There is an old truism that holds that the best defense is a good offense. Or, more colloquially, when you find yourself in hot water, flip the script and go on the attack. Allies of and apologists for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are today doing just that. They are peddling a new narrative that President Obama and others, by speaking openly and critically about the extraordinary efforts of the Israeli government and some U.S. Jewish groups to kill the Iran deal, are guilty of feeding anti-Semitism or smearing American Jews, or are unmasking themselves as anti-Semites.
According to this narrative, the suggestion that Netanyahu is interfering in U.S. politics - as is self-evidently true - is unacceptable, because it feeds anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews pulling the strings of politicians. The observation that Israel's leader is pressing American Jews to take his side over that of their elected president - while demonstrably true - cannot be uttered, as it dredges up anti-Semitic tropes about the divided loyalties of America's Jewish citizens. The fact that Israel is a nation standing alone in opposing the Iran nuclear deal - as is manifestly the case - is unmentionable, as it correlates with an anti-Semitic caricature of Jews as warmongers. Commenting that well-funded American Jewish organizations are playing a leading role in efforts to build grassroots support for Netanyahu's position - something some groups have previously discussed with pride - is forbidden, as it promotes anti-Semitic canards about Jewish power and money.
This flipped script represents a shocking new low, even in the sharply partisan, polarized rhetoric of the debate over the Iran deal. It is offensive to Jews from any part of the political spectrum. And make no mistake: it isn't going to convince anyone that Israel and American Jewish groups aren't playing a leading role in trying to kill the Iran deal - because the facts speak for themselves.
Let's not forget that Netanyahu has for years belittled and disparaged Obama's efforts to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iran challenge. He has worked alongside U.S. allies - largely partisan allies in Congress, and U.S. groups like AIPAC - to try repeatedly, but without success, to scuttle this diplomatic track. Netanyahu and his U.S. allies are today mobilizing to try to kill the diplomatic agreement struck between the P5+1 and Iran. A central component of their efforts is a multi-pronged campaign seeking to convince Americans - and particularly American Jews - to prioritize Netanyahu's judgment about the deal over that of the U.S. president. To achieve this, they have launched a massive public relations effort to discredit the Obama Administration's policy. And they are marshaling extraordinary pressure on Democrats in Congress to vote against the president and kill the deal.
What is bizarre about this new narrative is that there has never been anything remotely secretive or stealthy about the efforts of Netanyahu, AIPAC, and other Jewish groups to thwart Obama's Iran diplomacy and scuttle the deal. There was nothing shadowy, for example, about Netanyahu's decision to speak to Congress at the invitation of the Republican speaker of the House, for the express purpose of attacking President Obama's policies. And there has been nothing secretive about the mobilization of grassroots campaigns, well-funded national ad campaigns, and even a recent live webcast in which Netanyahu, hosted by a range of American Jewish organizations, directly addressed American Jews and implored them to support his position. And representatives of AIPAC and like-minded groups have spoken publicly about their strategy and their intentions, including talking to the media about the massive funds being donated to fuel the anti-deal campaigns.
But today Netanyahu and his allies and apologists are trying to flip the script, attacking Obama and others by raising the specter of "anti-Semitism" for merely speaking the truth about the role of Israel and some Jewish groups in attacking the deal. They should be ashamed.
It is the prerogative of President Obama or anyone else defending the Iran deal to call out Netanyahu and his amen choir of U.S. supporters for their extraordinary anti-deal activism. And it is the prerogative of Netanyahu and sympathetic U.S. Jewish groups to lobby against the Iran deal - but they must take responsibility for their actions. Trying to deflect attention away from these actions by raising scurrilous charges of anti-Semitism is outrageous and cheapens genuine concerns about resurgent anti-Semitism.