Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On colonialism, AIPAC, and J Street

For a while I've been arguing that AIPAC is not about representing Jews to the American elite but about representing the American elite to the Jews. To gain access to power, it was necessary to assimilate to the thinking of the powerful, which fundamentally constrained the way a Jewish organization could operate in Washington. If AIPAC is hawkish, it is not because this is the habit of American Jews but because that is the habit of American foreign policy inevitably arising from America's position as a superpower.

There's something like that idea here (via):
YOU CAN SAY that AIPAC was misguided, that it's even become a pernicious force, but you can't deny that it got its strategic premises ordered properly. One cannot just assume that the Congress will care what Jews want. One has to start with America's foreign policy strategy and then apply its logic to the Middle East. Crucially, this means building coalitions with non-Jews as well, as any watcher of FOX News can see.
Quite right that we can't assume Congress cares what Jews want. Here's where I disagree with Avishai: The root of the problem is that American Jews need to be represented to the American elite because there is otherwise no concern for Jewish interests. Even though my views are more in line with J Street than AIPAC, it's that subordinate position that I think progressives ought to challenge.

When Congress genuinely cares about what American Jews want, because it is right that Congress should, then this argument (which has been particularly awkward on Jeffrey Goldberg's pages lately) will go away.

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