An old and dishonorable tradition has returned to American politics: charging that American Jews are not to be trusted because their loyalties lie elsewhere. Once upon a time, such charges earned scorn and ostracism for those who made them. Today, however, 'respectable' heavyweights in the American media and powerful Democrats embrace such slanderers, and the purported defenders of American Jewry turn their attention to imaginary threats rather than confront them with the fury they merit.
Some were surprised when Cindy Sheehan said her son had died for Israel:
"Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo—Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full—well that my son, my family, this nation, and this world were betrayed by George [W.] Bush who was influenced by the neo—con PNAC agenda after 9/11."
Yet, this was the very argument that Joseph A. Wilson IV made from the moment he abandoned his moderate Scowcroftian stance and leveled his serial lies at the Bush administration.
Wilson first tied the President's foreign policy in the Middle East to the Likud Party. In April 2003 in an online Washington Post chat, Wilson made his first attacks on the Administration's sympathies toward Israel:
"Fairfax, Va.: (At the risk of sounding anti—Semitic, which I don't intend), if Saddam didn't support Palestinian suicide bombers, do you think we'd be in a war to liberate Iraq?
Joseph C. Wilson: The literature is clear. His[The President's] closest advisers have argued for years that the way to peace in the middle east is to crush the palestinian resistance and it supporters. I profoundly disagree with that analysis, but it is not anti semitic or semitic. It is secular and tied to the Likud party "
By June 14, 2003 when Wilson addressed EPIC (Education for Peace in Iraq Center) he had honed the argument. He justified Saddam's maintenance of weapons of mass destruction in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and the terms of the Gulf War Truce, as something necessary in view of the threat Saddam faced from Israel:
I remain of the view that we will find chemical and biological weapons, and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam's regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons—not surprising if you live in a part of the world where you do have a nuclear—armed country, an enemy of yours, which is just a country away from you....' [Since Iran did not yet have nuclear weapons, and in any case is not "a country away," the reference is clearly to Israel.]
What exactly that threat was, when it was Iraq which attacked Israel with Scud missiles and paid terrorists to attack it and not the other way around, was never stated by him. It was apparently enough to simply raise the Israeli boogeyman to justify Saddam's illegal and indefensible conduct.
But, that wasn't enough for Wilson. He most certainly set in play the dual—loyalty issue:
'The real agenda in all this, of course, was to redraw the political map of the Middle East. Now that is code, whether you like it or not, but it is code for putting into place the strategy memorandum which was done by Richard Perle and his study group in the mid—90s, which was called 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm'. And what it is, cut to the quick, is if you take out some of these countries, or some of these governments, that are antagonistic to Israel, then you provide the Israeli government with greater wherewithal to impose its terms and conditions on the Palestinian people. . .But that is the real agenda. You can put weapons of mass destruction out there, you can put terrorism out there, you can put liberation out there. Weapons of mass destruction got hard—headed realists on board, through a bunch of lies. . .'
And he ended his speech in virtually the same terms Cindy Sheehan used:
"On the other ones, the geopolitical situation, I think there are a number of issues at play; there's a number of competing agendas. One is the remaking of the map of the Middle East for Israeli security, and my fear is that when it becomes increasingly apparent that this was all done to make Sharon's life easier and that American soldiers are dying in order to enable Sharon to impose his terms upon the Palestinians that people will wonder why it is American boys and girls are dying for Israel and that will undercut a strategic relationship and a moral obligation that we've had towards Israel for 55 years. I think it's a terribly flawed strategy."
Despite such views, the Democratic candidate for President John F. Kerry and his camp welcomed Joseph A. Wilson to his campaign inner circle, gave him his own web page on the Kerry for President website and Kerry's National Security Advisor, Rand Beers, co—starred with Wilson in a Soros—sponsored film,"Uncovered", played at home fund raising parties for Kerry throughout the country.
To my knowledge this is the first time in my adult life that the Democratic party made a hero of a man who wrongfully accused some of the brightest of the President's advisers — Jews — of supporting a foreign policy policy inimical to what he asserted was America's interests because it helped Israel .
By contrast, On September 11, 1941 Charles Lindbergh said,
Their greatest danger lies in [the Jews'] large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our Government. We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their interests, but we also must look out for ours."
and forever diminished his reputation and credibility.
After Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh tried to enlist and Roosevelt personally interceded to prevent that.
In 1998 when Louis Farrakhan charged that top Clinton Administration officials, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, were citizens of both the United States and Israel and therefore subject to the charge of dual loyalty, the American Jewish Congress derided the charges as "preposterous."
Is the only difference between the sharp responses to Lindbergh and Farrakhan's dual loyalty charges and the silence about Wilson's, that Roosevelt and Clinton were Democrats, whose policies were supported by the majority of American Jews, and President Bush a Republican whose policies were not?
If so, the strange silence on Wilson's charges is damning. Either the charge of dual loyalty is always loathsome and has no place in American politics or it is not.
I do not know precisely when this dual loyalty charge became acceptable to the moderate media but a few months earlier Tim Russert, set to be a major witness in the trial of Lewis I. Libby, set the ball rolling in this direction in a slightly more subtle fashion.
"The key moment on 'Meet the Press' came when host Tim Russert read from a February 14 column by the editor at large of the Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave, who argued that the 'strategic objective' of senior Bush administration officials was to secure Israel's borders by launching a crusade to democratize the Arab world. Next, Russert turned to one of his guests, Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a key advisory panel to the Pentagon.
'Can you assure American viewers across our country that we're in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests?" Russert asked.
"And what would be the link in terms of Israel?'
It was a startling question, especially when directed at Richard Perle, the poster boy — along with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith — for antisemitic critics who insist the United States is being pulled into war by pro—Likud Jewish advisers on orders from Jerusalem. But Russert is no David Duke, nor even a Patrick Buchanan. He is generally regarded as a balanced, first—rate journalist in sync with the zeitgeist of Washington's media and political elite. If Russert is asking the question on national television, then the toothpaste is out of the tube: The question has entered the discourse in elite Washington circles and is now a legitimate query to be floated in polite company.
In three recent opinion articles, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd fired off one—liners claiming that Bush's conservative aides were guided simply by the need to defend Israel. MSNBC talk—show host Chris Matthews insisted that Israeli hawks are "in bed" with hardliners at the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office and suggested that at times Sharon essentially dictates Bush's speeches.
The Washington Post supplied a less glib, more systematic attempt to demonstrate an unprecedented political partnership between Sharon and Bush, in a 2,100—word front—page story February 9 by Robert Kaiser, headlined ' Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical On Mideast Policy.' The story also included a paragraph outlining a supposed rightward shift among American Jewish organizations.
Today, the charge of dual loyalty of the Jewish advisers of President Bush, implied by otherwise respected members of the press like Tim Russert and Chris Matthews and stated explicity by Joseph A. Wilson IV, finds no Jewish spokesmen who have condemned it. Neither Russert nor Matthews is criticized for it and Wilson's comments have been buried (as were Cindy Sheehan's until bloggers made an issue of her remarks. ).
The Anti—Defamation League's head Abraham Foxman's response, as reported by The Forward, was far more muted than the response to Lindbergh's claims about Roosevelt's motives or Farrakhan's assertions about Clinton's. And I can find no other Jewish spokesmen even addressing the issue.
"The first point, [Foxman] said, is to accept as legitimate questions concerning the pro—Israel leanings of administration officials — so long as such criticisms recognize that the hawkish camp includes significant Jewish and non—Jewish players. And, Foxman said, while it is certainly legitimate to question where the Sharon government or American Jewish groups stand on the war, the thin line is crossed by those who portray these entities as a shadowy Jewish conspiracy that controls American foreign policy....
"In the end, Foxman said, while American Jews are sometimes too quick to assume that antisemitism is at play, history has offered plenty of reasons to be wary of debates over their influence on foreign policy.
'It is an old canard that Jews control America and American foreign policy,' Foxman said. "During both world wars, antisemites said that Jews manipulated America into war. So when you being to hear it again, there is good reason for us to be aware of it and sensitive to it.' "
"Sensitive" Foxman may be to the charge, but it appears to be a very quiet sensitivity, as opposed to say his preposterous concerns about a growing "theocracy" in the U.S.
And the Democrats, who were happy to have Wilson on board, never were critical of these views of his. Appealing to the outlying moonbats in their party, they could add to the Michael Moore canard that Bush is a tool of the Saudis the inconsistent charge that he was also a tool of the Israeli cabal.
That is, until the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote of the Conyers' Playhouse Hearings, when Wilson's VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) leader Ray McGovern declared that "the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration 'neocons'" so "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
'Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation," McGovern said. "The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti—Semitic.'
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D—Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq's threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his 'candid answer.' "
Then and only then did the Democratic National Committee distance itself from the views it had ignored, if not embraced, in the run up to the 2004 election.
By excusing the "moderate" media who raised these charges and by embracing Wilson after he'd aired his repulsive and false views, the Democrats and the leaders of American Jewish organizations did far more than harm the President. They have hurt their own cause more than they yet realize, with the help of mainstream media bigshots
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC. She is a frequent contributor.