Oakland, Ca. (Special to Informed Comment) – AIPAC and Jewish Republicans are a puzzlement. They are financially supporting over 100 racists, climate deniers and election deniers running for Congress, because they express unqualified support for Israel’s occupation, expansionist settlements and denial of Palestinian human rights. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more powerful lobbies in the country, has targeted progressive Jewish candidates such as California’s Sara Jacobs for unseating. How can such smart people become so deeply invested in causes and candidates destructive to our interests as Jews and Americans? As Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) has pointed out, AIPAC itself is a sort of “hate group,” which uses charges of anti-Semitism as a campaign tool, while fueling anti-Semitism by its ugly tactics at the same time.
AIPAC also invested $2.3M to defeat Summer Lee, a Black female congressional candidate in Pittsburgh, in favor of a MAGA candidate trying to position to the right of Trump. This is a candidate who is deeply anti-Semitic, using the façade of “loving Israel” from an Evangelical perspective and motivation (i.e. it is only desirable for Jews to be in-gathered in Israel because that will precipitate the return of Christ . . . and the end of Judaism). Mind you,
Pittsburgh is a highly progressive city with a rich pro-labor history. It also has a significant Jewish community, said to number around 40,000. And it was the site of a tragic synagogue massacre in 2019, when a Trump-inspired nut-case murdered eleven Jews at prayer at Tree of Life Synagogue.
Of course, to some extent our current political moment comes out of Trumpism and its labyrinth of lies. Trump dishonestly played both sides against the middle. He conned right-wing Jews into believing his support for all of Netanyahu’s excesses showed an affinity for Judaism. At the same time, he used code words asking Jew-hating Nazis to dominate the public sphere and chant “Jews will not replace us!” For most Jews, Trump’s approbation of the Nazis in Charlottesville was a deal-breaker. But AIPAC and Jewish Republicans are willing to forget all about it and invest millions in defeating a promising Democratic candidate because she is not sufficiently in favor of “Israel.” For them, that really means having the audacity to make objections to Israel’s occupation, expansionist settlements and brutality toward its Palestinian “subjects.” That word is used to illuminate the imperial nature of current Israeli policy.
There are 299 candidates for all levels of political office in 50 states who deny the results of the 2020 Election. Some of those are running for Secretary of State in vulnerable states, and have brazenly promised to rig elections in Republicans’ favor. That’s not chutzpah, which carries some element of honor; it’s Fascism. And it would come to power if the Republicans take control of the House or any branch of government.
Their behavior reminds me of my favorite lyric sung by the King of Siam in Rogers & Hammerstein’s The King and I. During his musical soliloquy, “Is a Puzzlement.” The king ponders how the world has changed and alliances have shifted since he was a boy. He expresses deep self-doubt, and doubt about his peer leaders, concluding:
That tho’ a man may be in doubt of what he know
Very quickly he will fight
He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!
AIPAC leaders and Jewish Republicans are too arrogant to be as reflective as the King of Siam. They are fighting to prove that what they do not know is so. They are so lacking in introspection that they are making an alliance with the very forces that prompted a millennium of pogroms in Europe, and has stirred and empowered anti-Semitic forces in the US. These “Jewish crusaders” are governed by what they don’t know. The direct line between the decay of the Republican Party with the rise of anti-Semitism in America is lost on them. Or they pretend not to notice for selfish political gain. Anti-Semitic threats and violence in the US are worse than any time since before World War II. It’s as if Donald Trump has unleashed dormant forces that never went away, but had stayed in the fringes and shadows until he gave the “stand by” signal. Even if he were to die tomorrow, the movement he created would carry on with the massive army of soldiers and disinformation specialists he’s empowered. It’s scary.
Every American high school and college student should be REQUIRED to see all three episodes of the Burns, Novick and Botstein documentary The US and the Holocaust. As disturbing as it is to watch (OK, revolting and painful), it tells a story that must be retold about the most heinous atrocities in human history, which began with the same dynamics that are now pervasive in US politics. Because the threat of Trump-led Fascism is real and frightening, this is a great teaching moment for that throughout the education spectrum.
Support for Israel has been a key feature of the Republican platform since 1973 Israel-Arab War, and it accelerated after 9-11. Richard Nixon was the original Republican who supported Israel, but hated the Jews. He frothed privately about his hate for the Jews, while supporting Israel during the 1973 War out of geopolitical concerns. In my youthful experience interning for a Republican congressman that year, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Robin Beard (R-TN) was vocally pro-Israel in his campaign stops and policy statements. A sad and alarming irony is that his seat is now held by a Jewish man, David Kustoff, who has supported every detail of the draconian Trump agenda. The rest of Memphis is represented in Congress by one of the most progressive members, Steve Cohen, who is also Jewish. Good luck with that Jewish conspiracy thing — it is hard to get up a conspiracy when no two of your members can agree on anything.
The election of a far-far right Israeli government does not bode well for democracy in Israel. We can only hope that it does not foreshadow a parallel event in the US. The confluence with the upcoming mid-term election makes me nervous. The timing prompts a recall of 1981 when the US, Israel and Great Britain all took turns to the far-far-right with the elections of Ronald Reagan, Menachem Begin and Margaret Thatcher. But the stakes are higher this time. The top ballot issue is whether the US continues as a somewhat functional democracy, or will collapse into fascism. Democracy has already lost in Israel.
As for this country, Republican voters in Georgia are willing to overlook Herschel Walker’s grand hypocrisy because they are single-issue voters who would vote for a a pink kangaroo if it promised to ban abortion. Jewish Republicans, for their part only care most about who is most supportive of an expansionist Greater Israeli. In aggregate, the only election issues Republicans care about are ending women’s rights to a full spectrum of healthcare options, and supporting Israel’s descent into its own brand of colonialist fascism. If elections do not yield these two policy results, they refuse to accept the outcome, and American Democracy be damned.