For those who follow my posts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you’ll know that one of my subthemes is the pernicious impact AIPAC has in dominating discourse on this subject. It’s bad enough that AIPAC maintains hegemony within the American Jewish community, but it’s also the 900 lb. gorilla within the halls of Congress and the White House regarding Israel.
AIPAC is the Jewish community’s NRA, that lobbying outfit (and don’t believe anyone there who tells you AIPAC is not a lobby) that loves to throw its weight around, that loves to make politicians line up like lions in the circus under the lion-tamer’s whip. It’s the group that loves to outdo even Ariel Sharon in trumpeting its fealty to ‘pro-Israel’ values. I put that term in quotation marks because I too feel I am ‘pro-Israel’ but not in any terms that AIPAC would recognize.
But the truth is that this group’s views of Israeli society and the I-P conflict are far to the right of most Israelis and even American Jews. For example, both of these entities support a two state solution which would allow Palestine to share Jerusalem as a capital with Israel. Both are in favor of withdrawal from the vast majority of the West Bank. But you won’t hear those positions advocated by AIPAC.
AIPAC is a mini-state run by a relatively small group of extraordinarily wealthy and conservative (both in terms of Israel and U.S. politics) American Jews. AIPAC answers to no one, least of all the greater American Jewish community; and sometimes it doesn’t even answer to the Israeli prime minister (Yitzhak Rabin once famously lambasted AIPAC in a General Assembly speech for fawning over Likud policies and ignoring Labor while it was out of power).
AIPAC is a big bully in terms of how it treats dissenters within the Jewish community. I once wrote a letter to the editor of the Seattle Jewish paper questioning the group’s commitment to the Road Map. Not only did the president of the local chapter denounce me in the next issue, a local AIPAC staff member looked up my personal address and mailed me a press release explaining that AIPAC DID support the Road Map. By the way, the press release was the exact same document I’d used to question their commitment in my original letter. Not only was this a terribly ineffective method of refuting my views; it was an invasion of my privacy. But with AIPAC that’s par for the course. In fact, I’m sure that others have fared far worse than I at its hands.
All this by way of saying that I’m delighted that M.J. Rosenberg, who writes the weekly IPF Friday report for Israel Policy Forum, turned his sights on this subject in today’s column. IPF is the one Jewish organization with mainstream credibility which bucks the AIPAC trend. They lobbied Condi Rice to pressure Israel to transfer the Rafah crossing to Palestinian control. Now M.J., in a tempered but direct way has spoken out against extremism within the American Jewish leadership (and elsewhere) regarding Israel policy:
…The big story from Israel [this week]…is the seismic shift in Israeli opinion on the question of how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You wouldn’t know it in this country, where most Democrats and Republicans compete in reflexively mouthing meaningless (and supposedly “pro-Israel”) pieties designed to impress potential donors. But in Israel, the political center is now pretty much united in support of the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israel’s withdrawal from most of the West Bank…
All of a sudden, the hard-line position in Israeli politics has been reduced to the fringes, along with the “Greater Israel” fantasy.
It just goes to show that Israelis understand that a two-state solution is the only way to security and peace. American hardliners can spend their days finding flaws in Mahmoud Abbas and focusing on the Palestinian minority that will not reconcile itself to a Jewish state rather than the vast majority which has.
But Israelis have to live there.
To be fair to AIPAC, Rosenberg’s criticism is not directly solely against it. He reserves harsh and legitimate criticism for Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean who out pro-Israel the Republicans in “mouthing meaningless pieties.”
Rosenberg is calling here in this country for the same type of realism, moderation and urgency which currently characterizes Israelis’ approach toward the conflict. How long will it take AIPAC and the hard pro-Israel crowd to recognize that their so-called hegemony over Israel policy is not only a chimera, but a pernicious one at that? American Jews unite–we have nothing to lose but our [AIPAC-made] chains!