After U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, announced his opposition to the Iran deal, English Professor David Bromwich wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “Netanyahu and His Marionettes.” The piece describes a “plan” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American “neoconservatives” and political donors to achieve Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, and sources opposition to the Iran deal to loyalty to Israeli interests. Sadly, Bromwich impugns the motives of his opponents while providing scant evidence for his claims.
Bromwich’s first piece of proof is the “Clean Break Paper,” written in 1996 by “neoconservative war propagandist Richard Perle, along with a small committee of others,” to convince Netanyahu, newly elected at the time, to, in Bromwich’s words, “curtail [Israel’s] efforts to negotiate with Palestinians toward the creation of a state and give up the idea of joining a neighborhood of nations in the Middle East.” Bromwich’s view is a misrepresentation. The Paper calls for Israel to “embrace negotiations, but as means, not ends [italics omitted]” of Israeli foreign policy. It advocates that Israel work “with Turkey and Jordan to … roll-back some of its most dangerous threats.”
Bromwich claims that the Paper’s purpose was to help Israel “stand alone as the dominant power … [and] to achieve this end, three countries had to be undermined, subdivided or destroyed: Iraq, Syria and Iran.” Bromwich continues, “so far, things have gone roughly according to plan. Iraq and Syria are out of the picture.”
Which picture? What plan? ISIS, hostile to Israel, controls much of Iraq. Syria’s Bashar Assad, hostile to Israel, has weathered a popular rebellion. Bromwich calling the Paper a “plan” (later, “strategy”) deserves some parsing. The Paper was written by one man in 1996 (in fact, it was David Wurmser, not Perle). The parts of it to which Bromwich alleges things have “gone according” include the subjugation of Iraq (done by America in 2003 without Israeli help, and undone by ISIS) and Syria, which has not been subjugated! Bromwich’s claim that both are “out of the picture,” and this the result of a “plan” for Israeli hegemony, is to accuse, on little evidence, many American officials of loyalty to Israel.
Bromwich then focuses on Schumer for criticism. In his statement, Schumer barely mentions Israel. Amazingly, Bromwich infers Schumer’s intent from this omission: “Depend on it, Israel was on Schumer’s mind.” The evidence? Schumer is proud that his surname means “guardian” in Hebrew. While Schumer’s support for the Iraq War was based on a “rationale similar to the one he now urges,” Bromwich argues that Schumer “may or may not recognize that he is only assisting the Likud and the neoconservatives with part three of the Middle East ‘clean break strategy.’”
According to Bromwich, Schumer appears to be either an unwilling tool of a Likud-American “neoconservative” axis, or an eager participant. Either way, Schumer is not to be believed because his support for Israel — mirrored by politicians of both parties and opponents and proponents of the Iran deal alike — disables him from reasoning clearly about the deal.
Unkind words are also directed at the 58 members of Congress who, Bromwich writes, “obeyed the command of Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit him instead of their own constituents in early August if they want the support of Jewish donors.” Such a visit did take place, and was, as Bromwich writes, “paid for the charitable arm of AIPAC.” But Bromwich provides evidence of no such “command,” and many political organizations sponsor such trips.
And what proof that Jewish donors parrot whatever Netanyahu thinks? Of this last connection, Bromwich writes: “The relations today of Netanyahu to many of the biggest American Jewish donors, and of the same donors to the Republican Party — these linkages are so extended and tangled that lesser actors can barely account for their actions.” Such coordination is merely alleged, never proven. The “lesser” actors are duped or paid by the brains of the conspiracy. The implication, again, is that opposition to the Iran deal can be based only on unpatriotic intentions (subordinating American interests to Israeli ones), corruption or ignorance.
Bromwich uses various terms for the American members of the anti-Iran-deal conspiracy such as “neoconservatives” or “influential persons.” But excepting Schumer, he does not name them or refute their substantive arguments. He asserts that a 1996 document written by one man and an AIPAC-sponsored trip prove that they will kowtow to Israeli hawks’ every demand. To Bromwich, their opposition is not based on an evaluation in which American interests coincide with Israeli ones, but on their fidelity to a “plan” for Israeli domination. Bromwich even calls them bloodthirsty, writing that they “are good at nothing except starting wars.” An important matter like the Iran deal deserves honest and charitable debate. Bromwich’s conspiracy theorizing, accusations of dual loyalty and charges of ignorance provide neither.
Cole Aronson is a sophomore in Calhoun College. His column usually runs on Monday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.