I wasted a little time before writing this article, to see if I could produce a satire or a parody. This would have consisted of a fundraising letter from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to a potential donor. "Dear Leo," it might begin. "We are asking you, even in these straitened times, to make the largest contribution you can afford. The security of the state of Israel is threatened as never before, and your help is urgently required. Alas, we can offer you nothing in return for your donation. Our representatives are still treated with scorn and contempt in the halls of Congress and by the White House. The news media remain deaf to our entreaties. If you choose to attend our annual conference, we can offer you nothing by way of 'access.' As usual, the secretaries of state and defense and the leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will find plausible reasons to be absent. So will the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader. Try to think of your contribution as a mitzvah: a private good deed that may not even go unpunished."
I had to give the thing up. It just didn't have that ring of near-truth that a successful satire or parody demands. You may conceivably wonder what provoked this folly in the first place. Two separate fusses, one in Europe and one in the United States, have raised the awkward question of Jewish influence. Recently, the European Union commissioner for trade, Karel de Gucht, a Belgian, made some remarks about the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Washington, in the course of which he said:
Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best-organized lobby, you shouldn't underestimate the grip it has on American politics—no matter whether it's Republicans or Democrats.
In the ensuing uproar, this statement was described by the editor of the British magazine Standpoint (a monthly that ingeniously manages to unite both Zionist and Roman Catholic conservatives) as "blatant anti-Semitism" and a voice "from Europe's unspeakable past."
Then, last week, Cuban-American TV anchor Rick Sanchez, apparently maddened by the taunts of Jon Stewart, made some rather heavily sarcastic remarks about the power of the American Jewish minority and the sharing of its liberal assumptions by many at the networks. He was fired from CNN almost before he had finished getting this off his chest.
Now, of course, some Jews will detect the usual anti-Semitic "fork" here: the followers of the ancient faith being simultaneously indicted for being too conservative and establishment-oriented and too liberal and left-wing. But what has to strike the eye about both sets of remarks is how uncontroversial they are.