A Tangled Web

Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson speaks at the Global Gaming Expo, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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As I noted over the weekend, the chorus of people denouncing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech stunt has continued to grow, now stretching into the most establishment figures of American Jewry and even from many who have in the past been friendly and reflexively supportive of Netanyahu. Abe Foxman, head of the ADL is the most prominent, most recent example. But the counter-attack is coming, despite limited support for the speech within the American Jewish community or anywhere else except among extreme Republican partisans. (Now even Tucker Carlson has joined the anti-Dermer chorus.)

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has been around since 1985. But in its current, more amply funded form, it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sheldon Adelson, who is both a major funder of Republicans in the US and – amazing how these things work – the de facto primary money backer of Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel. Adelson is in many ways the thread, the monetary backer, who weaves together the entire drama of bad-acting and partisan connivance behind the Netanyahu speech stunt. Remember, the first major controversy with Ron Dermer – the former Republican political operative turned Israeli Ambassador – came when he attended the RJC Republican presidential candidate cattle call as a featured speaker.

As one of my favorites, J.J. Goldberg, put it acidly and hilariously last March, “Amid mounting alarm that anti-Semitism is on the rise in key spots around the globe — and fears that Israel could be a prime target — a prominent Republican group has come up with a unique approach to fighting back: gather a bunch of Jewish zillionaires at a casino in Las Vegas, announce plans to buy the White House in 2016 and invite leading politicians to come, hat in hand, and beg for permission to be the candidate.”

Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition

The RJC’s executive director is Matt Brooks. And in keeping with the thrust of the Netanyahu-Boehner pact, Brooks is now stepping in to exploit the speech controversy to further use Jews and Israel as a partisan wedge in US politics. Brooks is apparently planning a major ad campaign to do just that. “We will commit whatever resources we need,” said Brooks, “to make sure that people are aware of the facts, that given the choice to stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu in opposition to a nuclear Iran, they chose partisan interests and to stand with President Obama.” Or, as Brooks put it even more rankly on twitter, the campaign he will run on Adelson’s behalf will announce that “Dems have a choice- stand w/PM Netanyahu and the Jewish com against Iran or w/Pres Obama.”

So you can stand with Netanyahu and “the Jewish community” or you can stand with President Obama. So this is a betrayal of the American Jewish community spearheaded by the leader of the Anti-Defamation League, virtually every Jewish lawmaker in Congress, the leader of Reform Judaism and various other Jewish turncoats unnamed.

One more hilarious sidenote. The Zionist Organization of America is a far-right group headed by a guy named Morton Klein. Despite what its title might suggest it is not the American branch of the World Zionist Organization, the flagship entity of the world Zionist movement. Unsurprisingly, it gets the lion-share of its money from Sheldon Adelson. This morning, the ZOA put out a press release under the headline “ZOA Criticizes Reform Judaism’s Jacobs, AIPAC, AJC, ADL, J St., and Other Groups.” To decode some of those acronyms, that’s the AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League. With the exception of J Street that’s basically the full spectrum of right-leaning and/or mainstream institutional Judaism in the United States. (J Street is more clearly on the left and for that reason more frequently locks horns with the likes of the ZOA.) Everyone is against the Jews!!!

For anyone back on planet earth it seems clear at this point that if Netanyahu could go back and make the speech not happen he would. But avoiding damage to the US-Israel alliance and not driving divisions within American Jewry would come at the expense of a defining show of weakness for Netanyahu ahead of the March elections in Israel. And that cannot happen. This morning the Prime Minister’s office went so far as to specifically deny a Reuters report that Netanyahu is considering canceling the piece.

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