Leonard Fein, founder of Moment Magazine, is bucking the AIPAC juggernaut in calling its signature legislative proposal, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (H.R. 4681), “a piece of meddlesome foolishness.” He published More Pro-Israel Than Israel in The Forward:
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Tom Lantos offer a bill that…could be a poster-child for knee-jerk reaction…
What they have offered, and what at least 70 of their colleagues have by now endorsed, is a draconian measure that would forbid any and all contact between the American government and Hamas — and similarly, between the United States and any Palestinian government in which any member of Hamas has any part at all. According to the language of the bill, for example, if the Palestinian Authority were to employ a postman who is a member of Hamas, any and all relationship between any American government agency and the P.A. would have to cease…
The bill…is a piece of meddlesome foolishness, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that most members of Congress are reluctant to oppose for fear of seeming “anti-Israel.” That’s been the case in Congress for many years now, and the result has done Israel no service at all.
To be fair, not all those who support such bills do so out of fear. Some do it out of love, be it a love of Israel or a love of posturing. But fear predominates, and the proximate source of that fear is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which typically chooses to be the enforcer of precisely that kind of crude pro-Israelism.
I like that phrase “crude pro-Israelism.” I’ve never known how to distinguish between doves like me who are “pro-Israel” and right-wing security hawks who are “pro-Israel.” Fein gives me a good way to distinguish between them.
I’ve already written about the bill here in my blog and its AIPAC pedigree. Fein goes on to discuss the bill’s role in AIPAC’s legislative agenda:
…The Ros-Lehtinen-Lantos bill is…the fulcrum of this year’s annual Aipac conference and it will be the major agenda item as Aipac’s delegates move from their conference to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives.
Those who follow the news out of Israel closely may raise an eyebrow or two over this, since we now have…an authoritative [Israeli] voice…calling into question the notion that the way to make progress…is to ignore…subtle changes in [Hamas] policy and behavior that may develop in the weeks and months ahead. I refer to the voice of the acting prime minister of Israel…
Ehud Olmert is now on record as saying that Hamas does not pose a strategic threat to Israel. He has said that Israel will be resolute, tough in its dealings with a P.A…but that at the same time it will remain open to signs of change.
And we have also Amir Peretz, Labor’s candidate for Israel’s top job, who said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo last week, “We must not push the Palestinians into the arms of the extremists.” He called for Israel to establish a “moderate axis” of countries intent on strengthening the moderate forces in the P.A.
What this means is that AIPAC is carving out a U.S. policy towards the Palestinians that is even more draconian than Ehud Olmert’s. His policy in itself is pretty merciless. So you can imagine what a more merciless policy would look like. Fein points out that the AIPAC bill places conditions that Israel did not impose on former enemies during peace negotiations:
It demands, for example, that the P.A. “publicly acknowledge[s] Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” a condition that was not part of the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PLO nor of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. To demand that before there can be talks, before there can even be contacts, the P.A. must endorse Zionism is to engage in make-believe, even farce. It is a recipe for stalemate.
While Fein has no use for the Hamas that engaged in terror bombings against Israel, he reserves the possibility that the organization might change in such a way as to eventually become a partner worthy of negotiation:
Hamas includes fundamentalist clerics and may well include pragmatists also. No one knows what the outcome will be if the clerics and the pragmatists move in separate directions. Does not wisdom dictate that some doors be kept open, or at least ajar, for contacts with those in the Hamas camp who seem amenable to meaningful conversation?
…That is what Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos, with Aipac’s full support, would prohibit the United States from doing. And that’s pro-Israel?
To the 70 sponsors of this foul bill I say–do you want to score political points and curry favor with the AIPAC fat cats who’ll bankroll your campaigns while destroying the possibility for peace in the Mideast; or do you want to lay back and let Condi Rice do the reasonably good job she’s been doing acting as an honest broker between both sides for the past 6-12 months? And if your answer is you prefer grandstanding and scoring points, know that some of the blood that will be shed in the coming months and years in the Mideast may be upon your head. I say: please don’t tinker while the Mideast burns. If you can’t do something constructive then sit on your asses and do nothing. It’s a far sight better than this crummy bill.