Charles Percy obit (ixnay on the AIPAC-a angle-a)


The weird thing about The New York Times and the Jews… is that the Grey Lady seems to fluctuate between obsession and avoidance. Sometimes in the same week.

Case in point: The Times published a front-page story on whether Jewish voters are increasingly willing to dump President Obama over his handling of Israel-related issues — and then a few days later runs a length obituary of former Illinois Senator Charles Percy, former chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that makes no mention of pro-Israel money playing a role in his being voted out of office in 1984:

But just as Illinois voters had tired of Mr. Douglas by 1966, Mr. Percy was old goods by 1984. In a strong Republican year, with President Ronald Reagan campaigning for him, Mr. Percy could not overcome his Democratic opponent, Representative Paul M. Simon.  His position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee seemed remote to Illinois voters, as did his manner. The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal all described him as “pompous.”  Mr. Percy never persuaded conservatives to trust him, and some actually supported Mr. Simon in the hope that Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, would succeed him in the chairmanship. The Illinois economy was weak, and Mr. Simon won a narrow victory with 50.1 percent of the vote.

Predictably, MondoWeiss is alleging a coverup.

In its obit, The Washington Post gets into the Percy-Israel issue a bit:

Sen. Percy was widely viewed as a conscientious but less-than-commanding committee chairman, and though he took a keen interest in the Middle East, he was not always careful about how his statements might play to powerful constituencies, especially supporters of Israel.

In 1975, five years before he became committee chairman, Sen. Percy dismayed members of the Jewish community after he described Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat as a “moderate.” Sen. Percy explained that he used the term “relative moderate” and only in contrast with George Habash, whose radical PLO faction was notorious for terrorist attacks.

Sen. Percy’s insistence on his “devotion to Israel” did little to quell anger among voters upset by his criticism of the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and of settlement building in the occupied territories — actions he saw as contrary to U.S. interests and disruptive of efforts to maintain peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Percy long blamed AIPAC supporters for his defeat — and, in turn, AIPAC’s leader at the time (Tom Dine) credited Jewish donors with playing a role.

So, yes, this could reflect a strange, somewhat inconsistent decision by the Times to omit the Israel angle from the Percy obit. Or… maybe all of us (AIPACers, AIPAC haters and Jewish journalists) need to get over ourselves a bit. It’s possible that Paul Simon’s defeat of Charles Percy was a watershed for pro-Israel forces and they had only a marginal effect on the election.

But don’t tell anybody… it would be bad for business.

Another punch line: David Axelrod was one of the two political consultants running Simon’s campaign.

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