I read in the newspaper last week now the US Chief Negotiator on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Martin Indyk, met with a group of Jewish leaders to brief them on the "tightly held" details of what was being proposed by Secretary of State John Kerry. A few days before, New York’s new mayor Bill de Blasio, who had run for office pledging a new openness and transparency for the city government spoke privately at a dinner hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The gathering was not on the mayor’s public schedule, received no advanced publicity, and was closed to outsiders. A journalist who succeeded in entering was forcibly removed from the premises. At the meeting de Blasio went way over the top even for a New York politician, saying that it is "part of [his] job description to be a defender of Israel" and that AIPAC "would always have a friend and ally at City Hall." He went on to assert that defending Israel is "elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth."
How de Blasio, a lifelong progressive, squares his commitment to undying fealty to AIPAC with his undoubted knowledge that the group is possibly the most virulent advocate of war with Iran this side of the Israeli government itself might best be left to his conscience, if he has one. And if there was any doubt that there is something rotten in New York, the State Senate meanwhile passed a bill by a vote of 56 to 4 rejecting the use of state funds to support any institution that boycotts "certain countries or their higher education institutions." Senator Jeffrey Klein, the bill’s co-sponsor boasted that he would "not allow the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people to gain an inch in New York." The bill is directed against attempts to divest from or boycott Israeli institutions but it clearly in Klein’s view does not apply to those who are taking every possible step to cripple Iran prior to attacking it.
It should also be noted that New York State, though lacking a foreign policy, is not exactly a disinterested observer of what goes on in the world. Thanks to folks like Klein and the former New York City and New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi the city and state have been using pension funds to invest in Israel Bonds, which are widely regarded as a huge Ponzi scheme in that they pay the interest for older bond issues by issuing new bonds, which will eventually result in a huge and unsustainable balloon of money due. As the bonds are dollar denominated, Israel can default without any damage to its own economy, making it a bit like being able to print money without actually having to do so. Meanwhile, the income from the purchase of the bonds goes to Israel tax free and can be used for anything, including settlement expansion. It is all part and parcel of the enormous cash flow from the US to Israel, much of it invisible, that occurs every year, but in this case the money frequently comes from state and city pension funds.
For what it’s worth, Hevesi was recently released from prison after being convicted of a $1 million pension fund fraud. Watching the shenanigans of those in power suggests that those who have gained most from New York State’s largesse tend to be those who have the political power and access to have their interests served, no matter how parochial or unwise, while the taxpayer and state pensioners will ultimately be left holding the bag when the Israel bonds eventually do a Madoff.
I describe the recent activities of Israel’s supporters because I have been following what they are up to, but it should be noted that most of the organizations and individuals involved are in reality not very representative of the people they claim to represent, few of whom are consulted on what is going on in their name. A large number of prominent New York Jews did, in fact, pushback by writing a letter to de Blasio making the point that AIPAC does not represent them. The self-described Jewish organizations – to include the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the American Jewish Committee – are all knee jerk supporters of the extreme right wing policies of Israel’s recent governments. They are basically the transatlantic enablers of the crimes being committed against the Palestinians, behavior that is in reality actually against Israel’s long term interests as it guarantees the country’s transition into a pariah, apartheid state shunned by nearly everyone.
Opinion polls suggest that most American Jews, particularly younger ones, are in fact troubled by the blank check issued to Israel. They do not share the often extreme views of the groups that speak in their name, which is the nub of the problem in that they like most other ordinary Americans have been effectively disenfranchised. The president of the United States, like de Blasio, ran for office in 2008 pledging to make government more open and accountable. Like de Blasio, he has done neither, but he sure does talk nice. The president regularly meets with Jewish, Hispanic and African American organizations but there are two broad categories of American citizens that he never seems to have any time for: the ordinary Americans of all colors and persuasions who are impacted by the policies that he cranks up to satisfy the special interests and, most particularly, those of us who have been critical of some of the stuff that the White House is doing. Should the president be talking to the people who have been correct in objecting to what has been going on in places like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as here at home? You bet, but they will never get in past the door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
What is particularly disturbing about Obama, Indyk, Klein and de Blasio is the implicit recognition that all American citizens should not be accorded the same respect, that there is a secret, more important government that operates side by side with all the publicly visible nonsense that otherwise goes on inside the beltway, in Albany and at Gracie Mansion. The Turks have a wonderful name for it, "Derin Devlet." It translates into English as "Deep State." It is the place where all the dealmakers gather, where the powerbrokers meet, and where the politicians line up to meet their needs in full expectation that there will be payoff somewhere down the road. For US Congressmen the payoff begins after they retire at which point they become eligible to climb on the gravy train as lobbyists. For corrupt power couples like the Clintons the rewards begin when the $100,000 a pop fifteen minute speeches begin shortly after leaving office. Indyk’s dedication to Israel and more particularly its wealthy and powerful friends has rewarded him materially and in terms of his status and it is to be presumed that Klein is on a similar trajectory. Responding to the same dynamic, de Blasio no doubt wants to remain Mr. Mayor for some time to come, so he panders to the people who have the power and connections to upset his apple cart.
When someone like Martin Indyk meets with Jewish leaders to give them information relating to a "closely held plan" in confidence that he does not wish to share with the rest of us he is betraying every citizen’s right to know what is going on just as much as does Abe Foxman. He is also sending the clear message that some citizens, particularly those affiliated with powerful interest groups, are more equal than others. Likewise, when Obama meets with the same leaders to explain his foreign policy to them or with Hispanic leaders to assure them that he will not enforce existing laws relating to immigration he is betraying every American who believes in accountable government or that the law is blind and applies to everyone. When State Senator Jeffrey Klein takes steps to protect what he believes to be his narrowly construed community’s interests he ceases to represent all the people of New York, just as de Blasio sells out his constituents when he promises to be a defender of a foreign country that has absolutely nothing to do with his responsibilities as mayor.
We Americans have been getting sold out by our leaders for some time. Obama, a community organizer before he became a do-nothing senator, ironically appears to be completely insensitive to any community unless it is one that will look good in a photo op in the Oval Office. And we the people are surrounded by charlatans like Indyk, Klein, and de Blasio, all of whom do a good job in serving the interests of powerful organizations whose heedless antics will inevitably compel the rest of us to pay the piper. Hillary for President? Why not? Can it get any worse?