Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.”
It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel — and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.
Moran’s colleagues — led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a powerful committee chairman with close ties to the majority leadership — called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”
“The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews,” wrote the group of Jewish Democrats.
House Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor said just yesterday, “Unfortunately, Jim Moran has made it a habit now to lash out to the American Jewish community. I think his remarks are reprehensible, I think his remarks are anachronistic, and hearken back to the day of Adolph Hitler of the others, Mein Kamp, of the protocols of the Elders of Zion, other sources that have become reference to now, I’m sorry to say, a resurgent anti-semitic sentiment world wide.”
House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Moran incorrectly stated that “the Jewish community controls the press, the media, the Congress, and other institutions.”
Progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun’s Rabbi Michael Lerner has launched a campaign to defend Moran saying:
Congressman Moran said no such thing.
You can read what he did say at www.tikkun.org as part of the article by Rabbi Lerner on The Israel Lobby in the Sept/Oct issue of Tikkun magazine. Congressman Moran never made any statement about “the Jewish community,” but only accurately described the power of one section of the Jewish community which has immense influence in the media and in Congress–AIPAC. And we can watch now as that influence is mobilized to isolate and demean the one Congressperson with the courage to say publicly what many have consistently said to all the Jews who support the Israeli peace movement are told: “We don’t dare criticize these policies publicly, lest PACs and other forces aligned with the Israel Lobby attack us and make us politically vulnerable.”
Lerner’s entire Israel Lobby article is worth reading. (For JVP’s nuanced view of the reasons we went to war, read Did Israel Lead the US into the War on Iraq? For the record, we do not conflate the interests of the neocons and the interests of the Israel Lobby, as others do.) But here is the interview with Moran that brought down charges of Hitler-like thinking.
Representative Jim Moran on the power of AIPAC, May 2007.
TIKKUN: What do you think the reasoning is for the Democrats who voted against the amendment requiring that the president get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran?
MORAN: Well, AIPAC strongly opposed it. In fact, Rep. Murtha, Rep. Obey, and myself wanted it in the supplemental. We had it in and then the leadership had to take it out because AIPAC was having a conference in Washington, and insisted with the leadership and many of the members with whom they have close alliances. Yesterday, AIPAC had an amendment to recommit the whole Armed Services Bill in order to add language requiring America to develop missile defenses jointly with Israel, to share all its missile defense technology with Israel. That passed overwhelmingly. There were only thirty members—that’s less than 10 percent—who voted against sharing all our missile technology with Israel. It received about 400 votes in favor of it. I was one of the thirty. My feeling was that it wasn’t just the incendiary language that Israel is under immediate attack and we need to protect it from another Holocaust, it was also the idea that the solution to Israel’s security is a militaristic one. I would urge you to read the Congressional record for the debate on the recommital. It put our loyalty to Israel in terms of complete military support. My feeling is that both America and Israel have acted in counterproductive fashion and have undermined their security by focusing exclusively on military capability.
That was a key vote yesterday. It was phrased by many as an “AIPAC vote.” As a result, it prevailed approximately 400 to thirty.
TIKKUN: In your estimation, how does AIPAC get that power?
MORAN: AIPAC is very well organized. The members are willing to be very generous with their personal wealth. But it’s a two edged sword. If you cross AIPAC, AIPAC is unforgiving and will destroy you politically. Their means of communications, their ties to certain newspapers and magazines, and individuals in the media are substantial and intimidating. Every member knows it’s the best-organized national lobbying force. The National Rifle Association comes a close second, but AIPAC can rightfully brag that they’re the most powerful lobbying force in the world today. Certainly they are in the United States. Not in Europe, obviously. Most people that are involved in foreign policy especially look at a broad range of issues and consider a person’s entire voting record. AIPAC considers the voting record only as it applies to Israel.
TIKKUN: Where is the national interest, then? What happens to those who think that the best interest of the United States is to live in peace with the world? Certainly the American people feel a very strong revulsion towards this war in Iraq. Why doesn’t that translate into policy?
MORAN: You’ve touched on a quandary, and it particularly applies to the Jewish American community. Jewish Americans, as a voting bloc and as an influence on American foreign policy, are overwhelmingly opposed to the war. There is no ethnic group as opposed to the war as much as Jewish Americans. But, AIPAC is the most powerful lobby and has pushed this war from the beginning. I don’t think they represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all, but because they are so well organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.
The reason I don’t hesitate to speak out about AIPAC’s influence—notwithstanding the fact that I’ll be accused of being anti-Semitic every time I suggest it—is that I don’t think AIPAC represents the mainstream of American Jewish thinking. I think that, in fact, if you were to sit down with Jewish families in the United States, far more would agree with your philosophy of reconciliation, in acting in a manner consistent with Torah, and they believe in tikkun. AIPAC doesn’t believe in tikkun, judging from their policy proposals, but nevertheless, they have the Congress pretty… well [pause] “controlled” may be too strong a word, but their influence is dominant in the Congress—and their attitude is the opposite of Tikkun’s and the NSP’s. They support domination: not healing. They feel that you acquire security through military force, through intimidation, even through occupation, when necessary, and that if you have people who are hostile toward you, it’s OK to kill them, rather than talk with them, negotiate with them, try to understand them, and ultimately try to love them. That’s what Tikkun and the NSP is all about: healing, mending, reconciling, understanding, and love, which is why I think you are on the right path.
And yet the Congress seems to be going in the opposite direction, investing more money in the military than we invest in anything else, to dominate the world through our military, to impose our foreign policy through our military, to deal with all our security threats in a militaristic manner. It is a profound difference, and what you are suggesting through your magazine, and through your philosophy, is wholly at odds with the foreign policy and defense policy that we are implementing. This Administration is more militaristic than the Congress itself. My own personal view is that’s run by the people who don’t have the courage to stand up and be gentle and express the goodness of people. They strut on the world stage, suggesting that nobody can mess with them because they’re all-powerful. Of course, they gain their strength through the use and abuse of soldiers and military families that support them.