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Jim Moran's Mouth, Again

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By Colbert I. King
Saturday, September 15, 2007

What is it with Jim Moran? The nine-term Democratic congressman from Northern Virginia can't seem to keep his head on straight when it comes to talking about Iraq and the reasons we have ended up over there.

In the run-up to the March 2003 invasion, during an event at a Reston church sponsored by a peace coalition, Moran said: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this." Not stopping there, he added, "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

Those remarks earned Moran swift condemnation by his congressional colleagues, political leaders in Northern Virginia, Jewish organizations and several prominent local rabbis. I wrote a column that criticized the parish priest and the audience of about 120 people for not speaking up after hearing Moran's offensive comments [" Uncomfortable Silence," March 15, 2003]. Issuing mea culpas like mad, Moran weathered that storm.

Now he's at it again.

In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) "has pushed this war from the beginning . . . They are so well organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful -- most of them are quite wealthy -- they have been able to exert power."

That drew a sharp retort from the National Jewish Democratic Council, which called on Moran to retract his comments.

Ira Forman, the council's executive director, said in a Sept. 7 news release: "It is never easy nor pleasant to criticize a fellow Democrat, but sometimes it is necessary. While there is nothing wrong with criticizing AIPAC -- or for that matter any organization with which you disagree -- spreading false statements is clearly irresponsible."

Forman said the connection between the pro-Israel lobby and the Iraq war is phony. He said that "Rep. Moran's comments are not only incorrect and irresponsible -- they are downright dangerous."

Backtracking a little, Moran's office issued the following statement: "The Congressman understands that the tone of some of his comments in the interview with Tikkun, an interfaith, progressive Jewish magazine, may have been unnecessarily harsh. However, he stands by his message -- namely that for the last few years AIPAC has not represented mainstream American Jewish opinion and that the organization's Middle East policies, while in direct alignment with the Bush Administration, have been counterproductive to Israel's long-term security."

Moran, the statement went on, "recognizes the progressive nature of the Jewish community as a whole, and notes that if the rest of America voted the way Jews vote, the U.S. would not be in the war in Iraq today, and would have health care for all, and would not be involved in discriminatory treatment of gays or of immigrants."

Perhaps so.

Where AIPAC stands vis-?-vis the Jewish community is not a question that keeps me awake at night. As far as taking America to war goes, I think top honors belong to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice -- Gentiles all -- with a lot of help from Congress.

They aren't the reason Jim Moran returns to this column.

In his Tikkun interview, Moran indicated that AIPAC's influence extends far beyond Capitol Hill. To hear him tell it, AIPAC is behind what America reads and hears about Israel.

Moran's own words: AIPAC "members are willing to be very generous with their personal wealth. But it's a two-edged sword. If you cross AIPAC, AIPAC is unforgiving and will destroy you politically. Their means of communications, their ties to certain newspapers and magazines, and to individuals in the media are substantial and intimidating."

The "ties to . . . the media" bit caught my attention.

It suggests an alignment between AIPAC and journalists that conspires to influence news and opinions about Israel. And that AIPAC, through its newsroom and editorial board alliances, can bring hell to bear on wayward politicians.

Having made those charges, Moran is obligated to provide evidence supporting them. He should start by naming names.

Which "newspapers and magazines" are tied to AIPAC, and how? Who are the "individuals in the media" with AIPAC ties? What does that mean, anyway?

The canard that a powerful Jewish lobby controls the media is a well-known anti-Semitic staple.

Two days ago, I directed my questions to Moran through his communications director, Austin J. Durrer.

Durrer responded by e-mail with an excerpt from Rabbi Michael Lerner's article " The Israel Lobby," which also appears in the September-October issue of Tikkun. The excerpt contained Lerner's thoughts on "why the liberal media is illiberal on Israel." Nice to know.

And Moran's answers? I'm still waiting for him to put up or . . . you know the rest.

kingc@washpost.com


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