For those of us who have spent years, if not decades, trying to make Americans understand the horrors of the Israeli occupation, this should be a time for some serious re-thinking. There is no evidence whatsoever that Americans (led by Jewish Americans) reacted to the Gaza war any differently than to any previous war involving Israel.

The media (with a few notable exceptions like Chris Hayes on MSNBC) propagated the Israeli line while mostly ignoring what the IDF was inflicting on the civilian population of Gaza. The President had nothing to say about the innocent Palestinian dead except in the vaguest and most balanced tones. If he felt any outrage about the dead children in Gaza, he kept it to himself. As for Congress, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, came together as one to reduce the leveling of Gaza to the simple issue of Israel’s “right to defend itself.” As for the organized Jewish community, it backed the war as stridently as ever, with even J Street intimidated into support for it. A notable exception to all this was Tikkun which, consistent with its principles, vocally opposed the killing.

In short, nothing has changed. The White House, Congress and the media is in the Israeli government’s pocket, kept there by the lobby which (in all its various incarnations) keeps America in line behind Netanyahu.

The implications of all this are pretty frightening. After all, it is not as if the anti-occupation and anti-war left has not been active over the past decade. Although J Street consistently joins Team Netanyahu in times of crisis, it certainly has brought valuable attention to the anti-occupation cause, more than it ever received in the past. So have Peter Beinart, Walt & Mearsheimer and a host of others who have both explained the evils of the occupation and the way it is sustained by the Israel lobby here.

And yet there was little, if any, evidence that anything has changed since the last Gaza war or even since the Lebanon war of 1982.

AIPAC Secretary Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with AIPAC leaders. Credit: Creative Commons / US Department of State

One might argue that this only proves that BDS is the answer, something that is more difficult to dispute than before the latest war but I doubt it. Given the political situation here, the United States Congress would surely find a way to compensate Israel for any losses BDS might inflict on it. Isn’t it clear by now that there is virtually nothing the United States will not do for Israel in order to please the AIPAC-organized fat cat donors?

The bottom line is that without changing our political system, it is unlikely that the United States will ever do anything to end the occupation. This is not to say that the occupation won’t end. It very well might but through actions on the ground in the Middle East, by Palestinians themselves, rather than due to anything our government does. With even progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren giving full throated support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, who exactly could we look to to change US policies? AIPAC’s own Hillary Clinton?

In short, the Israel issue is like the gun issue. Just as the slaughter of the children of Newtown, Connecticut led not to more gun control but to less, so will the slaughter in Gaza lead to not less support for Netanyahu but more. Powerful lobbies use moments of crisis to galvanize support, to raise more money, to get more politicians to swear allegiance. Until we get money out of politics, this is how it is going to be.

And not just on Israel or guns either, but pretty much on every issue. Our democracy has become a tragic joke.


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