Now this truly amazes me (Commentary magazine and AIPAC)

Yesterday I mentioned the parallels among the lobbying efforts and influence of three special interest groups, or "factions": the (mainly Orthodox) Armenian-Americans who pushed the Armenian Genocide resolution; the (mainly Catholic) Cuban-Americans who have pushed the US embargo of Cuba; and the (mainly Jewish) supporters of AIPAC who have been making a case for a military showdown with Iran.

Today Gabriel Schoenfeld of Commentary Magazine quotes only the part about AIPAC -- and then asks why I am singling out the Jews!?!?! "Why is this game played only one way, with America’s Jews the primary target?" (Full text after the jump)

Not much amazes me any more, but....

I wonder which is the more plausible interpretation: That the author heard I'd written something objectionable and attacked it without reading it? Or that he did read it -- and deliberately left out everything that didn't fit his case, including through artful cutting of quotes?

I took it for granted that Commentary wouldn't see the Iran issue the way I do, given their recent cover story on "The Case for Bombing Iran" etc. But wow, this makes me nostalgic for the comparative "honesty" of the Chinese state media I've been dealing with recently.

Here goes:

Taking up the ideas of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt about the inordinate influence of the “Israel Lobby” on American foreign policy, James Fallows of the Atlantic writes that “[t]o the (ongoing) extent that AIPAC–the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”–is trying to legitimize a military showdown between the United States and Iran, it is advancing its own causes at the expense of larger American interests.” The people behind this cause, he continues, “are not from one ethnic group in the conventional sense but are mainly of one religion (Jewish).”

To observe this, writes Fallows, and to warn against it, “including the disastrous consequences of attacking Iran” that it is seeking to bring about, is not to be anti-Semitic. And noting the “power and potential” of groups like AIPAC “to distort policy” simply means “recognizing that James Madison’s warnings about the invidious effects of ‘faction’ apply beyond the 18th century.”

I agree with Fallows that there is nothing wrong with observing the operations of “factions” in our politics, just as there is nothing wrong with warning against the consequences of their operations.

But why is this game played only one way, with America’s Jews the primary target?

Isn’t Fallows himself part of a faction? To be sure, it is not one organized on ethnic lines. It is a far more cohesive body than that, consisting of liberals who in almost all instances oppose the use of American power abroad. This faction, too, might be thought of as invidiously “advancing its own causes at the expense of larger American interests.”

All loyal Americans–including those, “mainly of one religion (Jewish),” whom Fallows brazenly tries to delegitimize as part of a faction pursuing interests running counter to those of our own country–need to observe carefully his faction, and to warn against its activities, lest it bring about the disastrous consequences of not attacking Iran should that state forge ahead with its nuclear ambitions

Obviously there is a point in here, about the inevitability that a big, plural democracy will -- and should -- involve a contest among many partial, "factional" views. But it's not a point I care to address when set up this way!

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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