By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
(The authors are president and chairman, respectively, of the Religious Zionists of Am
erica, Philadelphia, and candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.)
The campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress has reached a new low, crossing the line that divides criticism of Israel from the darkest antisemitic canards.
We do not use the term “antisemitism” lightly. Criticism of individual Israeli leaders or specific Israeli government policies is of course perfectly legitimate. But every sober-minded observer understands that criticism of Israel is sometimes just a thin mask for promoting anti-Jewish stereotypes and conspiracy theories.
The campaign of whispers, leaks and rumors against Prime Minister Netanyahu this week dropped that mask and began promoting one of the ugliest anti-Jewish canards: that Israel is trying to control the United States government.
A full-page ad in the New York Times on February 19 featured photos of a smiling President Obama and a scowling Prime Minister Netanyahu, under the headline: “Who is our Commander in Chief?”
The message could not have been more clear: the Israelis –the Zionists, the pro-Israel lobby, the Jews– are trying to turn Israel’s prime minister into America’s commander in chief.
The ad proceeds to accuse Netanyahu and pro-Israel congressmen of trying to “start a war” by opposing President Obama’s deal with Iran. “The Jews are dragging us into a war” is one of the oldest antisemitic lies in circulation.
One of the most notorious examples of this line is the infamous speech by Charles Lindbergh to an “America First” rally in Iowa in 1941. He charged that “Jewish groups in this country” are “agitating for war” (against Nazi Germany).
“Jews (or Zionists, or Israelis) controlling the government” is another well-worn slur. It received a huge boost in 2007, with the publication of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which argued that Israel and its lobby in Washington control America’s Mideast policy and dragged America into the Iraq war. Not surprisingly, the book received fulsome praise from those who dislike Israel, such as former Carter administration national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
According to Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, Mearsheimer and Walt were promoting “a classic anti-Semitic canard about Jews, having disproportionate power and control, that Jews only care about themselves.” Even Aaron Miller, a former State Department peace processor known for his pro-Palestinian slant, characterized Mearsheimer and Walt’s thesis as “a dangerous, dark trope” that “coexists with other hateful and, yes, anti-Semitic canards about how Jews control the media and the banks, and the world as well.”
So who sponsored the February 19 ad? The average reader of the New York Times would not be able to tell, because for some reason the sponsoring organization tried to obscure its identity. Instead of listing its name and officers, it simply listed a web site– niacouncil.org. Those who visit that site discover that the sponsor is the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a group with an innocent-sounding name but with a not-very-innocent agenda.
NIAC lobbies to end U.S. sanctions on Iran, and urges Americans to be more conciliatory toward the Iranian regime. Last month, it circulated a fundraising appeal accusing Congress of “following Israel’s lead on Iran,” complete with a distorted quote from a senator allegedly saying to the Israelis, “We will follow your lead.”
NIAC’s founder and director is Trita Parsi, a young Iranian-American academic who authored a book about U.S.-Israel relations called “Treacherous Alliance.” The title alone speaks volumes. Zbigniew Brzezinski called it “penetrating” and “very timely.” No surprise there.
Two important questions arise.
First, several mainstream former U.S. officials, such as ex-Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, ex-Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State John Limbert, and ex-Congressmen Wayne Gilchrist, and Jim Moody, are members of the NIAC Advisory Board.
Will they remain on the board, despite the group’s despicable ad in the New York Times?
Second, was the ad coordinated with anybody in the White House? The question must be asked, not only because the ad’s message coincides with the Obama administration’s attacks on the Israeli government, but because, according to Omri Ceren in Commentary, Parsi “has been called to the White House, lectured at the CIA and visited Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He boasted in internal e-mails that he learned of Mr. Obama’s speech to Iranians on the occasion of the Persian New Year in March  several hours before it was posted on the Internet.” Dr. Parsi needs to explain when was the last time he had contact with any White House official, and what did they discuss?
[Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia, and both are candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.]