Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill sees Obama’s Israel support, in State of Union, reflecting need of Jews’ money

Ewen MacAskill is far from the first commentator to evoke the specter of the influence of Jewish money on American politics.

Unapologetically antisemitic sites often complain that Jewish money distorts U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and warn of the broader danger posed by Jewish influence in politics – narratives which can be found on the extreme left, the Jewish far left, the extreme right and Islamic sites.  (And, the Arab world is simply saturated with such antisemitic displays.)

Such a narrative could reasonably be seen as having been popularized over the last several years by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book on the harmful influence of the Jewish lobby, and the manner in which, they claim, it “distorts” U.S. foreign policy.

Within the respectable far left of the American political spectrum, Glenn Greenwald trades in classic antisemitic stereotypes about the injurious effects of organized Jewry, and the associated charge that Jews aren’t sufficiently loyal, with abandon.  In a blog post in 2007, Greenwald wrote:

It is simply true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran

However, such memes have recently become so mainstream that, on Dec. 13, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in attacking Israel and its supporters, wrote: “The standing ovation (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) got in Congress this year was … bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

Here’s Ewen MacAskill in today’s Guardian, commenting on Obama’s State of the Union address: 

On foreign policy, a president who has been at loggerheads with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, over a Middle East peace process promised unflinching support for the state. With an election looming and in need of votes and funds from American Jews, some of whom have been unhappy over his approach to Israel, Obama referred to “our iron-clad, and I mean iron-clad, commitment to Israel’s security”.

First, such tropes about of the centrality of Jewish votes (and money from the Jewish lobby) typically ignore the fact that Jews make up merely 2% of the American population, and that strong support for Israel among the non-Jewish electorate has been demonstrated in annual polls conducted by Gallup going back to 1967. 

The degree that Obama is sounding more pro-Israel merely reflects something of a pro-Israel consensus across the American political spectrum. 

Moreover, Obama received 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, and current polls show that Jewish support for the President is considerably higher than the national average.

More importantly, the notion that Jews manipulate the levers of power in Western societies, through their money, is probably the most enduring of all the West’s Jew-hating myths, and it seems that a genuinely liberal paper would strenuously avoid even the suggestion of such historically dangerous stereotypes.

But, it seems that MacAskill’s Judeo-centric analysis reflects a deeper issue at the Guardian: their failure to understand why others don’t share their institutional hostility towards Israel, reflecting, perhaps, the broader tendency among a percentage of the Western electorate to seek simple (and, at times conspiratorial) answers to complex problems, and any political phenomena they find disagreeable.

In searching for common denominators which explain the U.S. War in Iraq, or the threat of war with Iran (or even the 2008 American financial meltdown, in which nearly 1/3 of all Democrats polled blamed Jews for the crisis) citing the disproportionate political influence of U.S. Jews provides a convenient and increasingly acceptable explanation.

MacAskill’s passage is far from the most egregious example of such calumnies about excessive Jewish control, but the odious pedigree of such a charge demands that such rhetoric simply can not be taken lightly.  

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