Senator Schumer’s decision to go against a Democratic President and oppose the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by former Senator John Kerry, whose father was Jewish, raises questions about the loyalty of some Jews to the United States. Schumer is joined in opposition by Representative Steve Israel, the most senior Jewish Democrat in the House. Do they oppose the deal because it is bad for the US, or because Bibi Netanyahu says it is bad for Israel? Do they believe that Netanyahu is smarter than Obama, or that Israel’s survival is more important than America’s? They have very Jewish constituencies and may be representing their constituents’ interests, but that would raise the broader question of whether Jews in general are more loyal to Israel than to the US.
On the other hand, Jewish Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Sander Levin have said that they will support the Iran agreement, making it clear that Jews are not a monolithic group any more than Christians, blacks, or any other ethnic or religious group. But there are deep undertones of racial and religious bias, highlighted first by Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to give a speech to the Congress that vehemently attacked President Obama. The fact that a foreign country that calls itself a Jewish nation has become so deeply involved in American politics illustrates the extreme involvement of Jewish interests. Presidential candidate Huckabee, a Christian, joined in by likening the agreement to the beginning of the World War II Holocaust. Speaker Boehner’s actions have also inserted greater ethnic, religious tensions into this debate.
In addition there are dueling Jewish lobbies, AIPAC and J-Street. AIPAC supports Bibi Netanyahu and the right-wing, hawkish, Likud party, while J-Street supports more liberal, less hawkish Jews. Israel seems to be somewhat evenly split between hawks and doves, but AIPAC is much stronger in the US than J-Street. In addition, many Gentile politicians, like Huckabee, support AIPAC, some out of principle, many because AIPAC contributes so much money to political campaigns. In addition to AIPAC, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has contributed millions to politicians who support Israel’s hawkish views.
The NYT reports that Obama has been angered by the AIPAC onslaught against the Iran deal, often making arguments that do not portray the deal correctly. I think Obama has been remarkable in dealing with religious prejudice. When he was campaigning for President the first time, Christians attacked him for the Christian church he attended. He basically gave up his church because of a few inflammatory things his pastor had said. I was appalled that Christians would drive a Christian out of a Christian church, but they did. Now, the Jews have launched a full scale attack on him. He is replying by making factual arguments, not resorting to ad hominem attacks. The Jews seem confident that they can withstand any attacks by waving the Holocaust card, and perhaps they can.
To me it seems ironic that, while the Iran nuclear deal will benefit the whole world, the biggest beneficiary may well be Israel, if indeed Israel is at the top of list of countries that Iran would like to attack. The deal makes it much less likely that Israel will be attacked with a nuclear weapon. It gives Israel and the rest of the world a ten year cushion to figure out what to do next.