A common theme in respectable discourse at present is that the selfish career ambitions of individual white men must often take a back seat to broader societal goals such as diversity, social justice, inclusion, fighting cultural appropriation, the war on whitewashing, and so forth.
On the other hand, a theme utterly unheard except in the most reprehensible hate speech is the idea that the career ambitions of individual Jews should sometimes take a back seat for any reason, even world peace.
Thus, in the New York Times today, Dennis Ross explains how Dennis Ross’s fabulous foreign policy career molding America’s stance toward Israel proves that the worst thing imaginable would have been if he’d been asked to have worked instead on, say, the South American desk at the State Department just because he’s profoundly biased in favor of Israel:
Memories of an Anti-Semitic State Department
By DENNIS B. ROSS SEPT. 26, 2017
The former C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame Wilson made news with her Twitter account last week when, on the first day of Rosh Hashana, she shared an article that said, “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars: Shouldn’t they recuse themselves when dealing with the Middle East?”
“Recusal” is a pretty common practice — the idea is that judges or government officials recuse themselves from a role over subjects in which they are not disinterested.
The article, which appeared on a fringe website, said that Jewish neoconservatives were pushing for a war with Iran. Ms. Wilson, whose identity as a covert operative was leaked in 2003 by members of the George W. Bush administration nettled by the opposition of her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the Iraq war, repeated the well-worn narrative that Jewish neoconservatives promoted the invasion of Iraq — and are beating the drum for a conflict with Iran.
Of course, most Jews are not neoconservatives, and most neoconservatives are not Jewish. In any case, it was two influential non-Jews, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who played the central role with President Bush in deciding to invade Iraq in 2003. Ignoring the old saying about when you are in a hole you should stop digging, Ms. Wilson made some excuses and then mentioned that she is of Jewish descent. Finally, she apologized.
I have little interest in piling on Ms. Wilson. But the whole affair brought back some memories about how Jews were perceived within the national security apparatus for a long time. When I began working in the Pentagon during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, there was an unspoken but unmistakable assumption: If you were Jewish, you could not work on the Middle East because you would be biased.
However, if you knew about the Middle East because you came from a missionary family or from the oil industry, you were an expert. Never mind that having such a background might shape a particular view of the region, the United States’ interests in it, or Israel. People with these backgrounds were perceived to be unbiased, while Jews could not be objective and would be partial to Israel to the exclusion of American interests.
Sometimes, I would find this view expressed subtly. Other times it would be overt, including well after Secretary of State George Shultz tried to change the culture of the State Department during the early years of the Reagan’ administration. For Mr. Shultz, being Jewish was no longer a disqualification from working on Arab-Israeli issues. He was more interested in your knowledge than your identity. …
And yet, I remember well the time in 1990, when I was the head of the State Department’s policy planning staff, I was visited by a diplomatic security investigator who was doing a background check on someone who had listed me as a reference. This person was being considered for a senior position in the George H. W. Bush administration, not one directly involved with the Middle East.
At one point, the investigator asked me a question that is routine in these background checks: Was this person loyal to the United States? I answered yes, without a doubt. But his follow-up question was if this person had to choose between America’s interests and Israel’s, whose interests would he put first? There was nothing subtle about this presumption of dual loyalty.
“Why would you ask that question?” I asked, even though I realized I might not be helping the person using me as a reference. He answered, “Because he is Jewish.” So I went on: If he was Irish and had to work on problems related to Ireland or if he was Italian and had to work on Italy, would you ask that question? Initially, the investigator did not seem to know how to respond, but then I saw a look of recognition. He suddenly realized that I was Jewish. And, at that point, he changed the subject.
… Just like Ms. Wilson tweeting that Jews are pushing for a new war. It is the definition of prejudice. How can it not be when you label a whole group and ascribe to all those who are a part of it a particular negative trait or threatening behavior? It is the same today with those who single out all Muslims as dangerous extremists. It is just as unacceptable.
Today, surging nationalism and xenophobia promise to create even more prejudice. These attitudes foster an “us versus them” mentality. The “other” is a threat. And once you have singled out groups, the leap is small to imposing limits on them, quarantining them and rationalizing violence against them.
Rather than be worried about being mistrusted and accused of dual loyalties, Jewish American should feel proud. In uncertain times, identity can provide a source of security and comfort. And having a strong identity, being comfortable with who you are and whom you are connected to, need not come at the expense of others. As my rabbi, Jonathan Maltzman, pointed out in his Rosh Hashana sermon, the particular and the universal have always been embedded in Jewish identity.
Dennis Ross is the counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author, most recently, of “Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israeli Relationship from Truman to Obama.”
Dennis B. Ross (born November 26, 1948) is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and is currently a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (which includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ross was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County. His Jewish mother and Catholic stepfather raised him in a non-religious atmosphere.… He later became religiously Jewish after the Six Day War. In 2002 he co-founded the Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville, Maryland.
During President Jimmy Carter‘s administration, Ross worked under Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon. There, he co-authored a study recommending greater U.S. intervention in “the Persian Gulf Region because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab-Israeli conflict.” During the Reagan administration, Ross served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs in the National Security Council and Deputy Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (1982–84).
… In the mid-1980s Ross co-founded with Martin Indyk the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-sponsored Washington Institute for Near East Policy (“WINEP”). His first WINEP paper called for appointment of a “non-Arabist Special Middle East envoy” who would “not feel guilty about our relationship with Israel.” …
In the summer of 1993 President Bill Clinton named Ross Middle East envoy…. According to Aaron David Miller, a member of the Ross-led US negotiating team in 1999-2000, under Ross they frequently acted as “Israel’s lawyer”, and their policy of “no surprises” (meaning all US proposals were first reviewed by Israel), led to a lack of negotiating flexibility and independence.
But the point is that having Ross work on something other than Israel for the U.S. Government would have been anti-Semitism, which is the worst thing imaginable.