Who Speaks For American Jews?


The struggle over the Iran agreement reminds me of the 17 years I spent as editor of Present Tense, a liberal Jewish-oriented magazine, published by the American Jewish Committee.

In 1990, we featured a detailed investigative piece, “Speaking for the Jews.” Our cover blurb read:  “A growing number of American Jews, including many inside the Jewish establishment, are fed up with the hardline views of Jewish leaders whom they did not elect and who, in any case, do not speak for them.” Some members of the Israel lobby were quite upset and Present Tense was shut down soon after for debatable reasons. Even so, the article’s writer, Robert Spero, and the magazine’s editors, were absolutely on target in 1990, and even more so today. In short, the Israel lobby doesn’t speak for all American Jews.

In addition to the fabrications and fantasies concocted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and endlessly repeated by his supporters, it is the first time in memory a foreign country — Israel — is publicly fighting an American president’s foreign policy on American soil. Israel’s allies include Obama-hating Republicans; intimidated, primarily Jewish, Democratic politicians; and Bibi-supporting Jewish and Christian Zionist lobbies — none of whom have ever offered any lucid or rational alternatives, and many of them empowered by a few mega-rich and hawkish American Jews.

Polls indicate that American Jews largely support the Iran agreement, and Israelis are not completely united against the deal. Indeed, former officials of Mossad and Shin Bet and the ex-deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission are among those who have broken with Netanyahu on the Iran agreement.

To reject the agreement means that sooner or later the hopes and prayers of American uber-hawks — that the U.S. would be drawn into a war with Iran — may well be answered. For those who love the idea of fighting such a war with sons and daughters not their own, the old saw still applies: “If they loved Iraq, they’ll love Iran.” Meanwhile, no one has yet dared to utter a word about Israel’s vast array of uninspected nuclear bombs.

But for many American Jews like me, it’s “ein breira,” meaning there is no alternative to the agreement.