The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has a story about Aipac’s teetering efforts to ram the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism bill down Congress’ throats. Before we delve into the substance I’d like to point out yet another example of ideological partisanship that passes for journalism in our Jewish press. This is the article’s opening sentence:
With the prospect looming of a terrorist-ruled enclave on Israel’s doorstep, the Bush administration is weighing how to isolate the terrorists
Anyone who reads newspapers and knows something about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that this is out and out propaganda and NOT proper journalism. While I find the JTA a useful news source, it does have this annoying habit of reinforcing its Jewish insularity with statements like this (and many others I could point to). By the way, when you write to them to point out these issues no one ever replies–not even to disagree with you. And when you suggest story ideas to them–no one ever replies as well. Talk about insularity!
Returning to that loaded opening phrase, why focus on Hamas terrorism (which has been set aside for over a year now) unless you wish to signal your disgust with the Palestinian government which it now controls through democratic elections? If you are a fair-minded and balanced news source why not describe the PA in more neutral terms? This type of blather is one of the things that sometimes turns me off about the Jewish press.
But there is one very useful aspect of this article–its chronicling of the unusual problem Aipac is having in getting sufficient sponsors to guarantee passage of the Ros Lehtinen-Lantos Palestinian Anti-Terrorism bill. Imagine the following statement as music to my ears:
Six weeks after its introduction, and 10 days after a lobbying blitz by 5,000 delegates to the AIPAC policy conference, the number of co-sponsors remains stuck at about 150. Once a bill passes the halfway mark of about 220 co-sponsors, its passage becomes inevitable.
In an alert sent to supporters Tuesday, AIPAC sounded a note of alarm.
“After weeks of lobbying and hundreds of meetings at last week’s policy conference, the House International Relations Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 29th to ‘mark up’ this bill,” the alert said in an underlined passage. “Once this occurs, no new co-sponsors can be added.”
A “mark up” refers a bill to the full House for passage. The implication was clear: Without a majority co-sponsoring the bill, its passage is not guaranteed.
But no mark-up was scheduled for March 29, leaving lawmakers confused: Why was AIPAC telling this to its supporters?
It might be an innocent mistake, AIPAC insiders said. Others wondered whether the lobby was lighting a fire under its activists in the face of successful counter-lobbying by groups that oppose the legislation, including Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum.
For perhaps the first time in its existence, Aipac’s political agenda is being disputed by other Jewish organizations. All I can say is Hallelujah! And keep up the good work. An Aipac defeat (by no means guaranteed–so call or e mail your representative and senator now) would be equivalent to an NRA defeat on a gun control bill. It would be be the first chink in Aipac’s vaunted political invincibility. It would signal to Congress that there are other, more moderate voices in our community who should be listened to as well as Aipac. What a breath of fresh air that would be!
JTA continues with a description of the counter-lobbying efforts:
“There’s a very active counter-lobbying effort going on,” said a senior staffer in the office of one congressman who strongly backs the bill.
APN blitzed the Hill with a bulletin headlined “questions to ask AIPAC,” the first time the dovish group has openly taken on the pro-Israel powerhouse during its policy conference.
“Why should Congress change U.S. law, permanently, in a way that weakens and embarrasses our best hope for a future Palestinian partner (people like former Minister of Finance Salam Fayyad, who is now an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council), and strengthens extremists?” it asked.
I’m also delighted to report that the Bush Administration is dead set against this legislation (I’ve outlined their reasons here). Even more interesting is that the Republican leadership has not yet signed on:
Additionally, the staffer said, two critical players appear detached from the legislation: the Republican leadership, and Israel, where officials have hinted that they may seek a bit of flexibility in dealing with relative moderates.
“I don’t think there’s been a signal from the Republican leadership that they favor this,” said the staffer, who would not comment on the record on pending legislation. “And there hasn’t been a clear signal from the Israelis.”
For a terrific comprehensive discussion of Aipac’s impact on U.S. Mideast policy, read the essay (especially the last half), The Israel Lobby, in the London Review of Books. I found some passages in the first half of the essay too doctrinnaire in their analysis of Israeli policy and motivations, but the discussion of the ‘Israel Lobby’ in the second half was on point.