I was struck by this article in Newsweek on Tuesday. Titled, “Biden Under Fire From Jewish Groups for Palestinian Aid Plans As Anti-War Activists Press For Cuts To Israeli Military,” the piece juxtaposed criticism presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been facing from the right against pressure he’s getting from the left on the issue of Israel and the Palestinians.
But that juxtaposition was horribly skewed. The so-called “fire” that Biden had come under was from the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV). These are radical right-wing extremist groups, not even typical of the conservative pro-Israel organizations.
The ZOA is well-known to anyone involved in Israel-Palestine activism. Its leader, Morton Klein, told the Times of Israel in 2014, “Statehood will only promote the Palestinians’ terrorist agenda. Statehood is not the answer. It will only make things worse.” He is a well-known extremist who said of two prominent antisemites in the early Trump administration, “I thank God every day that Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have important positions in the Trump administration.”
CJV is less well-known, but many of its leaders—such as Rabbis Pesach Lerner, Yoel Schonfeld, and Avrohom Gordimer, among others—are among the more prominent arch-conservative rabbis in the United States. CJV makes no secret of its political leanings, describing its leadership as sharing “positions on moral and ethical issues, national security, immigration, economics, education, public safety and America’s relationship with Israel that many describe as “conservative…” It is fair to say that both CJV and ZOA represent a distinctly right wing of the U.S. Jewish community, and very much a minority view in that notoriously liberal ethnic group.
Yet the Newsweek piece makes no mention of the unrepresentative position of these groups.
Conversely, the letter the “antiwar activists” sent to Biden certainly does represent a strictly progressive swath of people. But that letter—which implores Biden to adopt a more pro-peace foreign policy, including leveraging U.S. aid to Israel to pressure it to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and international law—was signed by more than 50 organizations (including, I am proud to note, ReThinking Foreign Policy). Among those organizations are such prominent groups as Our Revolution, Greenpeace, MoveOn, Pax Christi USA, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Peace Action, the Quincy Institute, Win Without War, and many others.
Those groups represent millions of Americans and, collectively, bring together a broad cross-section of voters. Yet a Biden advisor reading the piece would have the sense of equivalent forces on either side, pushing their candidate in opposite directions.
I wanted to simply note this presentation. I think it’s important because Newsweek often has valuable coverage of many foreign policy issues, including, from time to time, solid pieces on Israel and Palestine. It tends to present a variety of perspectives on such issues, but this piece, like so many others, does their readers a disservice.
Progressive activists and supporters of Palestinian rights understand they are at a disadvantage in political influence and funding. But they often have a lot more support than many realize, a truth hidden, in part, by those disadvantages. But this was a simple matter of factual representation—the sheer quantity of people behind the pressure on Biden for peace was many orders of magnitude greater than the number of people pressing him to reinforce brutal measures against the Palestinians. We need to be aware of it, and publications like Newsweek need to do better.