Follow-up: BBC, Economist and others on “Jewish cabal”

May 12, 2003

CONTENTS

1. Suppose for a moment that President Bush's senior advisers included those of Arab descent and/or Muslim by faith (Andrew Alexander, London Daily Mail, May 9, 2003)
2. British leftwingers' selective prejudice
3. A debate beyond racism (Letters, Guardian, May 8, 2003)
4. Mark Steyn on Tam Dalyell (Daily Telegraph, May 10, 2003)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to the dispatch of May 6 tilted Senior British politician steps up attacks on "Jewish cabal". There are five items attached, from the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Economist, the Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph.

“JERUSALEM RESORTS TO BACKROOM TACTICS”

[TG writes:] Several more news outlets have commented on British MP Tam Dalyell's assertion that "Jewish cabals" dictate UK and U.S. foreign policy. BBC Newsnight, regarded by many as Britain's leading daily television news program, was among many to run news items about the supposed Jewish influence on American politics, a legitimate decision perhaps. What is extraordinary, however, is some of the language and selective and misleading reporting used by the BBC.

The BBC website promotion of the program ran as follows:

"Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK

Pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill
How far will the pro-Israel lobby let America go in the Middle East?

Both the Labour party and Jewish organisations have reacted angrily to allegations by the longstanding gadfly, Tam Dalyell, that Tony Blair is unduly influenced by what he called a cabal of Jewish advisors.

Untrue, they say. But it is received wisdom in much of the Arab world that a so-called Zionist lobby has a stranglehold on American foreign policy. Washington denies that, too.

But now, Newsnight has had access to the man described as 'the most influential private citizen in American foreign policy'. His name's Malcolm Hoenlein.

[TG adds Malcolm Hoenlein, who is a long-time subscriber to this email list, and works for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, will I am sure be surprised to learn that the BBC regards him as such. Clearly the BBC are not aware that not only are American Jewish organizations far from monolithic, but that even taken together, they are dwarfed by other lobby interests in the U.S.]

In his report, Tom Carver, the Newsnight presenter, states: "The most powerful intellectual advocate of the war in Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, is Jewish. So is Bill Kristol, one of the most influential Republican journalists. His father, Irving Kristol, was an early neo-con in the '70s with Norman Podhoretz, who just happens to be the father-in-law of Eliot Abrams, George Bush's key Middle East advisor. How successfully does Ariel Sharon exploit all these connections? Again it's not as straightforward as it seems. Because he's such a good friend of Israel, it's difficult for Sharon to criticise George Bush publicly. So Jerusalem resorts to backroom tactics."

[The full transcript is attached at the end of this email - TG]

“WE ARE ALL ENTITLED TO BE ALARMED”

Andrew Alexander (London Daily Mail, commentator, May 9, 2003): "Suppose for a moment that President Bush's senior advisers included those of Arab descent and/or Muslim by faith. You would immediately say that there was no hope of him producing a balanced Middle East policy. And if the individuals concerned were notorious hardliners on U.S. foreign policy in any case, you would expect it to be constantly pointed out. But substitute Jewish for Arab and shrieks of outrage are heard, paranoia sets in. Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons and father also to innumerable awkward causes, has breached the great Taboo by pointing to the cabal of Jewish hardliners around the President."

"However, the facts are inescapable. That there are many Jews in top positions in Washington is not in itself a cause of alarm. They are just about the world's talented race and they rise to many high positions. But if they are key advisers on policy in the Middle East, and if they share their roots in a distinctly hard-line organisation, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), then we are all entitled to be alarmed."

[TG Adds Alexander, one of Britain's most long-standing anti-American commentators on the right, is clearly not aware of senior Arab-Americans in US political life, such as Senator Mitchell, formulator of the 2001 US Mideast Mitchell peace plan.]

FUZZY, NASTY AND WRONG

From The Economist magazine, May 8th 2003

Anti-Semitism
Tam o'slander
British leftwingers' selective prejudice
Fuzzy, nasty and wrong

In America, Tam Dalyell would now be leaving public life in disgrace. That, after all, was the fate of Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, after an oblique and nostalgic reference to the days of segregation. But Mr Dalyell's claim that a Jewish cabal around the prime minister was distorting Britain's policy to Israel has caused only a few ripples. Unlike George Galloway, another anti-Israeli Labour MP suspended from the party this week for his devotion to Saddam Hussein, Mr Dalyell-the party's most senior backbencher and a famously idiosyncratic politician-has provoked nothing more than tolerant sighs.

Anti-Semitism in Britain has traditionally come from two corners: loutish outfits on the extreme right, who do things like leaving pigs' heads outside synagogues, and snobbish prejudice in some corners of the upper classes. Both seem to be on the decline. But Mr Dalyell's remark brings out a newer streak, of left-wing bigotry.

Barry Kosmin, editor of a forthcoming study of British anti-Semitism, says Mr Dalyell combines "aristocratic prejudice" about the "cancerous nature of Jews in society" with the left-wing anti-Zionism that sees Israel as racist and colonialist. This combination, he says, is familiar in France but new in Britain.

Oddly, the leftwingers in politics and the media who most readily drift into crass anti-Semitism, particularly by conflating British Jews with Israeli misdeeds, real or imagined, are also those who react with horror to even the faintest stereotyping of groups like blacks, gays or Muslims.

But the oddest thing of all was that Mr Dalyell's remark was so inaccurate. Two of the three men he mentioned, Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw, are not, by their own description, actually Jewish. Their partially Jewish ancestry would make them so only under Nazi-style race laws.

LETTERS TO THE GUARDIAN

A debate beyond racism
Letters to The Guardian
May 8, 2003

It is sad that Jonathan Freedland feels he has to be so defensive around the issue of Jewish influence on US policy making, as it seriously prejudices any reasonable non-racist discussion on the matter (That is a racist slur, May 7). Richard Perle, who was apparently Paul Wolfowitz's mentor and was one of the architects of the Iraq invasion, is a member of the Jewish Institute for National Security affairs. Interestingly so was Dick Cheney before he took office in 2001.

The institute pays for retired US military officers to visit Israel for "security briefings" by Israeli officials and politicians. Lt General Jay Garner went on one of these trips in October 2000 and put his name to a statement blaming the Palestinians for the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

This organisation's name is not the Zionist Institute or any other ideological name it is called the Jewish Institute and it appears to seek to influence US policy making. Can we therefore move on and belatedly discuss in depth what are extremely critical issues?

John Hodge
London

Tam Dalyell is entitled to bring into public gaze issues that (whether he is right or wrong) are being rampantly discussed on American websites, without being insulted for doing so. Did Dalyell make any attempt to include all Jews in his assertions? Are there not many Jews, inside and outside Israel, who are deeply disturbed by the extreme Zionist faction? Must they shut up too?

Why has the BNP been dragged into the matter? Has that party been against the Iraq war, sympathetic to Arab suffering, able to put itself in Palestinian shoes? Does the BNP in fact hold one view that concurs with those of Tam Dalyell?

RG Gregory
Wimborne, Dorset

Jonathan Freedland's critique of Tam Dalyell and the response of the left in Britain is right on the money, but I reject his distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. I believe that anti-Zionism, which opposes the Jewish right to self-determination, is fundamentally discriminatory in nature.

Self-styled anti-Zionist anti-racists face an internal contradiction: if discrimination is abhorrent, why should a right of self-determination apply to everyone besides the Jews, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in the basic Zionist principle of a Jewish democratic state and desire its continued existence?

Michael Brenner
New York

I am not so much concerned about Freedland's view of the validity of Tam Dalyell's opinions as I am with his condemnation of the vocabulary used by Dalyell. The issue of groups with a perceived common interest acting under the influence of that interest is a valid one, and just as valid whether the interest is religious, racial, cultural or whatever. So, if an expression of concern is valid, how is it to be expressed if the questioner is going to be accused of racism?

I think it is clear to anyone who is aware of Dalyell's history that he is not a racist and this is not a racist slur. It is however a slur to accuse him of racism on this lazy basis. I don't happen to agree with Dalyell (I think it is more complicated), but I must defend his right to express his concerns.

Philip Kilner
Knaresborough, North Yorks

Jonathan Freedland is wrong to say that only Tam Dalyell and Hitler's Nuremberg laws define a Jew as someone with at least one Jewish grandparent. Israel's "law of return" defines Jews in the same way.

Mark Elf
Dagenham, Essex

 

“WHAT CABAL IS THE CABAL OF SINISTER JEWS UNDER THE CONTROL OF?”

Mark Steyn (The Daily Telegraph, May 10, 2003 Extracts): "Frankly I was relieved to hear from Tam Dalyell that Tony Blair is secretly controlled by a cabal of Jewish advisers. Cabal-wise, that takes the heat off George W Bush, who's secretly controlled by so many cabals he's juggling his schedule as frantically as Jack Lemmon in a 1960s sex comedy. The President is apparently simultaneously secretly controlled by a cabal of sinister Jews, a cabal of fundamentalist Christians, a cabal of Texas oil barons, and a cabal of devious "neoconservatives", who are also Jews but, demonstrating the cunning one traditionally associates with the Hebrew, have taken to going around under a new name to confuse those not as eagle-eyed as Tam."

"A cabal of sinister Canadians? Oh, sure, go ahead, scoff. But, if Tony Blair is under the control of a cabal of sinister Jews, what you really need to ask yourself is what cabal is the cabal of sinister Jews under the control of? That's where poor Tam's conspiracy theories are so old hat (it's a homburg). At least in the club of sinister Canadians we operate a restricted membership: only Canadians need apply. By contrast, Tam's cabal of sinister Jews is headed by who? A troika Lord Levy, Mr Mandelson, Mr Straw? that includes only one bona fide Jew and has to make up the numbers with guys who've got a Jewish grandparent and a couple of Mel Brooks videos: depending on how you look at it, Tam's conspiracy has either revived the expansive Third Reich definition of Jewishness or it's the Irish World Cup team of cabals."


FULL ARTICLES

PRO-ISRAEL LOBBY ON CAPITOL HILL

Pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill
Newsnight
BBC Transcript
May 8, 2003

How far will the pro-Israel lobby let America go in the Middle East? We talked to the man described as the most powerful in the Jewish community there.

Both the Labour party and Jewish organisations have reacted angrily to allegations by the longstanding gadfly, Tam Dalyell, that Tony Blair is unduly influenced by what he called a cabal of Jewish advisors.

Untrue, they say. But it is received wisdom in much of the Arab world that a so-called Zionist lobby has a stranglehold on American foreign policy. Washington denies that, too.

But now, Newsnight has had access to the man described as 'the most influential private citizen in American foreign policy'. His name's Malcolm Hoenlein.

Tom Carver looked at the strength of the pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill.

TOM CARVER: This will be as much of an American journey as a Middle Eastern one. Past crashes and breakdowns litter the roadside and serve as cautionary tales. To turn failure into success will require the full support of the Jewish community in America, just as much as their cousins in Israel. But many of the leaders of this community in America are sceptical of the road map.

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations) How can you bring the UN and the EU with their hostile records towards Israel into those determining compliance? We saw what a great record they had in regard to Iraq. How can you have a successful process, whereby you put a 150 measures in a short period of time that can never be implemented in the schedule designed?

TOM CARVER: The most well-known face of the Jewish political groups in this country is AIPAC, which calls itself a pro-Israel lobby. It helped to organise this demonstration on the Capitol steps last year. AIPAC doesn't give interviews easily and turned down our requests. But you can glean a lot about the way it works from public records. AIPAC itself is not a donor. What it does is encourage its many members to donate as private individuals to the campaigns of hundreds of politicians.

JJ GOLDBERG: (Editor, Forward) You give $2,000 and bundle cheques together adding up to $10,000 because the legal amounts are small these days. But it gets you on the phone. It's not so much fear of your donors, it's access for the donors and fear that the money will show up on the other side.

TOM CARVER:Hard facts are difficult to pin down, but 80% of the Senate received money from pro-Israeli political action committees in the last election, and that doesn't even include individual donations.

Look at Amy Friedkin, AIPAC's president. Before her appointment last May, she gave money as a private citizen to more than 40 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Among them, several of the Democrat presidential candidates like John Edwards, the Democrat leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, the Republican leader in the Senate, Bill Frist, and the Republican speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert.

JJ GOLDBERG: Everybody will tell you, in American politics, access is everything. The other everything is money. If you have 60,000 people, all of whom make it their business to donate and raise money for their favourite candidates, candidates remember you when you walk in with a bundle of cheques. That is a network of influence.

TOM CARVER: There are bigger donors than the pro-Israeli lobby, but none equal its commitment and organisation. To the extent that few politicians now dare oppose it.

DOUGLAS BLLOMFIELD: (Legislative Director, AIPAC 1988 89) AIPAC has one enormous advantage. It really doesn't have any opposition.

TOM CARVER: When he was AIPAC's legislative director, Douglas Bloomfield found that Arab-Americans who opposed Israel had an uphill struggle.

DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD: There are 22 Arab countries. There are both Christians and Muslims. Most of the American Arabs who came to this country fled to get away from oppressive regimes. None of those countries today has a democratic regime, with which Americans can easily identify. My ancestors came from Syria. I want to improve US-Syrian relations. But my Congressman says that Syria heads the list of terrorist nations.

TOM CARVER: What really alarms the likes of Tam Dalyell is the purported Jewish influence in the White House. There's certainly a close alignment between the neo-cons in the Republican Party and those in the Jewish community.

The most powerful intellectual advocate of the war in Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, is Jewish. So is Bill Kristol, one of the most influential Republican journalists. His father, Irving Kristol, was an early neo-con in the '70s with Norman Podhoretz, who just happens to be the father-in-law of Eliot Abrams, George Bush's key Middle East advisor.

But these connections don't make a conspiracy after all, the Clinton White House had its fair share of Jewish intellectuals too. Whatever influence someone like Norman Podhoretz has is not because he's persuaded George Bush, but because his and the president's world view happen to coincide.

NORMAN PODHORETZ: The only way to ensure a victory against terrorism and our own safety, is to do what Vice-president Cheney said, to drain the swamps in which terrorism breeds. By "swamps", he means the despotism of the Middle East. They and we look forward to regime changes in that part of the world.

TOM CARVER: How successfully does Ariel Sharon exploit all these connections? Again it's not as straightforward as it seems. Because he's such a good friend of Israel, it's difficult for Sharon to criticise George Bush publicly. So Jerusalem resorts to backroom tactics.

At Forward, one of the most respected newspapers in the Jewish community, journalists have uncovered instances of Jerusalem using the American lobby to apply pressure on the White House.

JJ GOLDBERG: There have been times when American Jews have been presented with a far more alarmist version than Canadian or British Jews. The Israeli embassy in Washington was putting out material substantially different from other Israeli embassies. I have to conclude that was a decision that American Jews have a huge influence in Washington and therefore in the Middle East. Canadian Jews are less crucial, so you might as well treat them as people.

TOM CARVER: Tell them the truth?

JJ GOLDBERG: Yes.

TOM CARVER: Hidden in the very success of groups like AIPAC lies a fundamental, possibly fatal, weakness. AIPAC's way of rewarding its donors is to give them the chance to mix with the A-list of the Administration. But that creates dependency on the White House and its stars like Colin Powell.

DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD: They would not show up if this institution was in confrontation with the Administration. It says, if you want this kind of access, to raise this kind of money, you have to pull your punches. You can't be totally free if you're dependent on this cycle of fund-raising.

TOM CARVER: You're saying AIPAC is dependent on the Administration, not the other way round?

DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD: Definitely.

TOM CARVER: But in the heart of Manhattan we met a different type of lobby. Malcolm Hoenlein's been called the most influential member of America's Jewish community. Every major Jewish group belongs to his organisation. He is supposed to represent their views. His critics claim he uses the platform to push his own right-wing views. What no one disputes is that, after 16 years operating behind the scenes, he has unrivalled access to the political establishment.

Does the road map have a future, in your view?

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: It could. It depends upon the actions of the Palestinians in terms of compliance. The mistake of the past has been to have time-driven deadlines and targets, not performance-driven.

TOM CARVER: For several years in the '90s, Malcolm Hoenlein raised money for Bet El, one of the most militant of settlements just outside Ramallah.

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: It's a city of 15,000. They have educational institutions. I spoke at a dinner raising funds for those institutions. I don't believe those places will be removed, I don't think these cities will be removed. They will be part of the negotiations. If you remember in Camp David they talked about an exchange of territory. There's no reason why Jews couldn't continue to live under the final arrangement.

TOM CARVER: You'd be happy for that area to come under Palestinian rule?

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: I would be happy to see negotiation to resolve the issue where both parties' interests can be met.

TOM CARVER: The road map, in the final phase, suggests that some Palestinian refugees should be given the right to return to their old homes. It states that parties must reach "an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue".

Malcolm Hoenlein's view?

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: The right of return is impossible. That's a death knell for any negotiations. No matter what the most left or right government is. I don't think any international leader expects the implementation of the right of return is even on the cards. Maybe you can't expect the Palestinians to repudiate this from the start, but they also have to acknowledge that implementation is not realistic.

TOM CARVER: For any Palestinians?

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: They can come back to the Palestinian entity once it is created. But not to come back to Israel.

TOM CARVER: Do you worry about Tony Blair's influence?

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: I'm not worried. I don't think the politics of one country should dictate with such a delicate and complex issue as the Middle East peace process.

TOM CARVER: He's maybe not as hard-line as you'd like him to be.

MALCOLM HOENLEIN: This isn't a question of hard-line or soft-line. This is a question of realism. If you want something to happen, you don't achieve it by making excuses, by closing your eyes, or by appeasement.

TOM CARVER: A strange aspect is that although the Jewish lobby is hawkish, the wider Jewish community is not. The Republicans have never scored a majority of the US Jewish vote. Bush won just 20% of the vote. On domestic issues American Jews remain democrat. What is new is that when it comes to things about the state of Israel, they are becoming more hawkish.

STEPHEN APPELL: Every time I hear of a new suicide bombing in Israel, my first reaction, my gut reaction is one of tremendous anger and a desire to see vengeance and at that moment I want to kill them. Then I say, "Who are "them"?"

TOM CARVER: The Appell family is classic Jewish Brooklyn. Democrat, socially involved, liberal. Steve and Madeleine have absolutely no desire to live in Israel but they are emotionally tied to her welfare. 30 months of intifada and repression have disorientated their political compasses.

STEPHEN APPELL: I'm an ambivalent and disillusioned dove. I'm beginning to think so-called dove solution doesn't work. I fear the hawk solution won't work. I'm beginning to feel more in sympathy with big power efforts.

BRADLEY APPELL: Why are young girls blowing themselves up? We have to face these realities. The more they do it, the more Israel sends in its forces to the occupied territories, the more the anger grows and innocents die.

MADELEINE APPELL: When 9/11 occurred, I felt very vulnerable. I identified with the pain of the citizens of Israel. They do their chores and live their life in a feeling of threat. Yet they go on.

TOM CARVER: Before long, the road map heads into the next presidential election. Then the key will be not so much the lobby but George Bush. How much political capital will he be willing to spend trying to reach that elusive vision of Middle East peace?

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.