THE AMERICAN JEWISH POWER: BETWEEN MYTH AND REALITY
By: Gad Nashon
The issue of "Jewish power" in America, as well as in other countries, has been a sensitive issue for the Jews from the vantage point of the Jewish victimology. Remember the shadow of the Protocols of the Elder of Zion, the secret power of the International Jew, the stories of the bionic-satanic power of the Jews and, of course, the whip of the "Dual Allegiance" that some American ex-presidents did not hesitate to use against demonstrations of Jewish power in America. Many Jews have abstained from being involved in the formation of Jewish power. Izik Duetcher used to say, "I am a non-Jewish Jew."
Certainly American Jews who were afraid of being identified during the Holocaust era as Jews and gave in to Roosevelt's official pressure on them not to help the Nazis to charge the war as a "Jewish War" in the Nazi propaganda have, thank God, developed since 1967 a pragmatic-effective power as an ethnic or sub- national group. But still, Jews in the Congress, contrary to the anti-Semitic myth, do not establish at any time a Jewish congressional caucus like the Afro-Americans, for example.
How much power do Jews hold in America? What is the meaning of Jewish Power? What is the agenda of this power? Is it a matter of quality or quantity? Does its background have to do with the rise of Jewish multi-millionaires in America - the stars of Fortune magazine? Who are the agents of this power? Are they the rich ones, the Rabbis or the social workers? Who controls this power and holds the trigger?
The famous journalist (Jerusalem Report, Jewish Week, New York Times) J.J. Goldberg, a popular expert on Jewish affairs, decided to challenge these questions and published a book which probably will make the Jewish best seller list and will stimulate a discussion inside the American Jewish community. The book, "Jewish Power - Inside the American Jewish Establishment" (Addison- Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.), is first of all a political textbook and analytical reporting survey of Jewish political life in America since 1967. J.J. Goldberg described in detail the organizations and personalities who have shaped Jewish power. He also discussed the myth and the limits of this power. As a matter of fact, he related to two main issues as a test of the real power of the Jews in America as a lobby or as a pressure group on America's foreign policy: Israel and the issue of the Soviet Jewry.
He does not discuss Jewish power in the realm of American domestic policy. Also, J.J. does not discuss the issue of the Jewish elite. He mentions names of famous Jews, but we do not learn about their biographies. Also, he does not relate as a Labor-Zionist to the issue of democracy and accountability inside the Jewish power. Often I would like J.J. to do a comparative study of counterparts, such as the Greek lobby in America. Are Jews too timid? Do American Jews still suffer from a ghetto mentality?
One must read this book. It is a superb account of the dynamics of this Jewish power.
The book includes the following sections: Part I: 'The Meaning of Jewish Power'; Part II: 'The Root of Jewish Power', including 'How the Jews Won the Cold War' and 'Jerusalem on the Potomac, The Rise and Rise of the Israel Lobby"; Part III: 'Jews and the Ballot Box' and 'Jews and the Media'. J.J. included an epilogue: 'Back to the Garden' in which he described the ceremony at Madison Square Garden in which American Jewry expressed its shock as to the assassination of the late Yitzhak Rabin.
The book is too contemporary as to lose our ability to enjoy of the fruits of its perspective, but in the age of information ten years from now, people will stand in line to thank J.J. Goldberg for organizing the total picture of Jewish politics of our time.
J.J. promised in his introduction to explore the Jewish machine and he certainly kept his promise. He stated: "Readers looking for confirmation of their favorite myths will be disappointed. They will find no meaningful Jewish control of the media or high finance... They will find precious little clandestine Israeli action to subvert Congress or American public opinion." To J.J., it is important to point our the existence of the institutional Jewish chaos in America, probably a huge waste of Jewish ethnic energy. There are too many Jewish organizations, agencies, task forces and root organizations. The American tendency is to intensify a process of decentralization and to promote endless duplicity.
J.J. for example discussed the issue of Jewish money and political influence. Jews provided fifty percent of the Democratic party's national budget. Their Jewish Democratic power linked to their financial power. Of course, there are Jewish- Republicans such as Max Fisher or George Klein and the National Jewish Coalition, a Jewish Republican inside body. But J.J. is right. America supports a Jewish agenda because of other motives that have nothing to do with money or the Jewish vote. Organsky (professor who published the research) argues that "the strongest influence on pro-Israel voting in Congress is not Jewish lobbying...but ideology." The Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens told J.J. "...people admire the fact that Israel is a democracy...that it does not fall into chaos...For me it's the fact that they have held together a quality of life under siege and remained a democracy despite the siege..." And Congressman John Lewis said to J.J. "...some are southern Christian fundamentalists who support it for religious reasons..."
There are a thousand and one reasons to support Israel. Ex- Governor Jerry Brown, who ran for the presidency said once, "I buy Israel Bonds. I cannot find Israel on the map, but Israel is in my heart." J.J. does not discuss the possibility that they love us because they hate Arabs or Muslims. So we are just lucky because of Arab oil problems, Iraq's invasion or the effect of Arab terrorism.
Of course, we know and J.J. discussed it: Jews tend to vote. In New York, Jews are just 9% of the entire population, but 18.3% of the electorate...in New Jersey 5.5% and 9.9%... Pennsylvania 2.7% and 4.9%...Maryland 4.3% and 8.1% of the electorate. But we know that some of Israel's best admirers come from states without Jewish power, such as Senator Henry Jackson. Furthermore, J.J. did not point out that the percent of Jews in the electorate is shrinking... an erosion of Jewish power in the next century. J.J. Goldberg's Chapter 11 "We Have Met The Enemy And It Is Us: Jews and the Media" is illuminating, since it is a very good discussion of this issue. "Jews control the media" have argued many people. It is a myth which is based on the concept of a "Jewish conspiracy" against the world. One can always ask, "If Jews control the media, how come the American media so often attacks Israel? Many Jewish journalists stopped viewing Israel as the victim of the Arab-Israeli conflict. J.J. Goldberg quoted many media personalities who have stated that their Jewish workers are not biased when reporting on Israel or Jewish topics. Most journalists pay attention to their professional commitment, period.
Discussing the role of Jewish media moguls, J.J. Goldberg said, "Tisch's experience at CBS proves one thing: Jewish ownership in the mass media does not represent any significant concentration of Jewish power...most media moguls have little control over the content of their properties." Of course, there are Jews such as Martin Peretz or Mortimer Zuckerman who have deep commitments to the wellbeing of Jews and Israel and they are "Jewish-Jews". Many Jewish journalists, such as Mike Wallace were attacked by Jews as "self hating Jews" whenever they gave a break to the Arab countries or whenever they attacked Israel. Often the American media was not fair to Israel when relating to the Palestinians as the"underdogs" of the Middle East. Even Dan Rather confessed and said that Israel gained the fairness only after the Iraqi scud attacks of 1991. Only then the media balanced itself. Honestly, one should not ignore the fact that often the Jewish background of the journalist influences his reporting. "...I have had a Bosnia obsession for the last two years and it has everything to do with my being Jewish," said ABC ex-producer David Gelber, who defined Bosnia as a typical "Jewish issue".
Are Jewish journalists obsessed with Israel because of their Jewish background? Why do they often use a double standard in reporting from the Middle East? "It's a question of access...Israel very smartly, or innocently, allowed much greater access to news institutions than the Arab countries. Access is the key," said Socolow, an ex-CBS executive.
In 'Jewish Power', J.J. Goldberg demonstrated the fact that any Jewish or Israeli issue is controversial. The monolith Jewish camp in America disappeared. The past "normalcy" has been dismantled. "Normal" meant rallying behind Israel in a wall to wall coalition. "We are in the age of Jewish crisis rather than Jewish consensus," argued Goldberg in his illuminating 'Jewish Power'.
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