At last the leaders of the Democratic Party have moved decisively, hauling out their ripest comminations and hurling them at–no, not at George Bush. The man at whom they’re leveling their fire is Representative James Moran of Virginia. Moran’s in hot water over his head for having remarked in a March 3 town hall session with his constituents that, as quoted in the Virginia-area Connection newspapers, “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”
The House and Senate Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle, have denounced Moran’s remarks, and six Jewish House Democrats have taken it upon themselves to advise Moran that he not seek re-election in 2004. Should he do so, “we cannot and will not support his candidacy.” The game plan is clearly what it was with Hilliard of Alabama and McKinney of Georgia, both evicted from Congress last year as conspicuous acts of retribution against critics of Israel: Breathe a word about justice for Palestinians, and you’ll lose your seat. Moran says he’ll certainly run again, and the decision will belong to the voters of his district.
One reason Moran is getting whacked so hysterically is that Jewish nerves are raw on precisely the point he raised, the role of Jewish opinion here in pressing for the attack on Iraq. It’s one thing for Pat Buchanan to raise the issue of dual loyalty in The American Conservative (as he has just done), but when Tim Russert starts pressing Richard Perle to assure us that he’s advocating an attack on Iraq in the interests of the United States, not some other power, we know it’s perched squarely on the front burner.
Suddenly researchers from Nightline (one called me on the matter) and other mainstream outfits are rushing for copies of “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the 1996 briefing plan for Benjamin Netanyahu prepared by such pro-Israel hawks as Perle, Douglas Feith and others now high in the Bush Administration, advocating attack on Iraq.
It’s now OK for reporters (Robert Kaiser in the Washington Post, for example) to describe the Jewish neocon lobby for war, starting with Perle, Wolfowitz and Feith, and heading on down the list to Elliott Abrams, now running the Israel-Palestine portfolio at the National Security Council. The op-ed pages are beginning to vibrate with predictable charges from people like Lawrence Kaplan of The New Republic that all this talk of dual loyalty and Israel’s agenda is nothing but rank anti-Semitism.
Moran is plummeting in the familiar downward spiral of contrition and self-abasement. But does his remark about “strong support” for attack on Iraq in the Jewish community have any basis in reality? What about American Jewish organizations?
Last fall the Forward reported that some Jewish groups, such as the Workmen’s Circle, were angry at the way the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations had been hijacked by the prowar faction and by its president, Mort Zuckerman, who was openly howling for war in his own publication, U.S. News & World Report, as “the only appropriate and acceptable course.” In mid-September Michelle Goldberg began a piece on this topic in Salon with “Once a pillar of the American peace movement, mainstream Jewish groups and leaders are now among the strongest supporters of an American invasion of Baghdad.”