The Middle East’s Version of Clint Eastwood’s Chair

Originally published at Daily Kos |

What I’m about to share has officially gone viral, and for good reason.

Today, at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave his scheduled address before gathered leaders, diplomats and world figures.

Perhaps Netanyahu was inspired by Clint Eastwood, because during his speech – to make sure world leaders understood the gravity of a nuclear Iran – Netanyahu employed some props to underscore the importance of “red lines.” Or, more specifically, the importance of drawing red lines with regard to Iran.

It was a strange, unsettling show replete with ACME-grade drawings of bombs held before world leaders:


The moment was so simultaneously condescending and bizarre that, naturally, Israeli and American meme artists got to work immediately, making sure the buffoonery of the moment didn’t go unnoticed:






Netanyahu’s show was indeed bizarre, and Israel’s leader has become something of a viral meme machine with his bombastic statements and appearances.

However, much of the immediate reaction is due to how negatively people view Netanyahu’s incessant pushing of world leaders on the issue of Iran (not to mention his simultaneous ignoring of the occupation of Palestinian territory).

Netanyahu’s continuous critiquing of Europe, his meddling in the U.S. election, and his chest-puffing to Iran is wearing thin.

However, what will never wear thin are ACME pictures of bombs at the U.N. That? Will never grow old.


Author’s Note:

The title is inspired by a Tweet from Jeffrey Goldberg:

Additionally, here is a video of Netanyahu’s speech containing the props in question:


Obama’s Chutzpah Is Catching Fire Among Top Jewish Democrats

Originally published in Tikkun Daily |

Last week, President Obama refused to rearrange his schedule in order to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly in the coming days. And Obama stood defiant when Israeli officials publicly and loudly complained that Netanyahu would not be granted a private meeting with the Commander-in-Chief.

Predictably, Republicans have piled on, with Mitt Romney blasting Obama for not meeting Netanyahu.

With the criticism mounting, and with Netanyahu himself starring in a right-wing political ad in Florida, now is the time Jewish Democrats (even progressives) would typically fold. For when forced to choose between supporting Obama and caving to AIPAC, most leading Jewish Democrats have chosen the latter.

However, not this time. For in the current political environment, Obama’s chutzpah is becoming contagious:

Top Jewish Democrats are standing squarely behind President Obama’s decision not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warning Israel to butt out of the U.S. presidential race.

Indeed, Jewish Democratic leaders are coming to the President’s defense in ways that, at least in the contemporary world of Israeli-American politics, seems unprecedented.

Here’s Henry Waxman:

”I don’t think it’s necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule,” Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill. ”I didn’t think it was appropriate for the prime minister to publicly get into a dispute with the president of the United States, since we’re both very closely working together to impose sanctions and to force Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapon.”

And Barney Frank:

”Maybe Netanyahu’s for [Republican candidate Mitt] Romney. And he’s making a mistake if he is,” Frank told The Hill when asked why he thought Israel had leaked the news of a perceived ”snub” to the Reuters wire service.

”I think it was unwise for him to do as much,” he said. ”I think they’ve pulled back a little bit.’

”I think Obama played it right,” Frank added. ”The Israelis have to consider American public opinion; America’s not ready to go to war until it’s absolutely necessary.

Here’s Eliot Engel, a leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, dismissing Netanyahu’s ploy:

”There are always things that are done on both sides – with us, with the Israelis – for domestic political consumption, for party-building,” Engel told The Hill.

The tone coming from the other side of the aisle is markedly different, as Republicans seek to take advantage of Obama’s strength by turning it on its head. To wit, here is the text of a letter signed by 128 House Republicans:

”We are astounded by your refusal to grant this request to one of our closest allies at such a critical time for that region…The rejection of this request represents disturbing treatment of a vital partner and illustrates a lack of regard for the indispensable relationship between the United States and Israel and the current dynamics in the region which are essential to our national security.”

Astounded!is the GOP’s faux response.

Jewish Democrats, on the other hand?

Not so much. Not this time.

Obama Says “No Thank You” to Netanyahu

For the first time ever, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit the United States as prime minister without being granted a personal meeting with the president.

The reason?

According to Israel’s daily, Haaretz, the White House declined Netanyahu’s request for such a meeting, a development which may indicate the growing personal divide between Obama and Netanyahu (who will be in the U.S. at the end of September for a U.N. conference).

An official in Jerusalem said that the prime minister’s office sent the White House a message stating that although Netanyahu will spend only two and a half days on U.S. soil, he is interested in meeting Obama and is willing to travel  to the U.S. capital specifically for that purpose.  The official added that the White House rejected the request and said that at this time Obama’s schedule does not allow for a meeting.

The White House’s response marks a new low in relations between Netanyahu and Obama, underscored by the fact that this is the first time Netanyahu will visit the U.S. as prime minister without meeting the president.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to ease the tension on Tuesday, saying that the differences between the U.S. and Israel should be ironed out “but behind closed doors.”

President Obama has many reasons to be upset with Netanyahu, from his derisive speech before a joint session of Congress in 2011to his public attacks on Obama’s Iran stance.

However, what may have sent Obama over the edge is the fact that, today, of all days – on the anniversary of 9/11 – Netanyahu chose to launch a veiled and public verbal attack on Obama’s Iran position:

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu launched an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government over its stance on the Iranian nuclear program.

“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters on Tuesday.

“Now if Iran knows that there is no red line. If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing. It’s continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs,” he said.  

The Obama administration, which has kept military intervention on the table, responded by stating that such issues would be better discussed in private, and not in public.

And then?

Rejected Netanyahu’s request to meet in private.

In other words, after today’s insensitive verbal assault by Netanyahu, on 9/11 no less, the President answered Israel’s request to meet privately with a simple response.

“No thank you.”

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

Thoughts on Germany’s Circumcision Ban

Originally published at Tikkun Daily

During my wife’s first pregnancy, we made the decision not to learn the sex of the child before birth. There were many reasons for this decision: the purity of discovery at the moment of delivery; an effort to prevent family and friends from inundating us with gender-defined baby gifts before the little one had even emerged; a Shalom-Auslander-like superstition that knowing would somehow invite a divinely-orchestrated disaster.

However, the truth is that one motivation outweighed all others, at least for me: a terrible fear that our child would be a boy.

It was a fear stemming from the fact that, as committed Jews, I knew we would circumcise him. And I also knew this: we desperately didn’t want to do so.

Which is why, when I read recently that a German district court has outlawed circumcision, my first response was not to shake my head and intone anti-Semites (as did many of my fellow Jews). No, my first response, the first words that came to my lips, were these: that’s impressively bold.

It’s bold because a court in Germany has done what I and many of my peers have long been afraid to do in public: question the ethical — and spiritual — legitimacy of an ancient and enduring ritual which requires parents to surgically alter the sexual organ of an infant. (Some argue it’s mutilation, and a definitional use of the word mutilate can be supported.)

It’s also an impressive ruling because, with regard to questions of religious freedom (particularly those impacting Jews), no country feels the weight of history pressing down more than Germany — a country with well-established religious freedom laws founded upon a history I know all too well, as half of my family was lost to the Holocaust.

The German case in question, which has garnered international scrutiny, involved a Muslim four-year-old boy whose circumcision was botched, which resulted in days of continuous bleeding. German authorities brought a case against the doctor, and while he was acquitted, the district court in Cologne ruled that circumcision was illegal because it constitutes physical harm to a newborn and causes “irreversible damage against the body.”

The court also added that religious freedom clauses did not grant parents a legal justification for such a practice. AndHaaretz reported:

[The court] ruled that doctors could only perform circumcisions for health-related reasons. The district court justified the ruling by stating that it was for the “good of the child who would be able to decide for himself which religious community he or she would belong to.”

While the future legality of circumcision in Germany remains hazy, as the ruling is sure to be revisited, Germany is just one of a growing number of countries that have raised the spectre of banning circumcision. (From San Francisco toNorway, the issue has been raised in a growing number of world communities.)

I do not know exactly where I stand with regard to outlawing circumcision, but I do know that it rightly rests upon the boundary where religious/cultural freedom and child protection border one another. For at what stage is the line separating parental discretion and child abuse crossed? Piercing the ears of an infant? Branding a newborn with a small, religiously-required marking? Circumcising the penis of an infant male?

Regarding the latter, all I can say is this: I have attended many circumcisions, and I have nearly vomited at all of them, for there is no normative ritual in the Judeo-Christian world (that I know of) which is more tribal and disturbing than a bris. The rhythmic chanting. The encircled baby. The screams of pain.

I do not know if what Germany has done is right. But I do understand from whence the decision came.

Ultimately, we had a daughter, and were spared making the decision ourselves, a decision many Jews (and I suspect Muslims) wrestle with every day behind closed doors.

Though a growing number are prying that door open and beginning to ask previously unspeakable questions that lead all the way back to Abraham.

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

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Why Is Sheldon Adelson Donating Millions to Romney? NYT: “His Disgust for a Two-state Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”

Originally published at Tikkun Daily

During the height of Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign, the Sheldon-Adelson-backed Republican candidate caused waves when he called the Palestinians an “invented people” and declared that the Palestinian Authority was only interested in Israel’s destruction.

Why did Gingrich express such extreme views late last year on a matter that, at the time, was not central to his campaign? Simple: those are not Gingrich’s views, but the views of Sheldon Adelson, who at the time was writing ten-million-dollar checks to prop up the Gingrich candidacy.

Recently, a New York Times editorial wondered aloud why Adelson is now pumping staggering sums of money into the campaign of his second choice, Mitt Romney.

The answer is, itself, staggering:

The first answer is clearly his disgust for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supported by President Obama and most Israelis. He considers a Palestinian state “a steppingstone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” and has called the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist. He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he broke with in 2007 when it supported economic aid to the Palestinians.

Mr. Romney is only slightly better, saying the Israelis want a two-state solution but the Palestinians do not, accusing them of wanting to eliminate Israel. The eight-figure checks are not paying for a more enlightened answer.

What we have currently is a situation in which one man’s ideological extremism relating to a foreign policy position (which runs counter to American interests) may end up affecting the course of the 2012 election.

And make no mistake: while Adelson’s political donations are also motivated by his own wallet, a primary interest in Romney is to buy a presidential position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is to the right of AIPAC and most Israelis. He wants an eternal occupation of the Palestinian territories and a subjugation of the Palestinian people, and he’s willing to spend untold amounts to make that happen.

Listen to Romney: the Palestinians want to eliminate Israel. Does Romney actually believe this? Likely not, for his campaign literature (written before the emergence of Adelson) actually supports a two-state solution.

Yes, Adelson’s money is having its desired effect.

As the Times notes, that ideology (along with his massive wealth) has made him the country’s largest single political contributor:

No American is dedicating as much of his money to defeat President Obama as Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who also happens to have made more money in the last three years than any other American. He is the perfect illustration of the squalid state of political money, spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs.

Wildly at odds with America’s needs, yes — but also the needs of Palestinians and Israelis who continue to grasp the two-state-solution thread that remains.

Has Citizens United created a scenario in which an extremist Billionaire will buy an election based not upon American interests, but interests in a foreign nation that run counter to the needs of all involved?

It’s a terrifying possibility.

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

Paul Krugman Enters the [Israel] Fray

Originally published at Tikkun magazine

Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, a regular Op-Ed columnist and blogger for The New York Times, is one of America’s leading progressive voices on a host of political and fiscal issues. However, as a liberal American Jew, one subject Krugman intentionally refrains from treating is that of Israel, and not because he isn’t invested in the country’s success or highly critical of its current political directions.

No, Krugman typically refrains from critiquing Israel because – as he wrote yesterday in a rare moment on the subject – to do so “is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.”

And yet, Krugman was moved to do just that for a brief moment recently – offer up a few brutally honest words on Israel.

What was his motivation for doing so? Krugman felt compelled to come to the defense of Peter Beinart, whose book – The Crisis of Zionism – has elicited unhinged personal attacks masquerading as critical reviews from all quarters, including those published in the pages of the Times and The Washington Post.

Beinart’s book proposes (quite reasonably) that Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories and its eroding democratic principles are pushing it into a moral abyss, and that the reactionary defense of Israeli policies by American Jewish communal leaders and lobbyists, many of whom in other realms claim adherence to liberal values, is contributing to Israel’s reduced standing in the eyes of young, American Jews.

Predictably, Beinart’s book has elicited exactly what he critiques in its pages: reactionary apologetics and pure venom. And this is where Krugman stepped in yesterday for a rare, brief moment:

Something I’ve been meaning to do – and still don’t have the time to do properly – is say something about Peter Beinart’s brave book The Crisis of Zionism.

The truth is that like many liberal American Jews – and most American Jews are still liberal – I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide – and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

But it’s only right to say something on behalf of Beinart, who has predictably run into that buzzsaw. As I said, a brave man, and he deserves better.

Krugman’s words, that “the narrow-minded policies of the current [Israeli] government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide,” are as direct and pointed as Krugman has ever been on the subject in recent memory. And, predictably, he has run into the “buzzsaw” of being lambasted for daring to critique Israel (as the comments to his blog post attest).

Of course, he knew this would happen. But he opened himself to attack precisely because of the distressing beating Beinart has been taking by American Jewish “reviewers” who have become unglued by Beinart’s unapologetic liberal stances on Israel – stances that an overwhelming majority of young American Jews share.

J.J. Goldberg, writing in the Forward, gave himself the unenviable task of chronicling some of the “unhinged” responses to Beinart’s book, and writes:

The reviews, meanwhile, consist largely of, well, knee-jerk apologetics. They all seem to intone the shopworn catechism that absolves Israel of any responsibility for its own difficulties: that Israelis want to end the occupation, but it’s too risky; that criticizing settlements is a red herring, because they aren’t the real nub of the conflict; that the Palestinians’ misfortunes are due to their own behavior, not Israel’s; that it’s dangerously naive to believe that Israel got through six decades of war without ever dirtying its hands. (Funny: That’s what most of us were taught to believe.)

The litany is remarkably unremarkable. It offers little more than fatuities trotted out as though they were settled facts rather than what they are: points of argument in a fierce trans-Atlantic debate. Nor do the reviewers bother to acknowledge that Beinart’s book actually considers most of their objections and answers them, agree or not. No, their goal is to show that they know what’s going on and Beinart doesn’t because he’s – well, that’s where the reviewers get creative. How many ways can they insult him?

Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, writing in Tablet magazine (reprinted on the WSJ website) says Beinart is “singularly intent on scolding Israel, like an angry ex who has lost all grip on the proportions of the original dispute,” a lazy reporter whose work is “hysteria-fueled,” “an act of moral solipsism,” “another squeaky note in the blasting chorus that is modern-day Israel bashing.” Tablet’s own editor, Alana Newhouse, claims in The Washington Post, that Beinart is actually running for “the job of spokesman for liberal American Jews” while leading his putative flock in “erecting their own self-satisfied and delusional monolith, calculated to appeal to disillusioned Jewish summer camp alumni, NPR listeners and other beautiful souls who want the Holy Land to be a better place but do not have the time or ability to study the issues, learn the languages or talk to the people on both sides…”

Such “reviews” are precisely what compelled Krugman to enter the fray, for he intended to counter, in a small way, the rampant tribalism that often infects discussions on Israel within the American Jewish community – discussions which find themselves on the pages of our country’s largest newspapers and into the general public discourse.

Krugman’s move was a brave one, and should serve as a call to other liberal, American Jewish writers (who are afraid to offer progressive critiques of Israel for fear of being branded as anti-Semitic). It should serve as a call for them to stand up and do as he did recently: refuse to be silent.

Follow the author on Twitter @David_EHG

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I Own Israel – A Diaspora Jew’s Claim

Originally published in Tikkun magazine.

Israel is mine. I own it – or rather, I hold an ownership stake in it.

No, I am not a citizen of the country – I’m an American Jew, born upon Georgia’s red clay, now living amidst lush, Pennsylvanian foothills. And no, I am not obligated to send my children to the IDF, nor do I pay taxes or vote in the country’s elections. I did not pitch my tent this past summer along Rothschild Boulevard, nor have I physically stood with Palestinian and Israeli protesters in Nabi Saleh on a Friday afternoon, inhaling tear gas and fleeing from cannon-propelled skunk water.

True, I lived in Israel for many years, though such prior residence has nothing to do with my ownership status. And true, I descended into the visceral depths of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when my wife was bombed at Hebrew University in 2002, though such suffering – and our State-supported care – doesn’t grant me any greater stake in the country or right to possess it.

I own Israel because the country insists upon such an arrangement, flailing as it struggles to be both Jewish and democratic. I’m a stakeholder because, as a legally-recognized member of the people of Israel (having in the past proven to the State that I have a Jewish mother and father), I’m granted the unequivocal right to return to my country at a moment’s notice. I am encouraged, even solicited, to return to my country at a moment’s notice.

This ownership stake I hold in Israel is less a possession than it is a responsibility – a responsibility I accept willingly and with a seriousness of purpose. I don’t own an apartment in Jerusalem or an Israeli passport, but I do own the shared responsibility of ensuring that Israel, as the national outgrowth of my people, creates a just society. It is a responsibility that has its origins in tradition, in the Talmudic precept that all those within “Israel” are responsible for one another (כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה).

However, in political terms, it’s a responsibility that comes directly from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, a declaration which established the country as one “based on freedom, justice and peace” for all its inhabitants. It’s a declaration that appeals to me directly, in the diaspora, to help Israel realize this reality:

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.

The redemption of Israel. This is why I often sharply critique Israel’s hawkish political elite, its settlement enterprise, its brutal suppression of the Palestinian people. It is why, when Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf recently wrote in his review of Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism that “the occupation is the greatest moral challenge of my generation,” I nodded in agreement. I nodded instinctively to the words my generation. For his generation is mine. As Jews, we are responsible for this. I am responsible for this – responsible for realizing the Israel envisioned upon its founding, an Israel created to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants.”

Now, my claim upon Israel is different than that of a citizen, and I wouldn’t pretend otherwise. I am not impacted, in my daily life, by the decisions of the body politic in Israel, and my civic responsibilities within the country are almost non-existent.

Which is why, perhaps, when I stated recently that “the occupation is the greatest moral challenge of my generation,” personal objections from fellow Jews, both American and Israeli, littered my inbox, voices I didn’t know chanting a singular theme: You don’t have a claim, you don’t have the right to make such a claim.

But they are wrong.

The reality is this: most who chant that I have no claim do so for political reasons, do so because of my willingness to critique the country as a “leftist,” not because they truly believe that diaspora Jews have no legitimate stake in Israel. For those same people who attack my critiques place upon me the responsibility to support and defend Israel at untold costs. Why? Because it is my responsibility, as a Jew – they say – to defend it.

To do otherwise is to be branded as self-hating, as anti-Semitic, as a capo (as Jon Stewart knows all too well).

But my defense of the Israel envisioned at its founding manifests itself, at times, in the form of critiquing the way in which Zionism manifests itself today, a Zionism that allows for an Israel which unspeakably suppresses the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people living under its thumb in the Occupied Territories. An Israel which regularly suppresses nonviolent Palestinian protest marches, full of families and children, with military force. An Israel which, through its repressive system of military justice in the Occupied Territories, often indefinitely detains Palestinians without charge or evidence for months and, sometimes, years. An Israel which, between 2005 and 2010, convicted 99.8 percent of 853 Palestinian minors charged with rock throwing, 15 percent of whom (contrary to Israeli law) served sentences of over six months in adult prisons.

Joseph Dana recently argued in his own review of Beinart’s book that such critiques are an essential entry point for saving Israel from itself:

Rigorous critique of Zionism, not Israeli settlements, is the first step towards safeguarding Israel as a haven for Jews while preventing the country from sliding deeper into moral bankruptcy.

I would argue that it is not just my right as a diaspora Jew, but my responsibility to engage in such rigorous critiques. Not to destroy Israel, but to protect it. To safeguard the country which long ago granted me an ownership stake, and which, at its founding, appealed to me for assistance in realizing the country’s redemption – a moral redemption that is increasingly becoming endangered.

A redemption increasingly standing on the precipice.

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

My Latest Op-ed in The Jerusalem Post

My latest op-ed for The Jerusalem Post, “Tribalism and the Zionist BDS Debate,” explores some of the hypocrisy embedded within recent critiques of Peter Beinart (after his NYT op-ed “To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements“).


Israel ♥ Iran: 1,000 Israelis March in First Significant Protest Against War with Iran

Originally published on Tikkun Daily.

Last week, when graphic designers Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir decided to counter the war drums beating in Israel with a simple message of peace to the people of Iran, little did they know it would create a viral Facebook initiative which would help to inspire a massive anti-war rally in Tel Aviv.

Protesters hold a sign that reads “Israelis Against the War” at a large anti-war rally in Tel Aviv on March 24.

On Saturday night, this is precisely what happened, as Israelis flooded Habima Square in to protest the elevated war rhetoric coming from their leaders and to stand squarely against the hypothetical bombing of Iran.

It’s not difficult to trace much of the momentum for Saturday night’s rally back to the married duo of Edry and Tamir, who last week created images of themselves with the superimposed message, “”Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We ♥ You.”

Their images inspired countless Israelis to post their own Facebook versions, which in turn inspired Iranians to do the same, creating a virtual, imagistic message of love cycling between the two peoples. It’s a message that helped to inspire Israeli activists – many of whom were involved with this summer’s social justice protest movement – to organize the county’s first significant anti-war rally concerning Iran.

Public opinion in Israel is squarely against the idea of an Israeli attack against Iran, something that protest organizers were quick to point out in promotional messages leading up to the rally. Organizers also made a point of arguing that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s war rhetoric and preparations were simply intentional diversions meant to distract citizens from the country’s pressing social and economic problems:

[W]e will not agree to an irresponsible Israeli attack in Iran, leading to a war with an unknown end-date and casualty count…The billions that this war will cost will be paid by us – in health, education, housing – and in blood.

An elderly Israeli hold a sign that says, “95, believing in and demanding peace.”

While a plurality of Israelis are not in favor of military engagement with Iran, the scene on Saturday night in Tel Aviv was, for the most part, a decidedly leftist one – a melding of social justice activists and activists from Hadash (the Jewish-Arab party).

Protesters among the approximately 1,000 who flooded Tel Aviv.

Protesters with a sign that reads “Bibi Don’t Bomb Iran.”

Where this anti-war momentum will lead remains to be seen. However, at the very least, the reverberating drums of war being pounded upon by Israel’s leaders are now being accompanied by discordant and oppositional vocals.


Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG.

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Issue of Israel Striking Iran Becoming the Most Important Election Wild Card

Originally published in Tikkun magazine

In the past month, we’ve seen the issue of a possible Israeli strike against Iran receive increased attention. This is thanks, in part, to the GOP candidates’ irresponsible (yet politically expedient) parroting of right-wing talking points on the matter in a race to win over both “pro-Israel” backers and votes.

Politically-motivated bluster aside, though, there is a real potential for the issue to become a significant part of our national discourse in the run-up to the 2012 election.

Political guru Nate Silver certainly feels such is the case, particularly after reading a Times piece on the U.S. military’s classified war simulation last month, which showed that an Israeli attack on Iran could have perilous consequences for America.

Silver Tweeted, along with a link to the Times‘ article:

Pretty clear that Iran/Israel is displacing Europe as the most important election wild card.

The GOP sees this as a winning issue – a foreign policy arena where they can score points by playing both on voters’ fears and prejudices (against both those evil Iranians and our dark-skinned President). It’s for this reason that conservatives have been playing up the rhetoric and drum beats, doing everything possible to convince Americans that both an Israeli attack and an American response are not only necessary, but inevitable (which couldn’t be farther from the truth – more on that below).

Just witness the blustery “HR 3783 – Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012,” which is sponsored by Jeff Duncan (R – South Carolina) and has made it out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. While it will be put to a vote, the bill has little chance of passing. But passing isn’t the point. Raising the issue’s profile is.

Witness also the Times‘ article over the weekend entitled “Hawks Steering Debate on How to Take on Iran,” an article which almost accepted the inevitability of an Israeli strike. Of course, as M.J. Rosenberg points out in The Huffington Post, those cited for the story are a veritable who’s who of conservatives invested in making the issue of Iran front-and-center:

The far-right Emergency Committee for Israel and its vice-chair, the Christian right and GOP leader, Gary Bauer. The ECI’s chair is William Kristol, a leading Republican;

The House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the GOP’s #1 spokesperson in Congress and close ally of Binyamin Netanyahu;

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a hawk in almost all conflict situations and a vehement adversary of President Obama;

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC;

Sheldon Adelson, the “billionaire casino owner” who is a primary funder of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign;

The Republican candidates for president; and

Richard N. Perle, the leading neoconservative who famously started pushing for war with Iraq within 24 hours of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.


Two years ago, the potential for an Israeli attack on Iran began to receive public attention thanks, in part, to Jeffrey Goldberg’s cover story for The Atlantic, which predicted an Israeli strike within 12 months.

That story, which cited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as high-ranking Israeli officials, and which made an Israeli attack seem inevitable, was one of the first notable seeds placed in our media on the issue of a contemporary attack. Goldberg recently admitted that it’s possible Netanyahu was bluffing, both then and now. And while he doesn’t yet believe in this possibility (or won’t admit to believing in this possibility), he’s likely just one in a series of pawns that have been used by both Netanyahu and his Republican, conservative allies for a host of security and political reasons.

While the U.S. military is not taking any chances, the likelihood of an Israeli attack is small. The Israeli public is squarely against such an attack, the Obama administration’s disapproving stance on the matter is quite clear, and most parties involved understand (even if they won’t say so publicly) that Iran is nowhere near capable of producing a nuclear weapons program.

While anything is possible, the chances for an Israeli attack are slim.

But you wouldn’t know that by listening to Romney on the stump. Or Santorum on the pulpit. Or Gingrich in a donut shop. All of whom continue to saber rattle, hoping this issue’s bark will yield some savory electoral bites.


Follow the author on Twitter @David_EHG.

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