Friday, September 11, 2015

The Inevitability of the Jewish Lobby

Walter Russell Mead argues that the passage of the Iran Deal (indeed, the failure of opponents to even overcome a Senate filibuster) should signal the ned of the myth of the omnipotent and univocal "Israel Lobby". It won't, of course, because the myth is predicated on a series of anti-Semitic assumptions that ignore pluralism within the Jewish community, misattribute which positions are dominant, which are contestted, and which are marginal within the community, and ultimately lead to the "78% of Jews are very confused" problem.

Yet it was always obvious to me that the outcome of the Iran Deal debate would have precisely no impact on popular understandings of the Israel Lobby and/or Jewish power. For any issue which has a side coded in the public imagination as being supported by the "Israel Lobby", there are one of two possible outcomes:
(1) That side wins, thus demonstrating the impossibility of everyday Americans to overcome the overwhelming power of the Israel Lobby; or

(2) That side loses, thus demonstrating that the position is so obviously righteous that not even the overwhelming power of the Israel Lobby can stop it.
In the case of the Iran Deal, I ultimately came down in support of the agreement -- a position which puts me at odds with much (though not all) of the Jewish establishment but in line with a narrow majority of Jews overall. And it should be the case that Jews -- whether in our individual or institutional capacity -- should be able to advocate for their preferred positions without it being viewed as a form of domination.


Unknown said...

A question out of ignorance. Both Aipac and the AJC lobbied against the Iran deal (I did a quick check of their web sites). Are there any prominent American Jewish organizations that formally lobbied for the deal? The basis of my question is that a diversity in opinion on a topic does not necessarily imply a similar diversity in lobbying on that topic. Generally speaking, we shouldn't expect lobbying to be representative of popular sentiment or thought; in particular to be effective it requires money, organization, and access, and so, will reflect the interests of those who can muster these.

David Schraub said...

Two groups that I know of that came out strong in favor of the deal are J Street and Ameinu (f/k/a the Labor Zionist Alliance).