Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Ever-Shifting Influence of AIPAC

Last week, Open Zion (through Peter Beinart) was predicting that AIPAC would not "publicly oppose" the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, because it would be a fight it "can't win." This week, Open Zion (through Bernard Avishai) accuses a who's who of Jewish organizations (including, but not limited to, AIPAC) of being "Neo-McCarthyites" due to their alleged role in sinking Hagel's as-yet-unannounced nomination.

Maybe all this shows is that the political instincts of Open Zion just aren't that good. Or maybe it shows that Open Zion treats AIPAC more as a phantom to project their own distaste for how American and Jewish politics operates than as an actual organization that does actual things. There is a lot of fulmination about AIPAC's "intimidation", but very little about what AIPAC has actually done in this controversy, and there's whining that Jewish organizations are haphazardly "branding" anyone who opposes them as an anti-Semite without noting that this charge has been explicitly disavowed with respect to Hagel (oh, but they don't have to say it, because the things they are attacking Hagel for are "things only an anti-Semite would do." How conveniently unfalsifiable, that saying you're not calling someone anti-Semitic isn't even relevant evidence to whether one is trying to "cow" them into submission by calling them anti-Semitic).

Finally, I'd note that we have a bit of Chas Freeman syndrome all over again here -- the Jews are only after that one thing. Senator Hagel hails from the realist wing of the foreign policy community. And there are plenty of Americans who are not foreign policy realists, for a variety of reasons that often have nothing to do with Israel and which can be held independent of any political beliefs on Israel. Chinese dissidents, for example, had plenty of reason to be skeptical of Freeman without taking any positions whatsoever on Israel. And so it is with Hagel -- if one is not a fan of his particular intellectual orientation to foreign policy, one can be skeptical of his nomination without it being Israel-or-bust.

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