Trending Topics >>
Wednesday, April 16, 2014


M.J. Rosenberg: Samantha Power, Another Win for the Israel Lobby

Samantha Power Speaking in Geneva thumb

The month of March 2002 was a terrible time in both Israel and the West Bank. Some 100 Israelis were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched a military operation in the West Bank killing some 500 Palestinians. Children made up a significant number of the victims on both sides. The prospects for an end to violence, let alone peace, appeared lower than at any time previously.

It was against that background that Harvard professor Samantha Power (pictured), now President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as U.N. ambassador, spoke of the need for U.S. intervention.

She told an interviewer that she did not believe that Sharon or Palestinian President Yasir Arafat would ever stop the killing on their own and that “external intervention is required.” She specifically called on the United States to “put something on the line,” by which she meant the “imposition of a solution on unwilling parties.” Admitting that the idea of imposing a settlement was “fundamentally undemocratic,” she said it was preferable to “deference” to leaders who seem “politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people.”

All she had to do to became ambassador to the U.N. was recant views that the Jewish lobby found offensive. Rest assured, she will not criticize Israeli actions again.

This was not surprising coming from Power. She is the leading advocate of what is known as “liberal interventionism.” She has said that as a child she was shaken by the world’s indifference to the Holocaust. Her feelings were deepened by her experiences as a journalist in Bosnia. Ever since, most notably in the case of Libya, Power has recommended “going in” to stop the killing of innocents. Right or wrong, it’s who she is.

Unfortunately for Power, the reality of U.S. politics dictates that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be exempted from rules or theories one applies elsewhere. That is why some of the most aggressively anti-war, pro-human rights progressives in Congress, the media and the blogosphere simply go silent, at best, on the subject of the Israeli occupation or, at worst, openly support military actions like Israel’s wars in Gaza. They know that the Israel lobby will make life very difficult for those who insist on applying the same moral yardstick to Israel as to other nations.

Power alluded to that fact of life in the same interview in which she called for intervention. Right after calling on the United States to impose a peace settlement, she added that that “might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.” It did.

Six years later when Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama listed Power as one of his foreign policy advisors, members of the lobby crowd went ballistic. The Zionist Organization of America, Commentary, and a host of right-wing Israel advocates said that Power was an enemy of Israel and even possibly an anti-Semite. It was made clear to Obama that nominating her to a major foreign policy position would ignite a firestorm. Obama responded by placing her in a White House job that did not require Senate confirmation.

Power wanted more in an Obama second term and that required inoculating herself against charges that were made against her in 2008. And so she made the rounds -- visiting neocons, Jewish organizations, and Israeli officials – and assuring potential adversaries that she was sorry.

Here is the best description of Power’s apology tour. It comes from Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (a GOP candidate for Congress in the 2012 election). Writing in The Huffington Post, Boteach reveals that in 2011 Power approached him to say she wanted “to go on the record about her comments on Israel and how they had been misunderstood.” He then convened a “closed-door meeting of about 40 American Jewish leaders who represented a wide spectrum of our communities most important organizations.”

And, according to Boteach, Power was contrite. She denied “animus toward Israel.”

And in the presence of the leaders of our community, she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her. Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn't deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion.

That “incredible display” did the trick.

More than a few of the leaders in the room came over to me afterward and said that, based on her comments and her unabashed display of emotional attachment to the security of the Jewish people … they would never again question her commitment to Israel's security.

Mission accomplished.

Boteach now says that he takes his "yarmulke off" to salute Obama’s nomination of Power. He isn’t alone. This time the neocons are lining up to support her. Even the Israeli government has jumped on the Power bandwagon, with its ambassador to the United States endorsing her appointment.

And that almost surely means that Power will achieve the United Nations job. All she had to do was recant views that the lobby found offensive. Rest assured, she will not criticize Israeli actions again.

But don’t be quick to condemn her. If the lobby opposed her she could not get the U.N. post or any job requiring Senate confirmation. That is the political reality in 2013. The Constitutional “advise and consent” function is now exercised by the lobby (see Hagel, Chuck). What is a talented and ambitious public servant supposed to do?

But imagine if a nominee for a high U.S. foreign policy post had shed tears to demonstrate devotion to any foreign country other than Israel. No, don’t. It would never happen.

M.J. Rosenberg is a Special Correspondent for The Washington Spectator. He was most recently a Foreign Policy fellow at Media Matters For America. Previously, he spent 15 years as a Senate and House aide. Early in his career he was editor of AIPAC's newsletter Near East Report. From 1998-2009, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum. Follow him @MJayRosenberg and @WashSpec.

Like this article? Get more free!
We'll send you a round-up of the best of the Spectator's journalism and political commentary as well as special offers and information so you can take action on issues you care most about. Sign up today!






A Fossil-Fueled Market Bubble

By Brett Fleishman


Why hasn’t Wall Street imploded over this yet? Well, remember how “nobody” could see the housing bubble coming?




How to End California’s Water Crisis

By Polly Cleveland and Mason Gaffney


California farmers get their water free, or close to free. Any of us who have taken elementary economics should be shouting from the rooftops or blasting through cyberspace: if you make something free, you will get waste and shortages!




Good News and Bad News about News

By Emily Schwartz Greco and William A.


The news business does look better than it did not long ago. How about the actual quality of what’s being reported? It's generally bad.





83¢ an issue is our unconscionably low introductory rate. The Spectator is reader-supported and depends on you!


Click here for more details


[National Security]

A Tortured Twist on Ethics

By Yosef Brody


Why isn't the American Psychological Association pursuing ethics charges against psychologist John Leso for abuses he helped carry out at the Guantánamo prison?



[Foreign Policy]

The Diplomatic Dance with Iran

By Chris Toensing


Iran might stumble but the Obama administration should take the greatest possible care not to trip its partner.




A Long, Gilded Life

By Sam Pizzigati


The last link between America's plutocratic past and present has left us.




No-Fault Gun Laws

By Peter Lindstrom


The increasing number of lax gun laws in many states are one reason all gun deaths (homicide, suicide and accident) been growing steadily since 2000.




You Get What You Don’t Pay For

By Ryan Alexander


No matter how hard lawmakers try to close their eyes, click their heels, and hope for the best, they can’t make highway funding magically appear. But that doesn’t stop them fiddling and flailing as they burn through the Highway Trust Fund.




America Has Long Been Twitchy about Its Sphere of Influence

By Jim Sleeper


The best reasons to impose strong sanctions against Russian-nationalist tyranny aren’t anthropological but liberal and, yes, geopolitical.






We'll send you the best of the Spectator every week.


Enter your email address below and sign up today!





  • Create an account
    Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.