A Jewish lobby for a Jewish state

In the bizarro world of political correctness, it’s better to say “Israel lobby” than “Jewish lobby” even though members of the lobby regard the use of either term as anti-Semitic. On the other hand, no one bats an eyelid at the term “Jewish state” even though most Jews choose not to live in Israel.

Marsha B Cohen:

AIPAC comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, and ‘then you’ll get 80 to 90 senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters.’

When someone would accuse him of not being pro-Israel because he didn’t sign the letter, Hagel told me he responds: “‘I didn’t sign the letter because it was a stupid letter.” Few legislators talk this way on the Hill. Hagel is a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values. “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but as he put it, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

— Chuck Hagel to Aaron David Miller, The Much Too Promised Land

The kerfuffle over Chuck Hagel’s use of the term “Jewish lobby” — and the implication that some members of Congress are intimidated by it — pervades the right-wing media and its echo chamber in the blogosphere. Since Hagel was floated as a possible Secretary of Defense, some American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) representatives, among them former spokesman Josh Block and former Executive Director Morris Amitay, have denounced Hagel’s characterization. Even progressives are not immune to debating its appropriateness. M. J. Rosenberg, also a veteran of the AIPAC but now one of its fiercest critics, writes:

It is true that it is impolitic to use the term “Jewish lobby” rather than “Israel lobby” although the very same people criticizing Hagel for using the former term objected just as vehemently when Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer used the latter in their book on the subject. In any case, the term Jewish lobby is accurate when one refers to organizations like the American Jewish Committee or the Anti-Defamation League, etc. They are Jewish organizations and not AIPAC, the registered Israel lobby.

AIPAC’s rebranding of itself as “America’s pro-Israel lobby” instead of the “Jewish lobby” is also relatively recent. The critiques of AIPAC from both the right and left overlook a long paper trail of AIPAC’s self-perception and self-description, which for much of its history — from the 1950s through the 1990s — has reveled in its role as the voice of “the Jewish community.” [Continue reading…]

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