Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Unintended Consequences of Anti-Iran Accord Campaign by Israel, U.S. Jewish Groups

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Unintended Consequences of Anti-Iran Accord Campaign by Israel, U.S. Jewish Groups

Article excerpt

The campaign launched by the Israeli government and major American Jewish organizations against the nuclear agreement with Iran is resulting in a number of unintended consequences which those who launched this enterprise did not anticipate.

The U.S. groups received their marching orders in a 20-minute webcast organized by the Jewish Federation of North America in which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon American Jews to do everything in their power to defeat the agreement. AIPAC pledged more than $20 million to fight it and, in August, took all but three freshman members of Congress to Israel to meet with Netanyahu. There were two separate expense-paid trips, one for Democrats, one for Republicans, led by party leaders Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

The American Jewish establishment quickly fell in line. The Iran agreement was vocally opposed by, among others, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Orthodox rabbinical groups, and Jewish Federations. Even charitable organizations entered the fray, with the Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies exhorting its contributors to "reach out to their elected express their deep concern, and to urge them to vote against the deal." Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, through the World Values Network he finances, placed a series of ads attempting to intimidate legislators, such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), into opposing the agreement.

One of the unintended consequences of this over-heated campaign was the growing realization that these groups which pretend to speak in the name of American Jews do not represent Jewish opinion at all. Instead, quite the opposite has been shown to be the case.

In an article in the Aug. 16 Washington Post titled "The Jewish Leaders Who Don't Speak For American Jews," Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, and Steven Cohen, professor at Hebrew Union College, declare that the Jewish groups opposing the Iran agreement "are not, in fact, leading American Jewish opinion. They are defying it. They doubtless represent the views of their board members, but those views are at odds with the majority of rank-and-file American Jews, who, in fact, support the deal more than Americans generally."

In Israel, there is much support for the Iran agreement.

A poll conducted by Cohen for the Jewish Journal found that 63 percent of Jewish Americans who said they knew enough to offer an opinion about the agreement with Iran supported it. Why, Cohen and Gitlin ask, is the so-called "Jewish leadership" so unrepresentative of the population it claims to represent? Their response: "the dominant leadership is somewhat older and more conservative than Jews as a whole...It disproportionately represents wealthy Jews...Those who pay pipers call tunes...The idea that American Jews speak as a monolithic bloc needs very early retirement. So does the canard that their commitment to Israel or the views of its prime minister overwhelms their support for Obama and the Iran deal. So does the idea that...Netanyahu leads or represents the world's Jews. So does the notion that unrepresentative 'leaders' speak for American Jews generally..."

In addition to showing how unrepresentative Jewish organizations are of American Jewish opinion, another unintended consequence of the campaign against the agreement has been to mobilize those Jews who support it, not only in the U.S. but in Israel as well, to speak out.

In Israel, there is much support for the Iran agreement, particularly among experienced military and intelligence officials. Admiral (Ret.) Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, and former chief of the Israeli Navy, declared: "When it comes to Iran's nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option." Other Israelis supporting the agreement include Amos Yadlin, who now heads Israel's main defense think tank; Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, who now chairs both the Israel Space Agency and the Science Ministry's research and development council; Israel Ziv, a former chief of military operations; Dov Tamari, the nearly legendary architect of Israeli military intelligence; and Efraim Halevy, a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency. …

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