Dowd Chimes In on ‘The Row’

In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd makes a good attempt at justifying the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic “crisis” with Israel, seemingly encouraging the President to continue down his path (the pull-quote in the print edition reads: “Please, Mr. President, Keep up the heat before peace goes cold”). I commend her for doing so — and maintain that the winds of discourse are shifting — but, ever the nit-picker, I have a few quibbles.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that the sole “analyst” she uses in the article is Jeffrey Goldberg, an actual partisan in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — literally, he served in the IDF during the first intifada. (See here and here for some recent comments I’ve had on Goldberg, Juan Cole’s skewering of Goldberg here and, in the interest of fairness, Goldberg’s reply to Cole here.)

But my problems with Dowd’s analysis start higher up in her piece. A sentence in her fourth paragraph reads:

Obama is so unpopular in Israel that he has nothing to lose by smacking our ally for its egregious treatment of the vice president.

“Nothing to lose”? Maureen Dowd has never heard of the Israel Lobby? Hasn’t she read Walt and Mearsheimer? But she doesn’t need to take their word for it (they’re not uncontroversial, wrong as that may be). Just ask neocon John Podhoretz, the pro-war, pro-settlement editor of Commentary (my emphasis):

The word we keep hearing from Washington is that in the upcoming congressional elections there is an “enthusiasm gap” developing between resurgent Republicans and somewhat dispirited Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 midterms. That ‘enthusiasm gap’ is not just anecdotal; it’s also about organization, which means it’s about money. It’s no secret that a wildly disproportionate part of the Democratic donor base is Jewish. While Jews are almost certain to continue to vote lopsidedly for Democrats, that doesn’t mean Jewish donors are going to open their checkbooks as widely as they have in the past three election cycles. A diminution in Jewish enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats is a problem for them. This is not a good moment to be picking fights on an issue of major emotional concern to a key Democratic constituency, even if you know that many of its members are not disposed to support the building program.

Podhoretz wants American Jews to forget about the settlements, and stop giving money to Democrats because of Obama’s supposed ill-treatment of Israel. Well, that’s what he hopes for, at least.

Or, if you please, Maureen, go to the horse’s mouth. There is a little lobby in Washington you may have heard of. It’s called AIPAC. Well, back in the day, it formed a think-tank — the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). This group’s Arab politics expert, David Schenker, was recently on a television program discussing ‘The Row.’ Another guest on the program, Steve Clemons, recounted on his blog* that:

Schenker’s view was that Obama couldn’t afford to have a testy, strained relationship with Israel because it would cost him support in Congress for his health care legislation.

“Nothing to lose,” Maureen? Except for Jewish donations to Democrats (which make up nearly 60 percent of the party’s presidential coffers — according to the Washington Post) and votes from Congress on health care reform.

(*To be fair, Schenker sent Clemons an e-mail disputing this characterization of his remarks — you can read it at the bottom of the post. As of yet, however, there is no transcript or video, so I’ll let that be that, for now.)

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Looking at Maureen’s picture next to her column always makes me lose my taste for women for a few minutes, but I read the piece to which you refer anyway. I thought it very odd that she plumbed Jeffrey Goldberg (oh, hideous image!) for info. As you point out, her advice for Obama is less than practical. I didn’t know (and was just discussing elsewhere) that a majority of the dollars given to Democrats come from Jewish donors. I knew they gave a lot, but 60%? Amazing, since Jews constitute, what, 2% of the population?

    Anyway, what prompted M.D. to write the thing? The points you make seem so obvious — why didn’t she think of them? A mystery.

    The winds of discourse are NOT shifting, Sir. Or at least they will remain mere words only. You can bet the farm on that.

  2. I had read the WP article long ago that said dems received 60% of their donations from Jewish groups. Maybe, or maybe that’s exaggerated. Sometimes certain political zionist or Jewish groups toot their own horn to seem powerful. Also too, one day it’s ‘oh woe is the poor Jews’ and the next day it’s ‘hear us roar’ so who knows really.

    I wouldn’t doubt though that Jews give more political money. Historically Jews, because of their tenuous positions in the countries they lived in tried to or had to buy their protection and favors from governments and rulers with money.

    But there is no doubt whatsoever that they ‘own’ a lot of congresspeople.

    The answer to that and other special interest is of course, campaign finance reform. But congress is way too corrupt to ever do that. They legalized political bribery and it suits them just fine.

  3. Those who celebrate the rift between the United States and the Jewish State are just plain wrong headed! Like Ahmadinejad types theses celebrants are so blinded by what they understand as the Ugly Head of Semitism that they cannot simply accept that the un-chosen people of Palestine where born to be flogged (with the blessings of a very great Real Estate god), by the chosen people. The world’s sterling silence for the last 100 years to the great Judeo-Christian cultures’ righteous use of terror and the glorious erection of a Jewish State stands as testimony against Ahmadinejad like wrong headedness and particularly now against those whom today celebrate the rift within the alliance…which they mock as… the Axis of Chutzpah L’Chiam.

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