Obama nominates John Kerry for Secretary of State

The world goes round and round …

Just 8 years after Vietnam veteran John Kerry was swiftboated to the tune of more than $10 million in GOP propaganda cash, a president who might have been unimaginable during the George W. Bush era has just nominated an anti-war anti-Vietnam War activist-turned Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton (an unthinkable choice during the Bush years) after a stellar arc as Obama’s top diplomat. (amended – see huntsu’s comment)

The likely successor to Kerry in his top spot as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Bob Menendez.

Menendez is the current chair of the committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs.

During Kerry’s campaign for president in 2004, the well-funded front group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth called Kerry “unfit to serve” as president, challenged the validity of his service medals, and harmed other soldiers by speaking out about the war that defined America’s own military and diplomatic course during two decades of the 20th Century.

And now Kerry has been named by the president to carry out America’s foreign policy. And it’s likely the senator from New Jersey, one of only three Latinos in Congress’ upper house, will move up to chair one of its most powerful committees.

Comments (44)

  1. huntsu

    Kerry was an anti-Vietnam war activist. It may seem pedantic, but Kerry is most surely not opposed to the use of military force to support American goals.  

    He protested the Vietnam War because he thought it was a mistake, not because he thought taking military action is wrong.

  2. 12mileseastofTrenton

    A senate vacancy needlessly created that will be difficult to defend.  And Menendez is anti-normalization of relations with Cuba and is a flack for AIPAC

  3. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    And one that the nominee would probably want us to make. But I will say that during that time, when those protests were going on, there was pro-war and anti-war, and Kerry’s place was clear.

    And also, that in the last few minutes since the announcement such disparate sources as those below referred to Kerry as anti-war during that period: Boston Globe, CNN, and Voice of America News.

  4. huntsu

    And one that needs to be made.  Someone who is anti-war has no business being President or Secretary of State.  Many low-info voters and citizens will internalize anti-war and oppose a candidate for those words rather than the nuance position of determining which military actions are proper and which are not.

    Which comes to the second issue, that separating anti-war from pro-war obscures the fact that you can be against a certain war while not opposing the use of the military.  The right wing likes to corner us with that one, equating opposing invading countries that have committed no foul and pose no threat with being peace-nik hippies.

  5. Babs NJSD

    I enlisted and served during the Viet Nam era. The more I learned, the more information and insight that I had, much of which was articulated in Robert McNamara’s mea culpa, the more anti-Vietnam war I became!

    We cannot have an anti-war President. We have also learned that we cannot have a “chicken hawk” cowboy as a President!

  6. Babs NJSD

    what does that mean? Is that bad?

  7. 12mileseastofTrenton

    of the Israel-Palestine dispute it is.

  8. Bertin Lefkovic

    What is your definition of a just settlement and how does it differ from how either Menendez or Kerry would define a just settlement?  Do you really want a just settlement of the dispute or do you just want the United States to force your will on a sovereign democratic state?

    While I agree that putting John Kerry’s seat at risk in the way that it has been was not a good idea and if normalization with Cuba is a high priority issue for you, then you probably don’t want Bob Menendez chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but aside from that, replacing Clinton with Kerry and Kerry with Menendez is not going to change American foreign policy in the Middle East or anywhere else dramatically.

  9. Babs NJSD

    based on an obvious bias or lack of education and appreciation of history…in my opinion and I have followed the mideast since the 40’s. Do I detect something more that just an “opinion” based on cogent and balanced facts and a familiarity of the middle eastern mentality?

  10. 12mileseastofTrenton

    Is for the U.S. to take action when the Land of Israel government flagrantly violates international law, and the wishes of the United States government, by expanding its illegal colonization of the west bank.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask considering we give Israel billions in aid each year.

  11. 12mileseastofTrenton

    With your great knowledge, tell about the colonization of Palestinan land by Israel the last 40 years.

  12. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    Your comment (presumably to) 12mileseastofTrenton:

    “just appears to be an opinion based on an obvious bias or lack of education and appreciation of history …”

    What are you getting at, here? My read is that you are backhandedly calling 12mileseastofTrenton anti-semitic.

  13. Bertin Lefkovic

    …it is entirely possible and very likely, particularly in the case of liberal anti-Zionists, for someone to be biased in favor of the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel without being consciously (or even unconsciously) anti-semitic.

    I am not calling you an anti-Zionist, Rosi, but I am sure that you know that one of the most common false criticisms of Zionists is that we equate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, when the fact of the matter is that very few of us are that simplistic in our thinking and those of us who aren’t that simplistic in our thinking know how much that kind of response damages the credibility of our other arguments.

    12M does not have to be anti-semitic to have an obvious bias or a lack of education or appreciation of the history of these issues.  Some liberals simply approach the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with a knee-jerk hostility towards Israel, because they are not educated in the nuances of the issues surrounding the confluct and do not have an appreciation of the broader and deeper history of the conflict.

    I think that when people, including liberal anti-Zionists, go off on tirades against AIPAC, they often exhibit an insensitivity and a lack of fairness, while utilizing anti-semitic language and themes, but even then, there is still a difference between using borderline anti-semitic rhetoric and being anti-semitic.  Because most liberal anti-Zionists are usually highly intelligent people, more often than not, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    I don’t think that 12M is an anti-semite and I do not think that Babs thinks that s/he is an anti-semite.  I do agree with Babs in her assessment of 12M’s bias and lack of education and appreciation of history as this is pretty accurate and precise language.  Had she accused her/him of being anti-semitic, I think that would have been far less so.

  14. Babs NJSD

    you are correct in your read. That is the impression that I got from the posting. That is not to say I’m a fan of Netanyahu and many so called right-wing Zionists who I think are “bleeps”. I understand that many things are nuanced, the middle east situation is very complex …but yes, at the very core, his broad stroked words definitely struck a nerve with me!

    I’ve heard it too many times. sometimes it is very subtle, sometimes overt, sometimes innocent, but it’s there.

  15. Bertin Lefkovic

    It is hard to care about what you want, 12M, when you are not even willing to be respectful enough to call the State of Israel by its rightful name.  While I disagree with the current Israeli government’s settlement policy, it is not a violation of international law.

    As far as the wishes of the United States government are concerned, do you really want it to employ a foreign policy of “taking action” when its allies choose to ignore those wishes.  Unless you want this policy to be unfairly limited to Israel, our country is going to lose a lot of allies if we “take action” every time that one of our allies do not do what we want them to do.

    The foreign aid package that both Egypt and Israel receive is directly linked to the peace agreement between these countries that was negotiated by President Carter and it has absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians, which is only going to be resolved through their own negotiations.  To try to link these two disparate issues would be unfair and wrong.

    The interesting thing about this peace agreement and their negotiations is that when Israel finally relented on the question of the Sinai, they asked that Egypt assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip as well.  Anwar Sadat refused.  Obviously, this would not have solved the more complex problems that surround the West Bank, but it might have prevented the spates of violence that have caused the loss of life in both Gaza and Israel.

  16. Bertin Lefkovic

    Like any democracy, particularly one as dynamic as Israel’s, which provides a voice for a much wider spectrum of thought than any other country in the world, democratic or otherwise, Israel’s people do not always elect the best people to govern and as a result, their government does not always do the right thing.

    That said, anyone who is willing to take a broad and deep look at the country’s history, particularly with regards to how it has been governed, I would like to think that any open-minded person would agree that they have done far more right than wrong.  Israel is without a doubt the most progressive country in the region and one of the most progressive countries in the world; as progressive if not moreso than our own.  They have de facto marriage equality for same-sex couples who get married outside of Israel.

    Israel’s settlement policies, which are just as much the responsibility of its center-left governments that chose to make concessions to its more reactionary coalition partners in order to maintain their governing coalitions (truth be told, despite the fact that most of the inhabitants of settlements are reactionaries, most of the settlement construction that has occurred in the West Bank took place after the Oslo Accords were signed, and they were approved by mostly center-left governments), as they are the responsibility of the current far-right-wing government, have definitely made negotiations with the Palestinians more complicated, but they are far less of an obstacle to peace than the Palestinian insistence to a right of return of Palestinians to Israel rather than a future Palestinian state.

    If there is to be a two-state solution to this conflict, whatever West Bank land that the current Israeli government continues to settle is ultimately going to be swapped for Israeli land that is either uninhabited or inhabited primarily by Israeli Arabs.  The interesting thing about the latter prospect is the fact that whenever this has been suggested, Israeli Arabs have responded with a tremendous amount of hostility, preferring their minority status in Israel to being part of an Arab monopoly in a future Palestinian state.  My guess is that this has something to do with having the highest standard of living amongst non-royalty in the Arab world.

    However, Israel cannot and will not ever agree to both a Palestinian state and a Palestinian right of return to Israel and anyone who advocates for such a position as Abu Mazen still does to this very day, cannot be taken seriously as a partner in peace.  If Abu Mazen ever becomes willing to drop his preconditions and return to the negotiating table, I believe that even Bibi Netanyahu is willing to agree to an amicable divorce between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples that will resolve the question of borders and Jerusalem once and for all.  However, like any party to a divorce, neither can nor should expect nor be expected to continue to be a major presence in the other’s day-to-day existence.

    Then again, 12M, if you believe that Palestinian land consists of everything between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, my guess is that you do not really care as much about a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and are simply hostile to the idea of a Jewish state in the region or anywhere.

  17. 12mileseastofTrenton

    After this, I don’t know why I bother responding to you, but I will.

    have definitely made negotiations with the Palestinians more complicated, but they are far less of an obstacle to peace than the Palestinian insistence to a right of return of Palestinians to Israel rather than a future Palestinian state.

    Israel is taking land that is part of any viable Palestinian state.  They are changing facts on the ground, which a demand of a right of a return does not.  To say the latter is a bigger obstacle to “peace,” i.e., a just settlement of the conflict, is not only wrong, it’s absurd on its face.

    Peace is not enough.  There must be peace as part of a just settlement.  The only peace the current Israeli government is interested in, is taking one piece after another of the west bank and Arab East Jerusalem.

    Finally, the settlements are illegal under the 1949 Geneva Convention.  Not to mention immoral under Jewish tradition.  But tell me again how the right of return is a bigger obstacle.

  18. 12mileseastofTrenton

    Biased?  ROTFL.  What can be more biased than following the AIPAC party line?

    Lack of education?  I dare say the I and other Jewish AIPAC opponents such as M.J. Rosenberg and Peter Beinart, are at least, if not more, educated on the subject than you are, including the “nuances.”  Which apparently include remaining silent in the face of violations of international law and denial of Palestinia human rights by Israel.  Which include taking American aid, adopting policies contrary to U.S. national interests, and smearing and disrespecting anyone who dares attempts to get them to change those policies.  Including the president of the United States.

  19. 12mileseastofTrenton

    The Land of Israel refererence is to the expansionist Likud ideology.  Which deems control of the west bank, and in its even more extreme form the east bank, of the Jordan Israel’s birthright.  Being as educated as you claim to be, I thought you would know that.

  20. Bertin Lefkovic

    …is the term that I am more familiar with and that may be the goal of a significant portion of the current governing coalition, which once again, was democratically-elected, primarily because far too many secular liberals in Tel Aviv bought into and gave primacy to Avigdor Liberman’s secular rights rhetoric, which has been proven to be just rhetoric, over Tzipi Livni’s efforts to advance the cause of peace.

    Elections have consequences and Israel’s last election may wind up having irreparable consequences just like the 2000 election did here in the United States when far too many liberals, particularly in states like Florida and New Hampshire, chose to help elect Dubya by voting for Ralph Nader.

    As much as you might like to, we cannot void the outcomes of elections in democratic states, particular those whose democracies are more dynamic and progressive than ours, just because we do not like those outcomes.  I would have preferred it if Israel had elected a more moderate governing coalition and hope that the center-left parties that are currently in a terrible state of disarray find some way to unite behind a single candidate to inspire the country to get the peace process back on track, but I don’t expect this to happen prior to their upcoming elections.

  21. Bertin Lefkovic

    …to Israel rather than a Palestinian state is a nonstarter.  It cannot be negotiated.  The Palestinians will either drop this demand or there will not be a settlement of any kind, just or otherwise.

    Conversely, if there is going to be a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, whatever facts on the ground that Israel creates through settlement expansion will require them to give up more uninhabited Israeli land or land that is inhabited by Israeli Arabs.  This can be negotiated.  This is why the right of return is a greater obstacle to peace than Israel’s settlement policies.

    As far as your claim that the settlements are illegal under the 1949 Geneva Convention, I believe that this refutes that claim sufficiently.  I do not agree with Israel’s past or present settlements policies, but at the same time, I do not believe that these policies should be the sole defining quality of the country.  This is an unfair standard by which no other democratic state is judged.

  22. Bertin Lefkovic

    This does not mean that you aren’t.  I was simply explaining why neither I nor Babs (at least in my estimation) were accusing you of being an anti-semite.  If that makes me sanctimonious, so be it.

    Neither you nor Peter Beinart nor M.J. Rosenberg have any clue about what the AIPAC party line is.  Most of the advocacy and organizing that AIPAC’s leaders, members, and professional focus upon is foreign aid and this advocacy is not limited to Israel’s portion of the foreign aid budget.

    When Egypt recently elected Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as its first democratically-elected President, there were many Republicans who wanted to eliminate the aid that Egypt receives as part of its peace treaty with Israel, but AIPAC was one of the loudest voices in opposition to this manuever, arguing that the only Egyptian action that would warrant the elimination of their aid would be if they were to cancel their peace treaty with Israel.  Maintaining Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, no matter how cold a peace it might be, through the continuation of the foreign aid that both countries receive is one of AIPAC’s highest priorities.

    Of course AIPAC and most of the organized Jewish community defends Israel against false charges of violating international law and Palestinian human rights.  However, they do not advocate for policies that are contrary to the national interests of the United States.  The secret to AIPAC’s success is the fact that the votes that their leaders, members, and professionals lobby for are amongst the easiest and most bipartisanly supported that Congresspersons and Senators have to cast, which is why it is so easy for so many of them to be considered “friends of Israel” or “potential friends of Israel”.

    AIPAC has what is called a “friendly incumbent” policy, which is why it is so rare for AIPAC’s leaders or members to organize against an incumbent.  Donald Payne Sr. had a very mixed record on issues of concern to AIPAC, yet his opponents were never supported by AIPAC leaders and members, and when Payne’s district had the opportunity to elect a much stronger friend in the form of Ron C. Rice, AIPAC’s leaders, members, and professionals were willing to talk with him, but did not get involved in the primary election in CD10, because they did not want to give whomever won that election a reason to be hostile towards AIPAC and Israel from day one.  Bill Pascrell, Jr. had a good record on AIPAC’s issues of concern, but Steve Rothman had a much better record.  Despite Rothman’s superiority on these issues, AIPAC remained neutral in their primary election.

    Even when VA Congressman James Moran blamed the Iraq War on Israel, his Jewish primary election opponent did not receive support from AIPAC.  For as long as I have been paying attention to these issues, the only two incumbents who have been targeted for defeat by AIPAC’s leaders and members have been Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney, who tried to actively organize the Congressional Black Caucus to vote as a monolithic bloc against Israel and used overtly anti-semitic language in their public statements about Israel.

    While it is unfortunate that Israeli PM Netanyahu tried to interject himself and Israel into this year’s Presidential elections and some of the more reactionary members of AIPAC’s leadership and membership said unkind and untrue things about President Obama, this is not the same as the organization as a whole or the organized Jewish community in its entirety disrespecting and smearing the President of the United States.

    You, Beinart, and Rosenberg can try to frame AIPAC and the organized Jewish community as a whole as a boogeyman if you want to, but as long as you continue to pursue this kind of rhetoric, you will continue to alienate progressive Jews like Babs and myself and divide the strength of the progressive community when it needs to be united now more than ever.

  23. 12mileseastofTrenton

    It’s the Israeli government’s actions, not whether they were elected, that is the issue.

  24. 12mileseastofTrenton

    Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly stipulates that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

    Israel occupied the west bank and east Jerusalem in 1967.  In the ensuing years, it has funded the construction of settlements on the occupied land to which its population have been encouraged, financially and otherwise, to move.  This is a clear violation of Article 49 that cannot be seriously disputed.  Unless you’re a biased partisan.  It has been repeatedly decribed as illegal by the UN security council and the International Court of Justice.

    Unfortunately to0 many Jews, in an out of Israel, have one standard for Israel and another for every other state or country.

  25. 12mileseastofTrenton

    More and more Jews, in and out of Israel, and progressives in the U.S. in general, are fed up with AIPAC and its allies enabling of illegal Israeli policies.  And its ability to prevent an American policy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is in the U.S.’s, and not Israel’s, best interests.  It was heartening to see that only 2/5 of Democrats supported, and over 1/3 opposed, Israeli’s latest military adventure.

    Not to mention they are fed up with AIPAC and its right-wing allies policy of smearing into silence anyone who dares criticize Israeli policies.  Not to mention the virtual media and congressional silence on how powerful AIPAC is.  The NRA if fair game, as it should be.  But AIPAC is virtually sacrosanct.

  26. Bertin Lefkovic

    If we believe that the democratic process is something of value and preferable to authoritarianism, totalitarianism, or dictatorship, then regardless of whether we agree or disagree with a government’s actions, we have to recognize the degree to which those actions are a function of its democratic process and the fact that elections have consequences.

    If you would have the United States use its power, economic, military, or otherwise to compel a democratic state to do what its democratically-elected government would not do otherwise, then we might as well give up on the concepts of democracy and sovereignty altogether and have the United States be in charge of the entire world, because we have such a great track record of electing the right people and doing the right thing all of the time.

    I hope that the center-left parties in Israel find some way to unite behind Tzipi Livni between now and the January elections so that a more moderate government can be elected going forward that will recognize the fact that the threat of further settlement construction is not an effective lever to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, just as I hope that Abu Mazen will recognize the fact that his efforts to bring international pressure to bear on the State of Israel is not an effective lever to get it to change its settlement policies and return to the negotiating table without preconditions as a negotiated resolution to the conflict is the only path that will yield his people an independent Palestinian state in our lifetime.

  27. Bertin Lefkovic

    …can disagree about the applicability and validity of all laws, international, national, state, local, and otherwise.  Just as many Jews and non-Jews are willing and able to take a broader and deeper look at Israel and not judge them solely on their settlement policies, there are also Jews and non-Jews who feel as you do that it is the only issue worth talking about.  If there is anything that both sides of this issue are rife with, it is double standards.

    I think that you and I can agree that Israel’s settlement policies are problematic for Israel as much as the Palestinians, but the fact of the matter is that the only way that a two-state solution can be achieved is through negotiations and if those negotiations are successful in producing an independent Palestinian state, the borders of that state and the State of Israel will be a product of mutually agreed upon land swaps.

    This is why plans or threats of settlement construction or even actual settlement construction should not be the be-all or end-all of any conversation about Israel, because if the Palestinians are willing to return to the negotiating table, one way or another, they will be made whole.  

    However, a Palestinian right of return to Israel is not something that can ever be negotiated.  The Palestinians can either have an independent state for Palestinians or they can have the status quo.  They cannot have two Palestinian states.  Any argument for a Palestinian right of return is as counterproductive and unreasonable as the idea of a Greater Israel that would transfer all or most Arabs and Muslims between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or any other Arabic country that would take them.

  28. Bertin Lefkovic

    Please tell me how AIPAC’s efforts to maintain the American-Israeli relationship, which is one of the few things that most Democratic and Republican electeds can agree upon, are comparable to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in our country that the NRA has not only enabled, but wholeheartedly supported.

    Reasonable people can disagree about how Israel chooses to defend its people and respond to the rocket attacks that are launched at them, just as reasonable people can disagree with the degree to which Israel’s settlement policies should define the country as a whole.

    I don’t think that AIPAC or any other similarly grassroots political organization should be free from criticism, as reasonable people can disagree about the merits of the policies for which it advocates, but I do think that the degree to which it is framed as some kind of anti-democratic all-powerful boogeyman that forces our elected officials to take positions that they would not otherwise take out of fear of what Jewish money might do to their ability to get re-elected is both inappropriate and insensitive, particularly considering the history of anti-semitic blood libels like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    If AIPAC were advocating for something as truly unpopular and antithetical to the best interests of our country as what the NRA advocates, we would see that it is not nearly as powerful as you and others like you, 12M, would have people believe.

  29. 12mileseastofTrenton

    Yes.  And so do actions by the governments that are elected.  As long as Israel continues to violate international law by illegally settling occupied territory, it should be subject to greater and greater sanction and isolation by the international community.  Until it changes its behavior.

  30. 12mileseastofTrenton

    I guess that is as far as I can expect you to go.  But it is far more than problematic.  It is illegal and immoral.  And by failing to speak out against it, you, and others, are, by your silence enabling it.

    The right of return most certainly can be a bargaining chip.  In the meantime, it is assumed that some of the illegal settlements will remain in any final agreement.  So, tell me again which one is more “problematic.”

  31. 12mileseastofTrenton

    are both powerful lobbies preventing common sense and needed changes to U.S. public policy.  The policies are different, but the results are the same.

    And don’t play the Protocols card.  It is a fact that AIPAC,, the Israeli lobby, whatever you want to call it, has a disproportionate impact on U.S. mideast policy.  If it didn’t, we wouldn’t see the U.S. continually bailing out Israel in votes in the UN and elsewhere.  We wouldn’t see the Israeli government blatanting flouting the expressed wishes and desires of the current administration.  Without consequence, considering the billions of military and non-military aid we give them each year.  And we would see the U.S. as a true mediator in the effort to reach a just settlement of the I/P dispute.

    These are facts, not myth, libel or scapegoating.  

  32. Bertin Lefkovic

    …clearly disagrees with you, because despite all of its condemnations and criticisms of Israel’s settlement policies, it still agrees with the United States that this is a conflict that will be decided at the negotiating table, not by the members of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

    As I have said on numerous occasions, reasonable people can disagree about the degree to which Israel’s settlement policies should define it as a country and the fact that the United States and the rest of the world continues to do business with Israel tells me that while the condemnations and criticisms will continue, this issue will ultimately be one that will be resolved through negotiation, not international pressure.

  33. Bertin Lefkovic

    Have you ever spoken out against the immorality of the way that Jewish communities throughout the Arabic world were driven out of their communities and homes shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel without any compensation for their losses whatsoever?  I seriously doubt it.

    Unless you are willing to advocate for a just settlement of Jewish losses as fervently as you advocate for Palestinian losses, then you are nothing more than a hypocrite who is as biased as I am if not moreso.  At least I recognize the fact that Israel’s settlement policies are problematic and unwise for everyone involved.  The difference is that I can look at an otherwise progressive country like Israel and recognize both its good and bad qualities, while your bias is so profound that its good qualities are completely irrelevant to you.

    The Palestinian right of return is a nonstarter.  It is not a bargaining chip, because giving it up will not net the Palestinians anything more than Israel is already willing to give up, but it represents the difference between a negotiated settlement and the status quo.  Conversely, whatever settlements Israel retains will be part of the mutually agreed upon land swaps for uninhabited Israeli land or Israeli land that is inhabited primarily by Israeli Arabs.  It is only an obstacle to peace to the degree that the Palestinians continue to hold on to their preconditions for restarting negotiations.

  34. Bertin Lefkovic

    Considering what we have seen of late between rocket attacks from Gaza, which have absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank, and insane people killing children in classrooms with assault weapons, it is undoubtedly a blood libel to say that the results of the policies for which AIPAC and the NRA advocate are the same.  The policies for which AIPAC advocates has not produced  any death and destruction in this country or anywhere else, much less the kind of death and destruction that our country has experienced through gun violence and to even speak of the two organizations in the same breath just shows how truly biased, unbalanced, unhinged, and unreasonable that you are, 12M.

    You write that AIPAC has a disproportionate impact on U.S. Mideast policy, but I challenge you to identify the elected officials in either the House or the Senate who would not lend their signature to letters or vote the way that they do if AIPAC did not exist.  Bill Pascrell, Jr. is a perfect example of a Congressman who does not always do what the AIPAC members and leaders in his district ask him to do, but when he was faced with a primary challenge against Steve Rothman, whose record on these issues was far stronger, AIPAC remained neutral despite the requests of local members and leaders to take sides.  AIPAC also did not get involved in the CD10 primary election despite the fact that Ron C. Rice was far and away the strongest candidate on AIPAC’s issues of concern.

    So explain to me again how AIPAC has a disproportionate impact on U.S. mideast policy?  If anything, AIPAC emboldens and reinforces the direction that American policymakers are already inclined to go.  This is exactly where AIPAC and the NRA are very different.  If there was no NRA, the assault weapons ban would never have expired, there would be no gun show loophole, and there would be no debate about banning ammo clips larger than 10 bullets.

    I think that a majority of the Congresspersons and Senators agree with both you, 12M, President Obama, and I that Israel’s settlement policies are problematic both for Israel and the Palestinians and have said as much by signing letters and voting for non-binding resolutions to this effect, but the reason that the aid that Israel receives from the United States is not going to be threatened as a means by which to get Israel to change these policies is because this aid is directly linked to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was negotiated by President Carter and signed by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat and has nothing to do with Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians and to suddenly link that which has never been linked just because you want them to is not going to happen.

    It is not going to happen, not because of AIPAC, but because it would be a terrible precedent for our country to set, particularly with regards to the United States being able to serve as the honest broker that it has always been, whether it has been between Israel and Egypt, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Israel and the Palestinians.  How could any country trust our willingness and ability to be fair going forward if we arbitrarily chose a singular unpopular policy that a country who was a party to a treaty that we negotiated refused to change, because its democratically-elected government was unwilling or unable to do so for political or other reasons, as justification to violate the terms of that treaty.

    Our diplomatic strength is measured by the degree to which the countries of the world trust us to be fair, even in the face of the ever-changing winds of popularity.  At the moment, Israel’s settlement policies are more unpopular than the rocket attacks that come from Gaza, but that may not always be so.  The United States would probably make a lot of people happy if it threatened to cut Israel’s aid if it did not cease settlement construction plans or threats, but if it did that, the next time that the United States is called upon to mediate the resolution of a conflict, both parties to that conflict are going to have to think much longer and harder about whether or not we can be trusted to honor the terms of that agreement and may be less inclined to come to an agreement as a result.

    Israel is one of our country’s closest allies, it is the only real democracy in their region, and it has possibly the most dynamic and progressive democracy in the world.  They do not blatantly flout the expressed desires and wishes of the current administration.  It considers the advice and counsel of its most important ally and sometimes acts in accordance with that advice and counsel and sometimes does not as friends often do.  We do not make demands, we do not make threats, and we do not go back on our agreements.

    The only reason that the United States has to “bail out” Israel in the UN and elsewhere is because of the degree to which our international institutions have become dominated by non-Western dictatorships rather than Western democracies.  This has more to do with the growing strength of China and Russia and the collective power of oil-producing countries than Israel’s behavior, negative or positive.

    You might think that Israel’s settlement policies place it amongst the worst human rights violators in the history of the world, but that is because you are completely biased, unbalanced, unhinged, and unreasonable.  The fact of the matter is that regardless of Israel’s settlement policies, the second-class status of Israeli Arabs, the third-class status of Palestinians in the West Bank, and the fourth-class status of Palestinians in Gaza, these people still have a much better standard of living than most non-royalty Arabs throughout the region and possibly the world.  If you were capable of taking a balanced look at both the negative and the positive aspects of Israeli behavior, you would see that it is a far better public citizen than many, if not most, if not all of the countries who routinely vote against them in the UN.

    AIPAC is an effective grassroots political organization and the secret of its effectiveness is that its advocacy is in line with the point of view of most Democrats and Republicans except the now-retired Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul extreme left and right wings of these political parties.  So if you want to stand with a perspective that is becoming extinct, that is your business, 12M.  I think that you would be better off getting a clue and a grip and focusing on the education issues where you have some degree of standing and your opinion carries with it a significant amount of gravitas and merit.

  35. 12mileseastofTrenton

    I guess you missed the UN vote where the US stood virtually alone in voting against an upgrade in Palestine’s status.  Or movement within the EU to sanction Israel for its decision to build in E1.  Which is not only illegal, but which would basically kill the two state solution.

  36. 12mileseastofTrenton

    How about if AIPAC disbands itself, and let’s see how members of congress would vote?  You would think that members of congress were devoted followers of Jabotinsky if you judged them by their votes, statements and reaction to Netanyahu after he insulted Obama and then spoke before them.

    AIPAC and the NRA are similar in the influence they have, not in the results they seek.  But, unlike the NRA, AIPAC’s influence is becoming more and more self-defeating.  As Tom Friedman points out:

    this Israeli government is so spoiled and has shifted so far to the right that it makes no effort to take U.S. interests into account by slowing its self-isolating settlement adventure. And it’s going to get worse. . . . The only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth. But most U.S. senators, policy makers and Jews prefer to stick their heads in the sand, because confronting Israel is so unpleasant and politically dangerous.


    You throw up the hoary argument that because there are worse human violations in the world, the world should pay no attention to Israel’s actions in the west bank and East Jerusalem.  Which is like saying a policeman should not arrest someone committing a burglary in Newark because someone is getting away with murder in Atlantic City.  In other words, there is no merit to the argument.  Moreover, siince the US is giving billions in aid each year to Israel, and not other countries committing worse human riights violations, the US has more reason than others for demanding that Israel not violate international law and its commitments to the US, and not by its actions make a just settlement of the dispute more difficult.

    Finally, you attitude towards the Palestinians is insultingly paternalistic, and your description of Israel as the only real democracy in the middle east is outdated in light of elections in Egypt and elsewhere

  37. 12mileseastofTrenton

    I have condemned policies by Arab nations that drove Jews from their country.  And, in point of fact, I am not advocating for a right of Palestinian return, despite the double standard that a Jew who lived in Brooklyn all of his life has a right of return, but a Palestinian who lived in Palestine until 1948 does not.

    Will you condemn Israel’s colonization of the west bank as illegal and immoral?

  38. Bertin Lefkovic

    Neither the U.S. nor Israel fought the effort this year the way that they did last year, because it was determined by both to cost more in political capital than fighting it was worth, considering the fact that the status upgrade is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  The EU is not going to sanction Israel for building in E1, which is more bluster than anything and would not kill anything even if it ever actually happened, when they took forever to get on board with Iran sanctions.  Even they are unwilling to deal with a blowback from a double standard like that.

    As much as you would like to have everyone believe that settlement construction is the moral equivalent to the mass murder that Syria is currently inflicting on its own people, the fact of the matter is that it is more akin to gentrification.  And when the United States and Europe have the amount of blood on their hands that they do from the displacement and mass murder of indigenous peoples that they have in their respective histories, they do not have the moral standing to indict Israel for something that is admittedly problematic, but pales in comparison.

    This is why the only way that this situation will be resolved is through negotiations and why the Palestinians must drop their preconditions and come back to the bargaining table.  I agree with both Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street and Alan Dershowitz who are finally on the same page with regards to the Palestinians dropping their preconditions and Israel agreeing to freeze settlement construction once negotiations begin and maintaining a freeze for the duration of those negotiations.  However, these are decisions that must be made by Israelis and Palestinians and not anyone else, including you, 12M, me, Ben Ami, Dershowitz, or the international community.

  39. Bertin Lefkovic

    As I have said before, I disagree with Israel’s settlement policies and view them as problematic as much for Israel as the Palestinians, but I do not think that they are illegal, particularly under international law, which has limited jurisdiction here due to the nature of the dispute.  As far as their morality is concerned, it pales in comparison to so much of what human history has exhibited in terms of man’s inhumanity to man.  I have a hard time assigning absolutist labels like moral and immoral to human behavior.

    If anything, it is easier to judge human behavior on a continuum and while you would probably equate Israel’s settlement policies to the mass murder that Syria is committing right now, I would equate it more to the problem of gentrification, although in some ways, gentrification is worse, because there is no mechanism for the victims of gentrification to be made whole.  Palestinians at the very least will be the beneficiary of mutually agreed upon land swaps if they ever drop their preconditions and return to the negotiating table.  

  40. Bertin Lefkovic

    …do not equal democracy.  I think that the liberal, moderate, and secular groups that are fighting and protesting in the streets of Cairo and elsewhere have realized that very quickly and are regretting their prior willingness to stand alongside the Muslim Brotherhood and if they have not already discovered this, will soon discover that they would have been better off remaining under Mubarak’s governance than Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s.  It remains to be seen whether Libya and other places that are on the path to democracy will devolve to the degree that Egypt has.  I hope not.

    While Friedman’s assessment is correct for the most part, I disagree with what he writes about confronting Israel being politically dangerous as we have seen firsthand here in NJ two examples of that not being the case from what went down this year in the CD9 and CD10 primary elections.  If AIPAC was as all-powerful and monolithic as you would have us believe, Ron Rice and Steve Rothman would be in Congress next year instead of Donald Payne Jr. and Bill Pascrell, Jr.

    Conversely, anyone who remembers the gubernatorial election between Jim Florio and Christine Todd Whitman knows that the NRA far more invested in defeating Florio than even the anti-tax groups.  When it comes to control over our government and the ability to target large numbers of electeds for defeat, the NRA is far more powerful than AIPAC and more akin to Wall Street in terms of pure power.

    AIPAC’s strength primarily comes from the fact that it does not ask electeds to vote much differently if at all than they would otherwise, but it is also a very effective grassroots organization that is capable of mobilizing its leaders and members to advocate for its issues agenda when necessary.  If only the progressive community was as effective in its organization and ability to mobilize its members, but where the prosperity and survival of Israel is life and death to AIPAC’s leaders and members, the commitment and dedication of the leaders and members of the progressive community is inconsistent at best.  For far too many, being progressive is a pose that is taken out of a desire to feel or be perceived as such and the degree to which people are actually willing to do anything on behalf of the issues that they claim to care about is limited.

    I have never said that people should pay no attention to Israel’s actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  All I ask is that these actions be placed in their proper perspective.  You would have the United States violate the treaty that it negotiated between Israel and Egypt just so it could stop a sovereign democracy from doing something that you do not want them to do when the best and only real solution to this dispute can be found at the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians themselves.  External pressure in this situation is neither appropriate nor necessary.

    Israel may be on the path to national suicide as Friedman argues, but the path is still a long one and there is still time and plenty of opportunities for Israelis and Israelis alone to change the path that their country is on, and in the same way that there is only so much that a friend can and should do to prevent a friend from committing suicide, there is only so much that can and should be done by the United States to help them and the fact of the matter is that if we look at the dysfunctional state of our government and the degree to which money controls its actions, the United States is probably more in danger of committing suicide than Israel with much further reaching and greater consequences to the entire world.

  41. 12mileseastofTrenton

    Throwing in Syria out of left field?

    Gentrification is worse than illegally colonizing someone’s land and giving them some desert in return?  There’s an important distinction:  gentrification is legal, what Israel is doing is not.

    That you can’t bring yourself to condemn Israel’s actions just shows how morally bankrupt the party liners have become.

  42. 12mileseastofTrenton

    against the lobby.  Change is in the air.

    I think it is time to acknowledge, bluntly, that certain major Jewish organizations, indeed, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations-also, the ADL, AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, political groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition, along with their various columnists, pundits, and list-serves-are among the most consistent purveyors of McCarthyite-style outrages in America today. Are there greater serial defamers of public officials in fake campaigns against defamation? Starting with Andrew Young and the late Charles Percy, and on to Chas Freeman and (now) Chuck Hagel, the game has been to keep Congresspeople and civil servants who might be skeptical of Israel’s occupation and apologetics in a posture that can only be called exaggerated tact.


    Intimidated by pro-settler zealots, right-wing donors and those who liken the slightest criticism of Israeli policy to Israel-bashing (or even anti-Semitism), pro-Israel leaders are increasingly allowing the fringes of their movement to set the pro-Israel agenda in Washington.

    With wealthy, far-right contributors calling the shots, Jewish groups are constantly lowering the bar for what is considered “Israel-bashing,” risking turning supporters of the Jewish state into adversaries simply because they do not support the ideology of the current Israeli government.


  43. Bertin Lefkovic

    The fact that something as insidious as gentrification is legal proves how ridiculous it is to frame a debate like this in terms of illegal and legal as well as moral and immoral.  I think that we can agree the Israel’s settlement policies are wrong, both for Israel and for the Palestinians.

    Where we disagree is whether Israel deserves to become a pariah state over them or not, especially when the Palestinians are as much to blame for the status quo if not moreso as Israel, because of their unwillingness to accept the best offer that they will ever get in all of our lifetimes back in 2000 and the preconditions that are preventing them from returning to the negotiating table now.

    I am measured in my “condemnation” of Israel’s actions, because I am capable of looking at the country as a whole and I know that all of its good qualities far outweigh its bad ones.  You are free to fixate on a singular policy when you decide to serve as judge, jury, and executioner of a democratic, progressive, and sovereign state if it makes you feel good about yourself, but I think that it just makes you narrow-minded and obtuse.

  44. Bertin Lefkovic

    …is in the eye of the beholder.

    Anyone who would lump ADL, AIPAC, AJC, and the Republican Jewish Coalition into the same conversation doesn’t have a clue as to what they are talking or writing about.  The RJC, just like the NJDC is all about fighting for Jewish votes and it will take any position that it thinks will accomplish this.  The other organizations have very different agendas and while advocating for Israel is something that they have in common, how each do it is very different.

    What makes ADL and AJC particularly interesting is that both have visibly and vocally criticized the Israeli government when its actions have come into conflict with their respective agendas, particularly in the areas of religious pluralism.  Even AIPAC’s leadership and professional staff have admonished Bibi Netanyahu and members of his party/government, when they have crossed the line with regards to their rapport with President Obama.

    The organized Jewish community is a mosaic (not a monolith) of disparate and divergent perspectives on a wide array of issues and while the agendas of some organizations overlap and are in sync with one another at times, usually times of crisis, more often than not, they do their own thing.  A common joke about Jews is that anytime you have two of us in a room, you have three opinions.  It is borderline miraculous that we are as effective as we are in achieving many if not most if not all of our goals and objectives when we are doing so many different things in so many different ways.

    People like Andrew Young and Chuck Hagel do not get targeted for criticism because of mere skepticism regarding Israel’s settlement policies, because a significant percentage of the Jewish community is more than merely skeptical of these policies.  However, where an otherwise diverse and divergent community often finds itself unified is when individuals thoughlessly indict Israel and its people as a whole because of singular actions of its government, ignoring all of their good qualities that make it what it is or when the organized Jewish community as a whole is charactured as a monolithic boogeyman that is both capable of and desirous to stifling debate to the degree to which authors like these would have us believe.  Being people who live for debate and discussion as anyone who actually knows one of us would know, all we ask for is fairness.

    That said, my feelings about Hagel have been mixed.  I like the fact that he was the lone Republican who never bought into the neo-con hype.  However, referring to AIPAC as “the Jewish lobby” instead of “the Israel lobby”, which is not entirely accurate or fair, but is more tolerable than the former, raises a red flag about someone’s attitude towards the American-Jewish community and the degree to which we should be allowed to organize on behalf of our issues of concern.

    That said, while I do not think that Hagel is the ideal candidate for Secretary of Defense, I am less concerned about his perspective regarding the Jewish community and Israel negatively impacting the military and security cooperation between the United States and Israel, which in my opinion has far overshadowed the rhetorical glitches that have come out of the White House, mostly due to Rahm Emanuel’s arrogance than any real ideological issues, than I am about his attitudes towards the LGBT community and the degree to which these attitudes could negatively impact the military’s ongoing transition away from its former Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

    Even if it isn’t likely that Hagel’s past indiscretions with the Jewish and LGBT communities will negatively impact his performance as Secretary of Defense, I do not think that his candidacy is worth fighting for and expending political capital that would be better dedicated towards more important and pressing matters that President Obama and his administration are going to be dealing with in the weeks and months to come, especially when there are other, even better candidates for the job like former Congresswoman Jane Harman, who would be the first female Secretary of Defense in the history of our country, and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, both of whom would be confirmed quite easily.


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