There's a Whiff of McCarthyism in the Air


There's a Whiff of McCarthyism in the Air

David Harris, AJC Executive Director
April 26, 2010

Sometimes it's stated openly, other times it's more veiled. The charge of dual loyalty is back.

On April 16, The Journal News, a Gannett newspaper, published a guest column by a local Westchester County resident.

Assigned the incendiary headline "Lowey undermines American interests in the Middle East," it accused Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a 22-year Capitol Hill veteran, of "deliberately undermining our national interest in the service of a foreign government." It asked, "To whom is she loyal and whose interests does she represent?", and proposed that she and those like her "register as agents of a foreign government."

What was Rep. Lowey's alleged transgression? That, among other things, "She and more than 300 other congressmen shamefully sent an angry letter to President Obama, demanding that he stop mistreating Israel. Rep. Lowey's treachery has pulled the rug out from underneath our president's feet and taken the teeth out of his bite."

Frankly, I'm even more concerned about why such a newspaper published an assault that smacked of McCarthyism against a public official than what the author actually wrote.

Surely, the paper receives many submissions, from which it chooses one for its daily column. Where were the filters that should have labeled such a venomous diatribe as out of bounds?

Or take a piece from the publisher of The Washington Note just featured on The Huffington Post.

The writer assailed Senator Charles Schumer, another veteran legislator who is Jewish, for "publicly crossing the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy." It asserted that "Schumer's screed gets to the edge of sounding as if he is more a Senator working in the Knesset than working in the United States Senate."

And what was Senator Schumer's supposed sin? He was accused of having an "Israel blind spot." Schumer, you see, challenged the Obama Administration's approach to Israel, calling it "counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk."

Then there was the smear tactic of an unnamed Administration official (later condemned by a senior National Security Council figure) who told Laura Rozen, foreign policy reporter for Politico, that White House official Dennis Ross was "far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests."

Ross's suspected perfidy? He apparently counseled that Prime Minister Netanyahu could only be pushed so far in light of the make-up of his ruling coalition - and of polls showing him with wide support in Israel.

Stephen Walt, the academic who has turned his attack on "The Israel Lobby" into a cottage industry, jumped into the fray. He suggested that dual loyalty wasn't a particularly helpful term these days, but "conflict of interest" certainly fit the bill.

He knows the historical baggage associated with accusers of "dual loyalty" and surely sought a more, dare I say, "kosher" way of expressing essentially the same thought.

In an April piece entitled "On 'dual loyalty,'" Walt wrote: "Isn't it obvious that U.S. policy towards the Middle East is likely to be skewed when former employees of WINEP [Washington Institute for Near East Policy] or AIPAC have important policy-making roles, and when their own prior conduct has made it clear that they have a strong attachment to one particular country in the region?"

Ross was associated with WINEP, which makes him ineligible, in Walt's mind, for government service on the Middle East. Ross, a distinguished scholar, is also a seasoned member of several U.S. administrations that have sought to advance the peace process. All this matters not a whit to Walt, who has a goal - distancing the United States from Israel in the name of his "realist" theories.

But then Walt might consider extending his witch hunt. After all, in the same piece he suggested: "When there are important national security issues at stake, wouldn't it make more sense to have U.S. policy in the hands of people without strong personal feelings about any of the interested parties?"

Pray tell, would that include, in the words of, "AIPAC's man in the Obama camp"?

That was Congressman Rahm Emanuel.

Shortly after President Obama's election, the site published a lengthy piece on Emanuel, which ended with these words: "Perhaps there is a limit to the mischief that he will be able to do; at this point one can only adopt a wait-and-see policy. One thing is certain, however. If the subject is Israel, Emanuel knows very clearly where his loyalty lies."

Or perhaps, given the current contretemps over construction in Jerusalem, would Walt disqualify the author of a 2008 position paper who "believes that Israel's right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned"?

That was Senator Hillary Clinton.

Or possibly the co-sponsor of the Jerusalem Embassy Act (S. 1322), which stated that "Jerusalem should remain an undivided city and ... should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel"?

That was Senator Joe Biden.

Or maybe, as reported by ABC News in June 2008, the person who wrote: "In general terms, clearly Israel must emerge in a final-status agreement with secure borders. Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it be redivided"?

That was Senator Barack Obama.

According to Walt, shouldn't these "interested parties" with "strong feelings" remove themselves from Middle East policymaking, leaving the work, I suppose, to the likes of himself and his tag-team pal John Mearsheimer? Or is he hypocritically willing to give selected officials a pass?

There's a whiff of McCarthyism in the air, and it doesn't smell any better today than when it first surfaced 60 years ago.

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