ECI blasts Dem Sens and AIPAC for Supporting START

Where does the  Emergency Committee for Israel get off complaining that AIPAC shouldn’t support New START because it’s outside of the “pro-Israel” purview? Who knows. But that’s exactly what they did.

ECI, the partisan “pro-Israel” group set up by Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer and Rachel Abrams (wife of Elliott), sent a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Carl Levin (D-MI), slapping them on the wrists for asking AIPAC to take a public stance on the New START treaty (for it).

Several Jewish groups recently came out in favor of New START because they think a rocky U.S.-Russia relationship is bad for putting pressure on Iran. According to Laura Rozen at Politico, AIPAC has even reportedly been pushing for the treaty behind closed doors (with Republicans, and maybe even successfully).

But ECI, which was birthed at Sarah Palin advisor Randy Scheunemann‘s shop, says that for Schumer and Levin to ask AIPAC to go public with their support of New START is “unSenator-like conduct” — “public bullying,” as the ECI directors put it in the letter.

Jennifer Rubin, the neoconservative blogger who just moved from Commentary — where she worked with now-ECI director Noah Pollak — to the Washington Post, wrote from her new perch that Kristol, Bauer and Abrams “would no doubt claim, the actions of these two senators…would set a dangerous precedent.”

First of all, I’m not exactly sure it’s even sure it’s “unSenator-like conduct.” Aren’t politicians supposed to play politics to make what they think is good public policy?

Secondly, don’t you wonder what a pro-Israel group is doing defending its turf against the evils of the New START if it’s “a matter far outside its expertise and area of concern,” as ECI put it?

Well, the letter has a hedge that says, “needless to say, the Emergency Committee for Israel takes no position” on New START. But, hey, why is the Emergency Committee for Israel weighing in on Senate ethics?

Furthermore, the notion that AIPAC — or other Jewish or Israel lobby groups — shouldn’t support Congressional action (in this case, Senate ratification of a treaty) is ridiculous. For years, groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC)  worked against Congressional resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide because Turkey was considered a strategic ally of Israel (the support ended when the relationship went icy over the Gaza War of Winter 2008/09).

It’s not as if the legitimacy of the Armenian genocide is exactly within the scope of “pro-Israel” activity. But, before the Israeli-Turkish alliance fell apart, a happy Turkey was good for Israel. Just like how the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) supports New START because a happy Russia makes it easier to confront the “Iranian nuclear threat.”

AIPAC and other Jewish groups also joined the Greek lobby to support a Congressional resolution about Cyprus (also to stick it to Turkey). So this really is business as usual for Israel lobby groups — they play geopolitics in ways they think will be good for Israel.

The mysterious part is why ECI felt compelled to jump into this at all. Was it to protect the purity of “pro-Israel” advocacy? A partisan shot against two powerful Democrats to pry AIPAC away from them? Or could it be because the faltering opposition to New START (which the, needless to say, don’t oppose)? Or was it just to weaken Obama to make room for anti-START Sarah Palin (who was pushed onto the national stage by Kristol)?

What’s funny — though predictable — is the charge of “public bullying” from a group that employs the likes of Kristol, Bauer, Abrams, Pollak and another Scheunemann employee, Michael Goldfarb.

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. See if you can track down a copy of the bizarre (even for him) Stephen Schwartz book from 2005 (?) “Is It Good For The Jews”, which was understandably swept under the rug by the neocon publicity apparatus. Its premised on the Rosen-Weissman case representing the folly of AIPAC and the need for a more militant alternative. Like all of Schwartz’s lunacy its based on a lot of bizarre historical tangents, a lot of which are quite falsely represented. For example, in this book he claims the legacy of Jewish right-wing socialists in the 30s who were actually in the main the most reliably anti-Zionist on the Jewish left.

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