Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To Catch a Critic

Before today, I knew virtually nothing about Rep. Jane Harman's (D-CA) primary opponent, Marcy Winograd, except that she had recently received a boost in the form of an endorsement by the major progressive grassroots group, Democracy for America. Rep. Harman is known as a liberal on social issues, a moderate on economic mattes, and a foreign policy hawk -- enough to get her on the radar screen of the base. But more importantly for our purposes, she has been implicated (albeit the investigation never went anywhere) in an alleged quid pro quo scheme with AIPAC regarding alleged espionage by former AIPAC officials.

So that's a large part of why Winograd is challenging Harman. And I have no problem with that. I do, however, have a problem with her views on Israel and her rather unsubtle insinuations that a prominent Jewish politician possesses dual loyalties (Winograd herself is Jewish), in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg.
JG: Go this Henry Waxman question. Are you for a bi-national state or are you for a two-state solution?

MW: I consider myself a realist, okay? I'm Jewish. I've labeled myself as a Jewish woman of conscience who is compelled to speak out because of the suffering in the world. I support peace, so whatever both sides can agree to, which would probably be an agreement on a mutual exchange of territory, I would fully support, because I want peace. However, and let me share this with you, I grew up in a strong Zionist family, I sang at my brother's Bar Mitzvah, I sent my daughter to Jewish pre-school, I went to Israel when I was in my 20s. That's my background, and all that being said, I know that Israel was born on land where a million Palestinians lived. For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There's no safety or security in barring people from their homeland. Ultimately, Jews and Palestinians need to learn to live together, just as they lived in peace for many years.

JG: Can you be a liberal and a Zionist at the same time?

MW: Well, there's a less-harmful Zionism. I don't see Zionism as liberal. Zionism categorizes Jews as a race, which makes it easier for Jews to be targeted.

JG: Zionism doesn't categorize Jews as a race, it categorizes Jews as a nation.

MW: To me, there's no safety in creating a nation predicated on either racial or ethnic supremacy.

JG: How did you come to this view?

MW: I've been torn about this for a long time, and not really wanting to look at it, which a lot of Jews probably feel, wanting to turn away from it because it's too painful. It's too tied to our identity, to our neighborhoods, to our whole orientation. I My primary concern is peace. I don't feel comfortable advocating for a country based on ethnic and racial supremacy. Personally, I'm a believer in equality, one voice, one vote, Israelis and Palestinians, one voice, one vote, that's my personal position.

JG: Eventual bi-nationalism.

MW: Yes.
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.
JG: Talk about Jane Harman's motivations. Is she in the same camp?

MW: I think she is a strong Zionist. I think she also profits off of war. She has helped build the aerospace industry's involvement in U.S. wars. She's a big supporter of aerospace in its present incarnation. I talk a lot about expanding aerospace into green technology.

In prior speeches Winograd has been unequivocal in her opposition to a two-state solution. This prompted Rep. Waxman to come out against her (this is the "Waxman question"), and eventually led her to insinuate quite strongly that he is not loyal to this country.

It is unfortunate to me that I don't think such charges necessarily are a poison pill amongst either the liberal or conservative base (don't pretend that the Paulite branch of the Tea Party wouldn't eat this up). Nonetheless, this represents an interesting litmus test regarding whether we're going to put forward another McKinney. The support Winograd is enjoying from DFA is troubling in this respect.

The candidacy also poses both promise and peril for groups like J Street. As far as I'm concerned, this is a gift-wrapped present for them: Winograd clearly opposes their vision of the conflict, and they have no interest in touching somebody who thinks Israel is "a state founded on the institutionalized superiority or exclusivity of one of [sic] religion, ethnicity or culture" that practices "crimes against humanity," "institutional racism" and "extermination." But despite their clear opposition to that outlook, Rep. Harman is not exactly the group's best friend -- indeed, she probably is representative of the sort of "pro-Israel" that J Street wants to undermine. Hence, they will be tempted to keep silent. That temptation is a mistake. J Street should, in its own interest, come out loud and hard against Winograd's candidacy and her repugnant views. This is not a tough call.

UPDATE: I should add that, wholly apart from her views on Israel and Waxman, Winograd sounds like, well, a nut. Her interview with Goldberg is full of flower-power-y statements opposing basically anything related to anything military, with a not-exactly-thought-out plan to induce aerospace companies to switch production to Green tech. When asked if there was anything she'd do to fight terrorists militarily, she responded by saying she'd join the ICC, which -- good idea or no -- is not exactly a military option (how exactly does she propose we get the terrorists to appear? Subpoena power?). She gap-fills a ton of her statements by saying she wants "peace", in the sort of manner that makes me hate the very word "peace" (and I hate hating the word "peace"). And when she lost the floor fight for the party endorsement for the California 36th primary battle, she alleged that the vote was corrupt. This is exactly the sort of person who, if given prominence, will come to humiliate the Democratic Party down the line. Mark my words on that.


joe said...

Does J Street really group "institutional racism" in with the rest of that list as things that don't happen in Israel? (I'm not talking about the naturalization rules here, just so we're clear.)

N. Friedman said...

Winograd surely does not sound like a liberal. And, since when is liberalism incompatible with the idea of a nation?

By the way, she sounds exactly like a J Street type if, as I suspect, the organization is more or less a front group for anti-Israel types following the lead of people like Mr. Soros. So, I think this is a good test of where J Street actually stands.

Anonymous said...

FIIIIIIINALLY! Someone who gets what Marcy is all about. I live in CD36 and support Congresswoman Harman because of what she stands for and because she serves her constituents well. Marcy Winograd is crazy...why is she talking about territory exchange between the Palestinians and Israel. Ya, why don't we leave those negotiations up to the people who actually LIVE there. Marcy, I've heard enough about your views on foreign policy, tell me just HOW you are going to help me as a constituent? That's what matters to people who live in CD36, not your ridiculous foreign policy views...or your crusade for peace. Tell me how you are going to improve my life and the lives of those living in CD36 cause dual nationhood for Israel and Palestine does NOTHING for us.