It's AIPAC's War Now

Writing in Ha’aretz today, Gideon Levy predicts that ultimately the Netanyahu government will pay a heavy price for the atrocities being inflicted on the people of Gaza. He writes:
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.

10 thoughts on “It's AIPAC's War Now

  1. We in the United States are each implicated in this disastrous war in Gaza. If we don’t find ways to make our voices heard, the United States, already a major source of world terrorism, will continue to side with Israel to spread the poison which is religious apartheid. Israel is an apartheid state, religious apartheid. What an irony, that Israel, settled by a people with a long history of enlightened ideas, is presenting to the world in this way.

  2. If the US had instituted a trade embargo against Nazi Germany would it have prevented the invasion of Poland? I think your major fallacy is believing Obama is a good and decent man. I have no respect for cowards. He is so far the Neville Chamberlain (isn’t his name similar to chambermaid?) of the 21st century?
    Other than that I pretty much like your analysis.

      • Doesn’t everybody as soon as they are allowed facts ? Your question is wrong. Similarity between Israel and Nazi Germany is not made in people’s minds. It is made on the ground. We know whole trajectory of Nazi Germany. The trajectory of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has not played out to its inevitable conclusion. Yet. And this is noticed by people

  3. Badass Jews?
    Since the end of WWII, Israel is the only nation with a significant number of Jewish men and women in active military service. With anti-Semitism remaining a challenge worldwide, including here in the U.S., it’s only natural for many Jews, raised predominantly in the suburbs of America, and with no military experience, to look to the men and women of the IDF as the representation of the Badass Jew.
    There’s a problem with this, however. The IDF, despite the bravery and military skill of its members, bears no resemblance to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto or others who have challenged genocide or anti-Jewish oppression with their fists and guns.
    The IDF is a conventional army backed by $3 billion a year from a military superpower. It is the state army of a nation with a huge international lobbying arm, exerting great political influence in the U.S. and worldwide.
    All wars contain unique histories and justifications. But, all too often, when the passions of battle arrive at their apex, verbal guns are turned on those who question their necessity or conduct. And so it is with the current war in Gaza.
    Jews and others who question the necessity and ethical justification for the large civilian casualty toll exacted by the IDF in Gaza are now under attack for “perpetuating anti-Semitism” or “playing into the hands of the enemy.” Scorched bodies of children? Blame Hamas, or you’re a traitor. Near total lack of democratic rights of Palestinians in Gaza? Blame Hamas, or you’re a traitor.
    Such attempts to squelch meaningful dialogue in the midst of war are painfully familiar. They echo the cry of “America Right or Wrong” advanced by the supporters of America’s intervention in Vietnam against the peace movement of the 1960s. They mirror the “soft on terrorism” charge levied against those who opposed the use of torture and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan after the attacks on 9-11.
    But the adversaries of constructive dialogue during those conflicts bear another striking comparison to today’s unquestioning defenders of the IDF. Many were chicken hawks, men and boys who had no personal experience with war and its consequences but who looked for a confirmation of their own manhood in uncritical, fawning support for the battlefield exploits of others.
    No, we in America do not know what it is to have our cities targeted by rockets.
    The progeny of Indians who were pushed off their land by our original settlers do not take up rocks or arms against us, as do the Palestinians who were driven from their villages by victims of the Holocaust looking for their own homeland. In fairness to the Israelis, if they did, we, too, would say, “Blame the Indians.”
    But, in our security and relative stability, it is far too easy to excuse or ignore nagging questions coming from Israel. Confusion about events on the ground is bolstered by dozens of highly skilled IDF media personnel and AIPAC message spinners who work 24-7 to indict Hamas and the Palestinians for every death suffered in Gaza.
    Their success is measured in our silence. Even those of us who have questions about Israel’s conduct are fearful of being labeled “anti-Israel.”
    Our silence is as inexcusable as the IDF’s excesses.
    What will our answer be to great grandchildren who ask if we supported the apartheid-style treatment of the Palestinians? Do we really think their grievances will wash away? Doesn’t the history of our own nation show us that the arc of justice will inevitably swing against the fences that keep Palestinians “in their place?”
    Real men (or women) aren’t afraid to ask questions. Real warriors welcome scrutiny. Real nations need open debate and discussion. And Badass Jews fight, on and off the battlefield, for peace and justice, not revenge and reaction.

  4. You cannot survive in the Middle East without having a bit of baddass in you. It’s difficult living next store to states the think nothing of slaughtering hundreds of thousands of their own citizens at the blink of an eye.
    BTW, you really have to do a better job in providing historic perspective.

  5. What gets left out of the equation all to often is the “corporate welfare” aspect of America’s motivation. Yes, we give taxpayer dollars to Israel, but most of those come back to the domestic defense industries that supply the hardware. When a conflict stops making sense, look for who’s making money out of the deal. That’s where the monster lives.

  6. To break the power of AIPAC, candidates for public office should get funds from government, not from private and/or corporate donors. Change election funding laws.

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