Saturday, May 29, 2010

Getting Ugly On The Middle East

Time was, charges of dual loyalty came from the right. Oh, not the Mitch McConnell or even the Rush Limbaugh right, but the far-far right, maybe the John Birch Society or this famous ex-Klansman.

Now, regrettably, it comes from the left. No, not the Nancy Pelosi left or even the Rachel Maddow left, but from that direction.

Ardent Israel supporter and U.S. Senator (D-NY) Charles Schumer criticizes the Obama administration for the pressure it is applying to the Netanyahu government, and Washington Note editor Steve Clemons charges

Schumer's screed gets to the edge of sounding as if he is more a Senator working in the Knesset than working in the United States Senate.

Famed anti-Zionist Stephen Walt, acknowledging that when someone is charged with dual loyalty, it "immediately evokes connotations of betrayal (or even treason)," nonetheless recommends "we frame the issue as one of potential conflicts of interest." Presumably, if an American Jew wants to advocate for Israel, he/she could first convert from Judaism, with the opinion then acquiring legitimacy.

A month ago, Politico's Laura Rozen reported that a "U.S. official" commented of White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross

He seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests. And he doesn't seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this administration.

We don't know if this came from someone on the far left but as a member of the Obama Administration, it probably was not an individual on, say, the Jim Demint-right.

And now we have Marcy Winograd, supported by Democracy for America (founded by Howard Dean) who is challenging Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) in the June 8 primary. The incumbent is Jewish and an avid supporter of Israel. In a fundraising letter on Harman's behalf, Represenative Henry Waxman, also of California, wrote "In Marcy Winograd's foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Marcy Winograd's vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights."

Rather harsh, huh?..... No. An interview with Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who is in the mainstream of liberal thought on the Middle East (Israel must survive as a Jewish state, though it must make reasonable concessions for a peace which would include a separate homeland for the Palestinians), included this transaction:

JG: Let's talk about what Henry Waxman said about you.

MW: I appreciate Henry Waxman, the fact that he pioneered generics, that he's concerned about the environment. However, on foreign policy we have strong differences. I would hope that all of our lawmakers would pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.

JG: Are you saying Waxman isn't loyal?

MW: I don't know. That's a question you have to ask him.

I would hope that all of our lawmakers would pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent. Winograd doesn't hesitate to imply a "betrayal, or even treason" on the part of Waxman. It's a charge of dual loyalty which traditionally is the province of bigots. There is a certain irony when an individual, in this case Winograd, suggests that someone else is betraying the U.S.A. by taking a view which she considers antithetical to the interests of this nation. She sounds an awful lot like some conservatives during the Bush Administration attacking critics of the latter's Iraq policy.

Winograd, sensing a need to inoculate herself against the charge of anti-Semitism, wisely, if heavy-handedly, sets out her Jewish bonafides earlier in the interview. No matter. Anti-Semite or not, bigot or not, Marcy Winograd's perspective on the region is noxious.

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