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October 3, 2021 6:24 am
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When Critics of Israel Lose, It’s ‘the Jews’ Fault’

avatar by Mitchell Bard

Opinion

The US Capitol dome is seen in Washington, US, December 17, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Erin Scott

JNS.org – One of the elders of the domestic Arab lobby is James Zogby, who has been propagandizing against Israel and the pro-Israel lobby for decades. Zogby has successfully ingratiated himself with leaders of Democratic Party but remains frustrated by its failure to abandon Israel and support the terrorists and human-rights abusers who have been leading the Palestinian national movement. And, like all antisemites, he blames the Jews.

Zogby created the Arab American Institute, which he hoped would be the Arab lobby’s answer to AIPAC, but it has failed to make a dent in America’s bipartisan support for Israel. Zogby has been given positions by vice president Al Gore and president Barack Obama, and served as a deputy campaign manager to Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns. He has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to insert criticism of Israel into Democratic Party platforms. An ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Zogby and other detractors of Israel tried again in 2020, but Joe Biden rejected the effort to refer to Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank or condition aid to the country.

In August, Zogby complained about what he claimed was the influence of “Dark Money” — specifically, Jewish money — in Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner’s failure to win an open seat in Ohio’s 11th congressional district. Turner is a progressive who co-chaired Sanders’ campaign and shares many of the views of “The Squad,” including their criticism of Israel.

Zogby is upset that pro-Israel Americans used their democratic right to contribute money to her opponent, Shontel Brown, who opposes BDS and cutting aid to Israel. During the May fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Brown condemned the terrorist organization and spoke at a pro-Israel rally, while Turner was retweeting posts by IfNotNow calling on the State Department “to say #SaveSheikhJarrah and #EndApartheid.”

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It was reminiscent of the Jews being blamed when “pro-Arab” Republicans were defeated by pro-Israel candidates. Zogby correctly notes that AIPAC and the pro-Israel community took credit for defeating two of the most anti-Israel members of Congress: Rep. Paul Findley and Sen. Charles Percy. He also is forced to acknowledge, however, that there were other less nefarious reasons the two men lost: the black vote turned against Percy and redistricting made Findley’s district more Democratic.

Knowing and admitting this, Zogby is nevertheless flogging the idea that the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) influenced the Ohio election by investing $1.6 million in ads against Turner and $4 million to support Brown. He claims that DMFI “has been spearheading the drive to defeat candidates who oppose unconditional support for Israel.”

This idea that Americans who believe in a strong US-Israel relationship demand blind support is ridiculous. Even AIPAC on occasion has been critical of Israeli policy and those in Congress who do the same are not all opposed for reelection. For example, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), one of Israel’s strongest supporters, criticized Israel for “military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targetings of buildings housing international media outlets.” He jumped to conclusions before hearing that the building housing the Associated Press was used by Hamas; nevertheless, he is not going to be opposed by supporters of Israel (except perhaps some Republicans for partisan reasons).

Those who are opposed by the pro-Israel community — and why shouldn’t they be? — are antisemites like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and members who want to delegitimize Israel by supporting BDS or who seek to cut aid for defensive programs such as Iron Dome.

Mainstream Democrats, including President Biden, believe that our two countries share both values and interests. They recognize the BDS movement is antisemitic and counterproductive to the pursuit of peace. They reject one-sided criticism of Israel, and they don’t think Israel should be denied the resources it needs to defend itself. Progressives, by contrast, demanded that funding for Iron Dome be removed from a spending bill, which led to the introduction of separate legislation to provide $1 billion to replenish Israel’s missile stocks. That bill passed with an overwhelming majority of 420-9, with only eight Democrats (including Tlaib and Omar) voting no.

Zogby does not mention that Turner’s campaign raised and spent around $4.5 million compared to Brown’s roughly $2.1 million or that Turner had led Brown by as many as 35 points but lost by almost six.

Even while calling the role of “dark money” troubling, Zogby has to admit, as was the case in the Percy and Findley races, that Jewish contributions were not the reason she lost. Approximately 5% of the district’s constituents are Jews, and 53% are black. Like Turner, Brown is black and had support from that community as well as Jews.

Turner was seen as someone, like members of “The Squad,” who would not vigorously support the president’s agenda. In fact, during the presidential campaign, she essentially called Biden “a bowl of sh**.” Consequently, it was Brown who was endorsed by Hillary Clinton, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), and the Congressional Black Caucus and its chair, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio). It was, in Zogby’s own words, a “classic ‘progressive versus moderate’ battle.”

Still, Zogby says campaign finance reform is needed to prevent Americans from supporting candidates who support Israel rather than “a more balanced US policy.” Not surprisingly, he seems to have no problem with J Street and others spending money to support the candidates he prefers.

Like other detractors of Israel, Zogby will never understand why Americans support candidates who recognize that there is one democracy in the Middle East, and that it is the only county that shares our values and interests. He can’t fathom why they don’t support the radical Islamic terrorists in Gaza and the authoritarian in Ramallah who is so corrupt that 80% of Palestinians want him to resign.

Zogby thinks that polls indicate Americans are turning away from Israel, so it must have been yet another crushing blow to his fantasy to hear the Democratic president reassert America’s ironclad support for Israel during his meeting with the Israeli prime minister and watch nearly every Democrat in the House vote to provide Israel additional aid at the same time his handful of allies were proposing cuts.

How campaigns are financed is a serious issue; however, Zogby’s singling out Jewish contributions as a problem is one more example of the normalization of antisemitism by the far-left of the Democratic Party. As long as supporters of Israel play by the rules, they have the right in our democracy to support the candidates they believe best represent their values and positions.

Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on US-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews, and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

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