Questionable Motives

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THE SPINE OCTOBER 12, 2006

Questionable Motives

Have you noticed that, since George Soros and his pals have been spending some of their cash to save America, the Democrats have lost interest in the wicked role of big money in our politics? Now, let me concede a point from the start: Soros did a lot to build up the infrastructure of freedom in communist Eastern Europe, and after. That alone may get him past the gates of heaven. But, frankly, he's been quite goofy about other matters. And, since the press rarely probes the minds of zillionaires, his every thought is treated like heavy thought. I myself once treated an article of his for TNR as if it were much weightier than it was. I suspect that, given the usual fawning he's accustomed to, he may actually think himself in the line of John Stuart Mill ... or, at least, Karl Popper.

In any case, having dabbled in buying America's salvation, he is now about to try to save ... Well, I don't know exactly what. America from Israel? Israel from America? Maybe Israel from itself. Both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz have reported that Soros and company are about to open an already well-funded opposition to AIPAC. How could it be other than well-funded with him in the early huddle? Is it possible that Soros has been taken in by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer? A smart boy like him?

Still, it's puzzling. I've known Soros a bit. I know some of his close friends. I've never heard him utter (or heard that he uttered) a word of concern for Israel. Or for Jews, particularly, except insofar as they were in his head as enemies of the Palestinians. I did at least once hear him say that victims often end up as persecutors. It was clear what he meant. Actually, he stated it quite directly. Victims of the Nazis turned out to be tormentors of the Arabs. He was a little surprised that some in the audience booed. Well he also held different views from others in the crowd, many of them Holocaust survivors, about Jewish history during and after it.

Soros is not alone among the founders who don't particularly care for or about Israel. Another one is Morton Halperin, whom I've known for exactly 47 years. The first time I met him at a cocktail party for Harvard's government department (I was a grad student; he an assistant professor), a gang of its people were going to go out to dinner after. Among them, Mort and Ina. The party was nearly over. But Mort was not ready. When we asked Ina to rush him, he said in a few of our hearings, "I told you I had to talk to every tenured member of the department. Tell them just to wait." Maybe the worst of his sins then was that he was a shameless brown-nose.

His government career started with Henry Kissinger. It stopped quickly when Halperin was suspected of leaking really classified materials to the press. He wandered from think tank to think tank, then came back to defense policy under Bill Clinton. Since then he has been lurking in various research outfits that constitute the shadow government for the Democrats.

Anyway, still nothing about Israel. That's fine with me. But, when he and Soros suddenly discover that Israel is among their passions, I get antsy. Now, there are all kinds of positions on Israeli policy and in the Jewish community. Mind you, this counter-AIPAC is meant as a Jewish communal effort. There are many American Jewish organizations activated specifically in opposition to many Israeli policies. They are perfectly legitimate. Some are of the left, some of the right. The Forward, a weekly newspaper on which I depend, sports an editorial policy quite antagonistic to the Jerusalem government's policies. So what! Some of the people enumerated as being in Soros's group (well, the news is not clear here, are they or are they not?) are true lovers of Israel, the brothers Bronfman, for example. A life of vivid giving and caring for the future of Israel.

But Soros? Does he really give a shit? So what are his motives? And Mort Halperin's also.

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