FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Tom Hayden’s Haunting

As an old SDS-er, I found it hard to see Tom Hayden go. However meandering his path, he was at the heart of radical history in the 60s, an erstwhile companion, if not always a comrade, on the route of every boomer lefty.

One of his finer moments for me, which I’ve never seen mentioned (including among this week’s encomia) since he wrote it, was his 2006 article, published on CounterPunch with an introduction by Alexander Cockburn, in which he apologized for a “descent into moral ambiguity and realpolitick that still haunts me today.” It would be respectful of Hayden’s admirers and critics, on the occasion of his passing, to remember which of his actions “haunted” him the most.

The title of the article says it clearly: “I Was Israel’s Dupe.” In the essay, Hayden apologizes for his support of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which was for him that “descent into moral ambiguity” More importantly, he explains why he did it, in a detailed narrative that everyone should read.

Hayden sold out, as he tells it, because, in order to run as a Democratic candidate for the California State Assembly, he had get the approval of the influential Democratic congressman Howard Berman. Berman is a guy who, when he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was proud to tell the Forward that he took the job because of his “interest in the Jewish state” and that: “Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.”

Hayden had to meet with Howard’s brother Michael, who, acting as “the gatekeeper protecting Los Angeles’ Westside for Israel’s political interests,” told Hayden: “I represent the Israeli Defense Forces”—a sentence that could serve as the motto of most American congress critters today. The “Berman-Waxman machine,” Hayden was told, would deign to “rent” him the Assembly seat on the “one condition: that I always be a ‘good friend of Israel.’”

But American congressmen were not the only “gatekeepers” through whose hands Hayden had to pass before being allowed to run for Congress. Other “certifiers” included “the elites, beginning with rabbis and heads of the multiple mainstream Jewish organizations,… the American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), …[and].. Israeli ambassadors, counsels general and other officials.“

In fact, Hayden had to, in his words, be “declared ‘kosher’ by the ultimate source, the region’s representative of the state of Israel,” Benjamin Navon, Israel’s Counsul-general in Los Angeles.

In other words, in this article Hayden was describing, in an unusually concrete way, how the state of Israel, through its state officials and their compliant American partners, was effectively managing—exercising veto power over Democratic Party candidates, at the very least—American elections down to the level of State Assembly. In any constituency “attuned to the question of Israel, even in local and state elections,” Hayden knew he “had to be certified ‘kosher,’ not once but over and over again.”

This experience prompted Hayden to express a “fear …that the ‘Israeli lobby’ is working overtime to influence American public opinion on behalf of Israel’s military effort to ‘roll back the clock’ and ‘change the map’ of the region.” Hayden warned of the “trepidation and confusion among rank-and-file voters and activists, and the paralysis of politicians, especially Democrats,” over support of Israel. He vowed to “not make the same mistake again,” and said: “Most important, Americans must not be timid in speaking up, as I was 25 years ago.”

Whatever else he did—and he was never particularly radical about Palestine—this article was a genuinely honest and unusual intervention, and it deserves a lot more notice—as a moment in Tom Hayden’s history and that of the American left—than it has got. Looking back and regretfully acknowledging that one had been duped and morally compromised by what seemed the least troublesome path 25 years earlier, saying “I woulda, shoulda, coulda done the right thing,” is a haunting moment for anyone. Doing it in a way that exposes in detail how a foreign country constantly manipulates American elections over decades is worthy of everyone’s notice.

I doubt Hillary and her Democratic supporters will have anything to say about this “interference “in American elections, even local and state. But I do hope many of those who are touched by the loss of Tom Hayden heed these words from him, and don’t wait another 25 years to overcome their “fear and confusion” about saying and doing the right thing regarding the crimes of Israel, troublesome as that might be.

More articles by:

Jim Kavanagh edits The Polemicist. Follow him on Twitter @ThePolemicist_.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail