I’m no fan of Hamas, quite the contrary. But Israel’s attempt to put all the blame on Hamas is outrageous. The international community will soon judge this war’s atrocities. Hamas may be reprimanded, deservedly, but Israel will be condemned and ostracized far more. And then Israelis will say, ‘It’s Hamas’ fault. And the world will laugh.
I don’t agree. I don’t see that happening for one obvious reason: the power of the Israel lobby.
Think about it. When it comes to Israel, the United States is the ball game. It provides Israel with the money, the weapons, and the United Nations’ vetoes that enable both the occupation and its multiple wars (like this one) to preserve it. And that shows no sign of changing.
Watch the television coverage. For three weeks the killing of children and other innocents in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military has dominated the news. We see the bombs dropping. We see the destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques. We see the parents wailing over the deaths of their children and children wailing at the deaths of their parents and siblings.
But it makes no difference to the United States government which can stop the slaughter with a few words. (Five of those words are “your $3.5 billion aid package.)
That doesn’t happen. Instead we hear that President Obama exchanged angry words with Prime Minister Netanyahu on a phone call, followed by the denial that he is angry and then by the announcement that we are sending more weapons to Israel to help replenish its coffers, diminished by all that bombing of Gaza.
I have no doubt about what the president really thinks mainly because he is a decent man which means that he is appalled by the mass killing of children, no matter what the justification. (Yes, Obama’s drones kill children too. As the indispensable Andrew Sullivan points out 176 kids over eight years compared to Israel’s 250 in three weeks.)
For me to believe that the president really supports Netanyahu’s war requires me to believe that he is not a good and decent man. I’d rather believe he is just afraid of the power of the lobby. And of Congress, which is its wholly owned subsidiary.
I watched a wonderful Member of Congress on MSNBC yesterday. He spoke out against the Israeli onslaught. He called for a ceasefire and the end of Israel’s blockade. He was open and frank in his horror at Israel’s behavior.
But then the moderator asked him to explain why it is that “only a tiny handful” have spoken out as he has. What are they afraid of?
The Congressman refused to answer. He simply acknowledged that it was true that Congress is united in support of this war. And he pledged to talk to as many of his colleagues as he can to change that. But he would not refer to the lobby.
Trust me, he would have loved to say “AIPAC. It’s AIPAC.”
Because that is what he knows, and what the moderator knows, but there is only so far he can go.
No, AIPAC cannot defeat him. But it can (and would) make his life miserable. So he punted. But he did go farther in criticizing Netanyahu’s war than any other legislator. Just not so far that war advocates Howard Kohr of AIPAC, Rabbi David Saperstein (Reform synagogues), Abe Foxman (Anti Defamation League), David Harris (American Jewish Committee), Steve Gutow (Jewish Council on Public Affairs) and the other guardians of Israel’s right to “defend itself” would direct the congressman’s donors to threaten him.
That is how it works. I know that from my four years at AIPAC (1982-1986) where I shared an office with its then political director. I watched and heard him directing the donors to crush a straying senator. I worked in the House and Senate for 15 years and personally experienced the pressure tactics that terrorize any Congressman who even thinks of criticizing Israel. I watched AIPAC write the foreign aid package and then simply hand it to the chairman of the Appropriations Committees for immediate passage; and then I watched AIPAC micromanage its implementation, for instance, literally holding up humanitarian assistance because a playground in Ramallah was named after someone AIPAC deemed a terrorist.
This was the most telling moment. During the George W. Bush administration, the White House and the Israeli government agreed on an $86 million assistance program for the Palestinian Authority to help it withstand the growing power of Hamas. Israel sent the Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh to Washington to lobby for it alongside the White House lobbying team. But then came the word that the Democratic chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations had decided to cut the aid package in half. How could she? She knew that it was Israel’s Defense Ministry that crafted the package and that our president was demanding its passage.
Confronted by a supporter of the aid package she was asked how she could cut Palestinian aid being pushed by the Israeli and American governments. She said that the AIPAC lobbyist had told her to cut it and “I trust her.” She offered no other reason although she came up with various ones for the media.
I have seen it all first hand and I can tell you this. AIPAC and its satellites constitute the sole reason this war goes on. Otherwise, the images of the dead children would prevail and America would use its clout to negotiate the simultaneous end of the bombing and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza (monitored by the United States to ensure no weapons get in.)
But it won’t happen. AIPAC rules. It’s the Jewish community’s National Rifle Association, which also uses its clout against children. To be fair, it is not the Jewish community that AIPAC represents but the organized Jewish community, a small minority of Jews. I still believe that most American Jews, always progressive and humanitarian, have not abandoned 3000 years of Jewish history and tradition to support this barbarism.
Just as I still believe in the courage and goodness of the Israeli left (you know, the people who created Israel) who come out night after night, demonstrating against what is being done in their names. Yes, they are a small minority, but far larger than the percentage of Americans who demonstrated against the Bush-Cheney Iraq war which, with its newest legacy, ISIS, continues its endless destruction.
Let me conclude with this video of Senator Cory Booker enthusiastically reading from AIPAC’s script on the Senate floor this week. This is how it works.
It is Netanyahu’s war. And Hamas’s war. But, so far as the United States government is concerned, it is AIPAC’s war and it will only stop when the lobby (after consultation with Netanyahu) decides to stop it.