, liberty, justice and the rule of law? That’s another thing.
    First of all, there’s that small matter of the Constitution. One of the things that keeps us a “free country” is that presidents don’t have the authority to run off to war without Congressional approval. Some Presidents need to be reminded — and this one leads the list.
    Secondly, when have we ever had a President whose competence to start a war and succeed in it has less credibility than this one?
    One of the wisest passages of Torah warns us not to give a ruler power over an aggressive army with offensive weapons (horse-chariots) and unaccountable gold and silver — lest he lift up his heart above the citizenry. (Deut. 17:14-20 )
    When have we suffered a President more arrogant than this one?
    After the last four years, who would want to trust the lives, limbs, eyes, genitals, minds, and souls of their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, to the discretion of this president — to fling if he chooses into the furnace of a war?
    But AIPAC does not concoct its policies by wrestling seriously with Jewish wisdom, Jewish values.
    Its sole criterion is “friendship” between the US government and any transient government of Israel. (Though it seems far more comfortable with right-wing Israeli governments, as Yitzhak Rabin found.)
    So AIPAC thinks letting the President choose to attack Iran would benefit Israel? Four years ago, the only two nations in the world where both the government and the majority of the public supported the US invasion of Iraq were the US — and Israel.
    Now the Israeli security “experts” acknowledge it was a terrible error — because it has greatly strengthened the hand of Iran, which they think poses worse problems that Saddam’s Iraq did; because the invasion has BOTH stirred many more Arabs to more rage against the West, and given them more experience about turning their rage into violence; and because the Iraq war has drastically weakened the US, Israel’s chief protector.
    Such a catastrophic misjudgment four years ago — and yet AIPAC should lobby to make an even worse misjudgment easier today?
    Of course Iran’s policies and proclamations make for serious problems and concerns. But they are not yet dangerous enough to make legitimate — or wise — an extremely dangerous recourse to preventive or aggressive war, instead of diplomacy.
    Perhaps the American Jewish community — even AIPAC — should be drawing on the multigenerational wisdom of Torah for shaping its policy: “When you approach a city to make war, first proclaim peace to it.”
    And on the wisdom of insisting that the ruler, the President, get permission from Congress and the American people before lifting up his heart in arrogance and daring to make war.
    Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center and the author of many books, some on US foreign policy and some on Jewish history, celebration, and theology.

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