Whose Opinion on Iran?

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Everyone knows the basics of the dispute over the nuclear deal with Iran. In no time at all, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaped directly into the American political arena to take potshots at that agreement in a way that, had any other world leader acted similarly, would have been denounced across the political spectrum. And he did so backed not only by his own party and government but by established opinion makers in Israel, all of whom are deeply convinced that the deal is neither reasonable nor in Israel's best interests. Similarly, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other similar organizations got involved in a giant, multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to ensure that the agreement is given a congressional thumbs down, they represented not just the interests of Netanyahu and the Israeli ruling elite but of American Jewish opinion, which naturally believes that a deal bad enough to be nixed by Israel is not in the best interests of the United States either. All of that seems obvious enough -- the only problem being that it isn't so.

Let's start with Jewish opinion in America. When Steven Cohen, a professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, conducted a poll of American Jews, including those who, like myself, are not religious, he found that an astounding 63 percent approved of the nuclear deal, a figure impressively higher right now than American opinion on the subject generally. In other words, with the single exception of J Street, all the major Jewish organizations that are lobbying against the deal and claiming to represent American Jews and Jewish opinion don't. As Cohen and Todd Gitlin wrote recently in the Washington Post, "Plainly, the idea that American Jews speak as a monolithic bloc needs very early retirement. So does the canard that their commitment to Israel or the views of its prime minister overwhelms their support for Obama and the Iran deal. So does the idea that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads, or represents, the world's Jews."

So call that a bit of a surprise on "Jewish opinion." But what about Israel, where support among key figures for deep-sixing the nuclear deal is self-evident? Again, just one small problem: almost any major Israeli figure with a military or intelligence background who is retired or out of government and can speak freely on the matter seems to have come out in favor of the agreement. (The same can be said, by the way, for similar figures in this country, as well as Gary Samore, a former Obama administration White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and until recently head of United Against Nuclear Iran, a Sheldon Adelson-funded group whose job is to knee-cap such an agreement. He stepped down from that post recently to support the nuclear deal.) In Israel, a list as long as your arm of retired intelligence chiefs, generals and admirals, officials of all sorts, even nuclear scientists, have publicly stepped forward to support the agreement, written an open letter to Netanyahu on the subject, and otherwise spoken out, including one ex-head of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, appointed to his position by none other than Netanyahu.

In other words, the well-financed fast and furious campaign here against the nuclear deal (which has left just about every Republican senator, representative, and presidential candidate in full froth) and the near hysteria churned up on the subject has created a reality that bears remarkably little relationship to actual reality. Fortunately, David Bromwich is available to offer a cool-eyed look at just what's behind that version of reality in "Playing the Long Game on Iran" and I'm sure you won't be shocked to learn that, in the process, one familiar label instantly pops up: neoconservative.