Pretty hysterical irony. Gawker reported Jan. 24 that New York's newly elected populist Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a private speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) the night before, behind closed doors at Manhattan's Hilton hotel—and that a reporter from Capital New York who managed to infiltrate the event was ejected by security, although not before recording audio in which the mayor can be heard hailing fealty to Israel as "elemental to being an American" because the US has "no greater ally on earth." The New York Times wrote that the affair "led to questions…about the transparency of his young administration, especially given his repeated pledges during last year's campaign to oversee a more open and inclusive City Hall than that of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg." And it's doubly unbecoming given how de Blaz played to a very different crowd on the campaign trail, even citing The Autobiography of Malcom X as his favorite book! (See NYT, Oct. 8)
Now, ritual obeisance to AIPAC is of course de rigueur in US politics, and expressions of unswerving loyalty to Israel especially so in New York City. But even from a purely tactical standpoint, what an incredible faux-pas to try to keep this little meeting on the QT. It makes de Blasio look two-faced, and plays into the worst stereotypes about Jews. Bad all around.
A special irony is that the right wing baselessly baited de Blaz as an anti-Semite when he was campaigning back in the fall. The always problematic Ronald Radosh ran a piece in the New York Post on Oct. 3. "No way de Blasio missed Sandinistas' anti-Semitism," capitalizing on Bill's youthful days as a solidarity brigadista in revolutionary Nicaragua. Radosh cites every apocryphal account of Sandinista anti-Semitism he could dredge up. This was echoing similar verbiage that Republican challenger Joseph Lhota had already hurled at de Blasio (see Politico, Sept. 24). De Blasio's alma mater from those days, the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, is still around, and responded to the brouhaha in a special edition of its Weekly News Update on the Americas Sept. 30. It refutes the claim that Nicaragua's Jews fled persecution under the Sandinistas, citing the work of Robert Siegel, who investigated the issue while working with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting in the 1980s.
"This lie originated at a spring 1983 meeting in Coral Gables, Florida, attend[ed] by contra leader Edgar Chamorro and three CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] agents," Siegel wrote. "The CIA plan called for inviting two Jewish exiles from Nicaragua, Abraham Gorn and Isaac Stavisky, to the White House to denounce the Sandinistas for persecuting them." The three CIA agents at the meeting "knew full well" that Gorn and Stavisky left Nicaragua because they were allies of the 1937-1979 Somoza family dictatorship, "not because they were victims of anti-Semitism." According to Siegel, "the CIA agents said to Chamorro: 'The American media is controlled by Jews, and if we could show that Jews are being persecuted in Nicaragua, it would help a lot.'"
As Weekly News Update rhetorically asked, "Who were the real anti-Semites?" (The media-is-controlled-by-Jews quip apparently comes from Edgar Chamorro's own account of the meeting, as quoted in the book Washington's War on Nicaragua by Holly Sklar.)
When Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega returned to Nicaragua's presidency in 2006, we noted that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (supposedly an objective news service) wasted not a minute in uncritically resurrecting the dubious charges of Sandinista anti-Semitism. Another cute irony is that at the same time the Reagan-Bush White House was attempting to destabilize revolutionary Nicaragua in the '80s, it was massively backing the blood-drenched junta and subsequent "elected" right-wing governments in El Salvador—where the fascistic military officers of course saw guerilla subversion as a Jewish plot. Maj. Roberto D'Aubuisson, trained at the US Army's School of the Americas and later named by El Salvador's Truth Commission as likely mastermind of the death squad that assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, told German reporters in 1980: "You Europeans had the right idea. You saw the Jews were behind Communism and started to kill them." (Also quoted in Sklar's book)
Such uncomfortable realities are relegated to an Orwellian Memory Hole by neoconservative anti-communist mouthpieces like Radosh, who would portray anti-Semitism as fundamentally a phenomenon of the left.
Of course countering all this jive would be a whole hell of a lot easier if so many contemporary "leftists" weren't actually spewing anti-Semitic malarky. But even when they do so, it is usually because they have paradoxically internalized right-wing perspectives. MondoWeiss, a supposedly leftist anti-Zionist blog (whose flirtation with the right we have called out again and again and again and again), trumpets the comments of Andrew Sullivan—who notes l'affaire de Blasio not by decrying that it played into "ancient anti-Semitic tropes," but by taking undisguised glee that such are vindicated! Sullivan gripes:
"No greater ally on earth".
Just ponder that remark for a bit. How many troops did Israel send to fight with Americans in Iraq? None. Forty other countries did, led by the UK, Australia, and Poland. How many troops did Israel send to fight with Americans in Afghanistan? None. Fifty-nine other countries helped, also led by the UK. In both cases, this "greatest ally on earth" would have been extraordinarily counter-productive if it had been involved. That's how useful an ally the country is in confronting our common enemies.
Once again, supposed "leftists" echoing a right-wing nationalist position: the problem with de Blasio's AIPAC schmooze-a-thon isn't that it constitutes a betrayal of the Palestinians (who don't even rate a mention in Sullivan's screed), but that Israel is a liability to the US empire! Sullivan's degree of complete identification with the Empire is revealed by his use of the pronoun "our." And MondoWeiss cluelessly hails this jive. Another case of "leftists" making common cause (if on a de facto basis and perhaps not entirely wittingly) with the paleocon wing of the ruling elites.
All this plays into the insidious revisionism now so in vogue that Hitler was a leftist! Amid all the de Blasio bloviation, we are treated to the hideous spectacle of gazillionaire venture capitalist Thomas Perkins comparing the US "war on the rich" (huh?) to Nazism, saying "demonization of the rich" reflects a "very dangerous drift in American thinking," and that "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?" (Daily News, Jan. 26)
This is of course a neat little reversal of historical reality: Hitler was allied with Germany's industrial class, and served up the Jews as a scapegoat to facilitate the survival of that class in power. But de Blasio, AIPAC, Ronald Radosh, MondoWeiss and Andrew Sullivan alike all play right into the propaganda ploy.