A nasty, very mean-spirited opinion article by Rupert Cornwell in today’s (Sunday’s) Independent managed to hit all the “correct” antisemitic tropes while not even making an attempt to hide its snide attitude towards US-Israel relations.
Cornwell starts off with a disingenuously innocent paragraph about the “old friendship” between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu from their early working days, with the unwritten words between the lines that this innocuous relationship is somehow a Bad Thing.
Life offers few greater pleasures than catching up with old friends. Take Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu. The pair were in their late twenties, rising stars at the pioneering management company, the Boston Consulting Group when their paths first crossed in the mid-1970s.
I wonder if Cornwell would write such an innuendo-laden passage about the relationship between, oh, I don’t know; let’s say between President Obama and the antisemitic preacher Jeremiah Wright.
But they’ve kept in touch, and now one is prime minister of Israel, while the other might soon be president of the United States. One way and another, there’s a lot to talk about. But that’s only one reason why Romney is off to Israel next weekend, after dropping in on the London Olympics.
Another consideration is the need to prove he knows something about foreign affairs (not Romney’s strongest suit). Above all, though, he is fulfilling what has become an obligatory rite of passage for aspiring US presidents: a public appearance on Israeli soil, to display undying solidarity with the Jewish state.
Here we have come to the meat of the article – and it is unmitigated rubbish, not to mention an outright lie which simultaneously hits a classic antisemitic trope to boot. Presidential candidates, and other politicians, visit Israel not in order to “display undying solidarity with the Jewish state” but in order to show solidarity with a fellow stable liberal democracy and the US’s only reliable ally in the Middle East. For Cornwell and those of his ilk, such an idea cannot be contemplated. The Jews (note that the Saudis are never called “the Islamic state) aka the Jewish state, obviously demand undying fealty; it is impossible that anyone in their right mind would actually wish to visit and identify with Israel.
Oddly, once they are elected and forced to deal with the Middle East’s intractable realities, US presidents are in much less of a hurry to visit America’s closest regional ally. Ronald Reagan never went to Israel, nor did George HW Bush. Bush Jr, perhaps America’s most pro-Israel president yet, waited until his final year in the White House to do so; Barack Obama has yet to go as president.
What? And the Jews haven’t brought him down yet? And none of the others either? So much for that sinister all-powerful Jewish power.
But when you’re a candidate, it’s different. Romney has already visited Israel twice. Sarah Palin went in 2011, …And at this very moment in the 2008 cycle, having finally seen off Hillary Clinton, Democratic Senator Barack Obama went to Jerusalem to proclaim his “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security”. Such statements of course are not meant to bring about the miracle of peace with the Palestinians … They are solely about winning votes back home. And you don’t do that by upsetting America’s mighty pro-Israel lobby.
Ding! Here’s the second antisemitic trope – the all-powerful Jewish, I mean Israel, lobby, the favourite hobby-horse of the hard-left.
Follow my emphases below in the highlighted words to see how many antisemitic allusions can be spotted in a few short paragraphs. (The elisions are purely for reasons of space, not intended to alter the meaning or exaggerate the anti-Jewish references therein).
In absolute terms the Jewish vote here is small, 2 per cent or so of the electorate, and for many of these voters, other issues are at least as important as the fate of Israel. But their clout is out of all proportion to their numbers.(¹) And this is not merely because some of the largest Jewish-American populations are in closely fought swing states such as Florida.
Some of Israel’s most vociferous supporters are conservatives and evangelical Christians, a major segment of the electorate. Offend them by sounding lukewarm about Israel and you are in serious trouble. And then there’s money.(²) Jewish groups have long been major campaign donors, but in the age of the Super Pac and unlimited personal donations, their importance has only increased.
And so to what many see as the spider at the centre of the web,(³) the Lobby – in other words Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Of the many Jewish groups, Aipac is the most influential. No fewer than 13,000 delegates attended its 2012 annual conference in Washington, addressed by President Obama and every Republican presidential candidate, outbidding each other in declarations of fealty to Israel.(4) Its influence on US Middle East policy is legendary; if America’s inbuilt bias towards Israel is the biggest obstacle to a Palestinian settlement, (5) as many contend, then Aipac is probably the biggest reason why.
Is it really that powerful? Incur the wrath of the Israel lobby, it is said, and your political career may be doomed (6).
What we see in the above highlights are:
- The sinister power of the Jews out of all proportion to their numbers;
- Jewish money;
- The spider in the web analogy, so loved by antisemites of the Der Stuermer variety;
- The need to declare fealty to Israel (aka the Jews)
- America’s bias towards Israel as if it is both unnatural and something dearly not to be wished for. No fault of the Palestinians is contemplated for the failure of the peace process: it is all Israel’s fault and the US for supporting Israel;
- Again the political power of “the Lobby” which can bring down a politician – as if the Arab lobby, the oil lobby, the gun lobby do not have similar or greater power.
I must admit that I was quite staggered by the openly antisemitic imagery of the “spider in the web” theme that Cornwell obviously had no aversion to using. He may not be aware of it but images such as comparing Jews (or Zionists in this case) to spiders or octopuses is deeply offensive and has a long legacy (see pages 19 and 23) in antisemitic societies throughout history.
Exhibit A for this theory is Republican Senator Charles Percy, who was defeated in 1984 after he had crossed Aipac by supporting the sale of US military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, a step vigorously opposed by Israel. Whether or not that is true is beside the point.
In other words, lying, making up stories is OK as long as someone believes them. And where Jews and Israel are concerned you can be sure that some gullible fool somewhere, in the Independent maybe, believes exactly so.
Power lies in the perception of power, and Aipac is perceived to be very powerful indeed.
Again the sinister powerful Israel lobby. Even if it isn’t really powerful people believe it to be so. People also used to believe that Jews had horns on their heads.
Just how powerful, even the Obama campaign may now be starting to wonder. In every election, Jewish-Americans are a reliable Democratic constituency; four years ago they went 78 per cent for Obama. But this time Republicans sense an opening, as they assail the President for his “disdain” for Israel – manifest in his demands for a halt to new settlements, his use of the word “occupation” for the Palestinian territories, and his clear opposition to a military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites.
It is not only these issues on which Obama has shown his disdain for Israel. It was in his Cairo speech in which he compared Palestinian suffering to the Holocaust; it is in the way he disregards Israeli concerns for its security; the list goes on almost endlessly.
Obama will surely carry the Jewish vote again, easily.
In which case why this whole nasty screed? Why the scare-mongering about the all-powerful Israel lobby?
But polls suggesting his approval rating among Jews has slipped, and the Democrats’ loss in 2011 of a heavily Jewish New York district in a special congressional election, have given the Republicans hope.
Surely that’s the nature of democracy.
All this may be wishful thinking. But it will be one more topic for two old friends to chew over in Israel next weekend. And one thing may be safely predicted. If Mitt Romney wins, and Benjamin Netanyahu remains prime minister, US ties with Israel will never have been closer.
That is nonsense. Personal ties have no influence over countries’ interests. The only wishful thinking here is Cornwell’s when it appears that he devoutly wishes the US-Israel relationship to be a lot weaker.
Readers should know that Rupert Cornwell has “previous form” in his anti-Israel endeavours. Engage Online has a thorough fisking of an article of his in the Independent from back in 2009. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Today’s Independent provides a classic example of the anti-Israel lobby thesis morphing seamlessly into the classic antisemitic Jewish power motif.
The article, by Rupert Cornwell, is ostensibly about the resignation of Charles Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council. It is headlined: “ ‘Israel lobby’ blamed as Obama’s choice for intelligence chief quits”.
The opening paragraph, however, morphs the ‘Israel lobby’ into “the Jewish lobby”. It begins: “Fears over the Jewish lobby’s excess influence on US foreign policy flared anew yesterday…”.
Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose. Isn’t is both sad and incredible that the Engage article could have been written today with no change in meaning or implication. Cornwell has not improved with age or experience. Shame on the Independent for keeping such a biased reporter in its stable.