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Brzezinski cries foul on AIPAC even as he misrepresents its views

Zbigniew Brzezinski has accused members of the American Jewish establishment of “McCarthyism” in their attitude towards critics of Israel, and has accused American supporters of Israel of being too ready to accuse critics of Israel of “anti-Semitism.” Ed Lasky exposes a key factual misrepresentation in Brzezinski’s statement — contrary to his claim, AIPAC does favor a two-state solution in the Middle East. Brzezinski’s misrepresentation does not come as a surprise.

Brzezinski does not appear to have cited examples of American Jews accusing Israel’s critics of anti-Semitism. In my readings, I find that this charge is typically reserved for critics who actually have attacked the Jewish religion, such as Louis Farrakhan and their admirers, such as Jeremiah Wright. Brzezinski, then, appears to be engaging in the familiar dodge of responding to the charge of being anti-Israel by falsely complaining of being accused of being anti-Jewish. His intellectual dishonesty does not come as a surprise.

Normally, it is only the anti-Israel charge that I see leveled (and level myself) against strident critics of Israel such as Brzezinski. Nor is this charge made lightly. More is required than mere criticism of Israel or calls on the Israeli government to make new concessions to its enemies. That “more” is supplied when, for example, Samantha Power blames deference to Israel at least in part for the U.S. invasion of Iraq; calls for the U.S. to send a “mammoth” military force into Israeli held territory for the purpose of imposing a Palestinian state; calls, in addition, for a cut-off in U.S. aid to Israel with the money to be given to the Palestinians; and criticizes the New York Times for not sufficiently emphasizing “Israeli war crimes” in an article that had tried to correct false reports that Israel committed a massacre in Jenin.

It is improper, however, to conflate even this virulent kind of Israel bashing with anti-Semitism. One can view Israel as a very bad actor without disliking Jews. Again, I don’t know of instances where the conflation has occurred and Brzezinski does not appear to have pointed to any.

When criticism of Israel is accompanied by criticism of American Jews who strongly support Israel, one arguably enters a gray area. But even harsh criticism of these Jewish Americans should not be viewed as necessarily indicating anti-Jewish animus, as opposed to animus against Jews who strongly support Israel.

One can conceive of criticism of Israel’s American Jewish supporters that is so over-the-top as to strongly suggest anti-Semitism. Indeed, some (including Eliot Cohen) have plausibly argued that the attacks on “the Jewish lobby” by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer rise to this level.

Brzezinski, according to Ed Lasky, is an outspoken supporter of Walt and Mearsheimer. This doesn’t prove that Brzezinski anti-Semitic, but it certainly makes him someone best left on the sidelines when it comes to influencing America’s foreign policy with respect to Israel, at a minimum. Unfortunately, Brzezinski (along with Samantha Power) is one of Barack Obama’s foreign policy mentors. Obama calls Brzezinski “someone I have learned an immense amount from.” Supporters of Israel should be very afraid about the content of Brzezinski’s lessons.

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