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Liberal US Jews lobbying against war with Iran

J Street is certain that dragging the US into a new conflict would turn American public opinion against Jews

Image Credit: Dana A. Shams ©Gulf News
Gulf News

Jacob Blaustein who died 40 years ago was one of the richest, most influential and prominent American Jews, best described as "the friend of American presidents, especially President Harry Truman and President John Kennedy". He owned the Amoco oil company and became the President of the American Jewish Committee. From the very outset, Blaustein used his and other rich American Jews' fortunes to support Israel.

Yet, he was at odds with the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion because the latter always insisted that Israel must be called ‘the Jewish state' and he himself must be the spokesman for all Jews around the world. Blaustein, on his part, insisted that the Hebrew state should be called ‘the state of Israel' "not the Jewish state because Judaism is not a nationality but a religion". He also insisted on naming the American Jewish Committee as the Non-Zionist American Jewish Committee and made a public statement asserting that "only the President of the USA is the spokesman for all American Jews". Ben Gurion responded: "In the free and prosperous countries, Judaism faces the kiss of death, a slow and imperceptible decline into the dark abyss of assimilation."

The Ben Gurion-Blaustein agreement later came as a result of a long conflict between the two. This Agreement highlighted a situation where Ben Gurion was not to speak on behalf of all Jews, but "on behalf of Israelis as a prime minister of Israel". Blaustein wanted to ensure that "American Jews would never be viewed with a double loyalty which would entice the call of stripping the Jews of their American citizenship such as what happened in Nazi Germany". He was also adamant on putting the interest of the US and the loyalty of American Jews to the US above the interest of Israel and loyalty to it. While Ben Gurion accepted such a compromise to keep the dollars coming from the US, Blaustein sweetened the deal by dropping the ‘Non-Zionist' term that he previously added to the name of the American Jewish Committee.

Ben Gurion had also to accept ‘the deal' because he desperately needed Blaustein's help in convincing his friend, Kennedy, "to stop insisting on investigating the Israeli nuclear programme and to stop supporting the right to return of the Palestinian refugees".

Ben Gurion was absolutely determined to have these two subjects removed from American policy at all costs. Blaustein failed in his bid though he worked hard to convince Kennedy to change his position. Nevertheless, the Kennedy administration, in a manner of compensation, permitted — for the first time — the sale of American weapons to Israel. That was not enough for Ben Gurion. The Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963 was a shocking development to the nation although many believe it was carried out by the Mafia whose members were being prosecuted by Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General of the US and the brother of the president. Since the Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Texas, the two issues including the Israeli nuclear programme and the right of return of Palestinian refugees ceased to be part of the American policy.

Double loyalty

Forty years after the death of Blaustein, Benjamin Netanyahu, the incumbent prime minister of Israel with a dual citizenship, now speaks on behalf of all Jews in the world, including American Jews especially congressmen and senators of the Jewish faith. A speech he made in the US Congress passed without any objection or a bit of fear of double loyalty. Congress members (including Jewish members) gave Netanyahu 34 standing ovations. Now and then, all of these legislators have been undermining the American Middle East policy adopted by President Barack Obama. They have always put the narrow interest of Israel way above that of their country. The current government of Israel is now running TV advertisements calling upon Israeli immigrants in America with American citizenship to return to Israel urging them "not to marry American Jews but only Israeli Jews".

Many liberal American Jews are fuming with anger at such audacity that is making their American loyalty a minor issue and "their Jewishness questionable". Indeed, journalist Chemi Shalev wrote in Haaretz that "while Obama's hands are tied in electioneering to win a second term, Israel can use this opportunity to strike against Iran, thus, plunging America and the world into a war with casualties and economic losses of unprecedented proportions". Shalev wishes that someone like Blaustein would stand up to Netanyahu and the Israeli right who are romancing the Republicans in a relation of "too much love can kill you".

Israel could be killed as a state if the Israeli right wing maintains their alliance with Christian fundamentalists who believe "in the end of days" and in the absolute certainty of "Armageddon in which Israel will be annihilated to usher the Second Coming of the Christ". Liberal American Jews may never accept such alliance with "dim wits who desire the death of the Jews and the annihilation of the state of Israel", declared ‘Nion', the Jewish organisation called ‘Not in Our Name'.

They are convinced that an attack against Iran by Israel would actually bring Armageddon upon the latter, a catastrophe that must be prevented. Liberal American Jews, led by ‘J Street', a Jewish lobby group, have been mobilised to stop the right-wing Israeli government from dragging America into a war against Iran. If Israel starts the war, Americans would be obliged to defend Israel after Iran responds with missiles. ‘J Street' is certain that dragging America into a new war after Iraq and Afghanistan would turn the American public opinion not only against Israel, but against all American Jews. That is what ‘J Street' is seeking now to prevent.

Professor As'ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.