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Helen Thomas Paid A Price: And Do Did Jennifer Nelson – OpEd


By Philip Weiss

This is so delicious I’m not eating my lunch. Just be a little patient with a winding storyline…

Let’s go back to the dawn of time, the 2010 congressional campaign. Democratic congressman Mike McMahon was representing a Brooklyn-Staten Island district that included a lot of Arab-Americans in Bay Ridge. I met some of them, and they dug McMahon for saying halfway decent things about foreign policy. McMahon was on Foreign Affairs. And then during that campaign, McMahon had to fire his aide. Remember why?

In an effort to show that Republican challenger Mike Grimm has received most of his financial support from donors outside of New York’s 13th district, Democratic Rep. Mike McMahon’s re-election campaign gave the New York Observer a list of more than 80 Jewish donors to Grimm.

The list was entitled “Grimm Jewish Money Q2.”

At least half a dozen of the donors on the list live on Staten Island, which is part of the 13th district.

“Where is Grimm’s money coming from,” Jennifer Nelson, McMahon’s campaign spokesperson, asked the Observer. “There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees.”

The point is, you’re not allowed to even talk about this issue in American politics. And oh yeah, McMahon lost to Grimm.

Now part the misty clouds of yesteryear and enter the present. The Forward has a fabulous piece of reporting by Josh Nathan-Kazis and Nathan Guttman on how hard-right on Israel Michael Grimm is.

Rep. Michael Grimm broke ranks with his party and became the first House Republican to call for the release of Jonathan Pollard.

The freshman member from New York has made Israel a key element of his political work. And while the Republican House leadership has thus far refrained from speaking out in favor of a commutation of Pollard’s life sentence for spying for Israel, Grimm pays small heed to political consensus.

Grimm also came out against his own budget-cutting camp when talk of slashing aid to Israel was on the table. And he strongly opposes a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two states is the position adopted by President George W. Bush during his administration and by party leaders today.

Now why is Grimm taking these positions. Well– the Forward says it has something to do with… Jewish money.

Grimm is not Jewish. But his hawkish views on Israel seem to square with Jewish constituents, especially among the Orthodox community, in his congressional district, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. They are in line, too, with Jewish donors from outside that have helped him get elected.

During his electoral campaign, Grimm drew significant support from Jewish donors living outside the district — so much so that, in July 2009, the press office of incumbent Democrat Mike McMahon circulated a list of Grimm donors under the heading, “Grimm Jewish Money Q2.”

The press officer who distributed the list was quickly fired, and McMahon apologized for the list’s distribution.

Some of Grimm’s Jewish support, particularly during the early months of the campaign, came from the supporters of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a Sephardic kabbalist with deep ties among Israel’s political and business elite and with growing influence in the United States. Last June, Grimm sat beside Pinto at the front of the sanctuary in his Manhattan yeshiva while the rabbi delivered a lecture.

Yes I know, it’s rightwing Jewish money, but darling I’m just back from a liberal seder where they served wine from the Golan Heights. Even J Street won’t come out hard against settlements. American Jewish opinion on these issues is refractory.

And obviously these issues were central to the McMahon-Grimm race but when someone tried to tee the issue up, yes ok a little sloppily, but this is politics, she got axed.

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Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. Mondoweiss is maintained by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss lives in New York state and Horowitz lives in New York City.

One thought on “Helen Thomas Paid A Price: And Do Did Jennifer Nelson – OpEd

  • April 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Ronn Torossian sat next to him at numerous events if you read back and was a donor to Grimm campaign. He could be the one behind the right wing Israel stuff, seems more logical than a Chasid Rabbi.


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