Why Some American Jews Are Lobbying for the Iran Deal
Isn’t it remarkable how much of the fight over the Iran deal is a battle between different factions in the Jewish world?
First off, one would think it would be an argument primarily over whether the agreement endangers America, not Israel. After all – as Prime Minister Netanyahu reminded us in his webcast this week – Iran still regards America as “the Great Satan.” Israel is just “the little Satan.” Sure, Iranian protesters add an occasional “Death to Israel” to their chants, but it is “Death to America” that is heard loudest and longest.
Yet on Capitol Hill, the question that seems to be occupying everyone’s mind is: how will Jewish Congressmembers vote? And on the op-ed pages and the radio talk shows, we hear mostly about AIPAC vs. J Street, and pundits speculate as to whether other Jewish organizations will support or oppose the Iran deal.
In Israel, both the governing Likud coalition and the Labor Party (“Zionist Union”) opposition movement are against the agreement. In the United States, the latest polls show the majority of American Jews oppose it. None of that seems to matter to J Street and others on the Jewish far left, who are spending millions of dollars in search of public and congressional support for the Iran agreement.
Think about it: Israeli Jews, from left to right, oppose the agreement because they recognize that it will put nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian theocracy, and it will strengthen Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet a well-funded fringe faction of American Jews is aggressively supporting the agreement. Their actions could pave the way for more rockets to hit Tel Aviv – and that’s just for starters. What motivates such Jews to take steps that will endanger the lives of their fellow-Jews?
A convincing answer is to be found in the remarkable new book, Jews Against Themselves, by Edward Alexander, just published by Transaction Books. Alexander, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, is a combat veteran of the intra-Jewish quarrels of the past several decades, and he is one of the most skilled. In this, perhaps the most important of his many books, Professor Alexander takes on the painfully relevant topic of what he calls “the new forms taken by Jewish apostasy.”
Classic Jewish apostasy consisted of converting to Christianity or Islam, usually in order to avoid being persecuted. The modern version stems from essentially the same motive, but takes on peculiar forms. Nowadays, Jewish apostasy involves proudly brandishing one’s Jewish identity or associations in order to legitimize actions that undermine Israel – in order to avoid being blamed for unpopular Israeli actions.
There is the author and pundit Peter Beinart, whose promotion of a boycott of “settlers” is, in fact, an extension of the 65 year-old Arab economic boycott of Israel, Alexander argues: “The ‘selective’ boycott requires boycotting feta cheese coming from cows in Judea but not companies–such as have been punished by the U.S. Treasury Department–that procure military equipment used by Hezbollah to murder Jews in Nahariya and Acco.”
There are the Jewish faculty members at the Berkeley campus of the University of California who have built a cottage industry on denying that there is anti-Semitism on their campus, on other campuses, or practically anywhere else. Although Prof. Judith Butler, a leader of this group, grudgingly concedes that “those who do violence to synagogues” may be classified as anti-Semitic, she will not use that word to characterize violence against “synagogues and seders in Israel,” Alexander points out. Good grief!
There is the peripatetic Michael Lerner and his magazine Tikkun, still passionately lobbying against Israel, more than two decades after his fifteen minutes of fame as then-First Lady’s Hillary Clinton’s short-lived moral guru. (Clinton’s “Jewish Rasputin” is more like it, Alexander writes, recalling the pernicious role of the Russian Czar’s senior adviser.)
And there are the obnoxious Jewish left-wing activists who invoke their dead grandmothers as weapons in the war against Israel, claiming that if Grandma were still alive,”she would be right there with me protesting against Israeli apartheid,” as one recently wrote. Alexander comments: “Jewish mothers, one notices, rarely receive these accolades from their Israel-hating daughters; often still alive, mothers constitute too great a risk.”
Jewish supporters of the Iran deal can’t possibly think that the agreement itself makes America or Israel safer. They are driven by something else – by a desire to find favor with the current occupant of the White House, the news media, and the academic and intellectual elites whom they admire. It’s disturbing, and in some ways hard to understand. Jews Against Themselves sheds much-needed light on the subject and deserves to be on everyone’s “must reading” list.