How the Israeli Tail Wags the American Dog 2/2

Israel Lobby 1

AIPAC, the Motor of the Israel Lobby

The driving force within the Israel Lobby is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded in 1951 by Isaiah L. Kenen, a former employee of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs who headed the organization until his retirement in 1974. AIPAC declares that it has more than 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and “a vast pool of donors.” Congressman Brad Sherman of California has called AIPAC “the single most important organization in promoting the U.S.-Israel alliance.” It has also been called one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States.

The group does not raise funds for political candidates itself, but its members and sympathizers raise money for candidates through political action committees and other means. Though AIPAC declared more than $77 million in revenues (2014), the amount of money it funnels indirectly through like-minded informal organizations into its lobbying efforts in the US Congress and executive branch is much greater. A popular accusation against AIPAC is that it virtually buys American legislators. Otherwise, how could it have gained such powerful clout in Congress? In 2005, Lawrence Franklin, a Pentagon analyst pleaded guilty to espionage charges of passing US government secrets to AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman, in what is known as the “AIPAC espionage scandal.” Rosen and Weissman were later fired by AIPAC but in 2009 the charges against the former AIPAC employees were dropped. (Source: Wikipedia).

For more detailed information on AIPAC’s influence on the US Congress, have a look at this excellent interview on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal with John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the authors of the Israel Lobby article that blew the lid off the issue in 2006.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Paladin of the US Israel Lobby

Benjamin Netanyahu (“Bibi” to his friends) was a bright, personable lad who enjoyed a stroke of extraordinary luck early in life.  So lucky was Bibi in his childhood that, if you wanted to create the ideal interlocutor between Israel and the United States, you could not come up with a better model  with a better preparation than Bibi Netanyahu.

His parents were secular Jewish immigrants to Israel, his father a historian and promoter of the Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration, which opened the door to Jewish settlement in Palestine, took the form of a letter, dated Nov. 2, 1917, from Arthur Balfour, foreign secretary of the British government, to Lord Walter Rothschild, head of the organization of British Zionists. This letter promised that the British government would work to bring about “a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.”

Bibi Absorbs America

Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, Netanyahu’s family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where his father held an academic post and Bibi graduated from Cheltenham High School. His participation in a debate club there has stood him in good stead. That and the rest of his high-school and university experience gave him both a solid understanding of Americans and the capacity to communicate with them in their own idiom.

After returning to Israel to participate in an elite unit in the Six Day War in 1967 he returned to the States to take bachelors and masters degrees in science at MIT. He then worked for as an economic advisor at the Boston Consulting Group before returning to Israel in 1978 to found the Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute, named after his older brother Yonatan, who died leading the Entebbe hostage-rescue operation in Uganda in 1976. Bibi served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988. (Source: Wikipedia)

Elected Israeli prime minister in 2009 (after serving earlier as PM from 1996-99), Bibi never looked back. Despite his promising beginnings, Benjamin Netanyahu, has devoted himself to hatching and executing hard-line policies that are seen around the world as human-rights abominations. The scenario is aggravated by the absolute acquiesence of a series of American administrations and under the umbrella of Israel’s own nuclear arsenal. Bibi bombs and slaughters wherever he pleases, either with his own Israeli Defense Force (IDF) or by means of proxy armies, a strategy used by the Israelis at least as far back as the massacre of Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in September, 1982.

More Partners, More Motives

The ideological congruence between the Israeli right and the American neo-cons and Trumpeteers facilitates their mutual collaboration. All have a vivid interest in disrupting Arab Middle East cohesion by smashing it into smaller, weaker units unable to pose a threat either to Israel or to US pretensions to the region’s oil resources. And both are determined to neutralize if not annex Iran. The US is motivated, at least in part, to take revenge for the Muslim clerics’ overthrowing the Shah and taking the American embassy hostages in 1979. Israel’s interest forms part of their traditional  Lebensraum ambitions. The supposed Iranian nuclear threat is just a cruel joke. The only country in the Middle East with nuclear arms is Israel, and they are formidable, though the Israelis don’t acknowledge them and the Americans pretend not to notice.

UNITED CHRISTIANS FOR ISRAEL

The power of American Evangelical and Christian Zionist sects is also a  factor in the Middle East mix. There are several sects of varying stripes that consider themselves “dispensationalists,”  ranging from those who believe that the establishment of the modern state of Israel in the Holy Land is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, to all-out loonies working to bring about the Apocalypse by promoting a war in the Holy Land. Most of them are tacit or explicit allies of the Israel Lobby and their influence on all aspects of American Israel policy is massive, due both to their numbers and their fanaticism, hence their ability to decide American presidential elections with their votes. More information on dispensationalism here, if you’re interested.

The Netanyahu Endgame

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s murky past has finally caught up with him. The headline of Nehemia Shtrasler’s article in yesterday’s (March 5, 2019) Israeli newspaper Haaretz reads, “The Die Is Cast. Netanyahu Is History.” The article goes on:

The prime minister’s political career of nothing but himself is over and it doesn’t matter whether it happens in the coming election or immediately afterwards. The Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mendelblit, executed him the moment he presented the three harsh indictments. True, there is still a hearing to be held – but it will be impossible after the 57 difficult pages that contain a very detailed and exceptional description of the crimes of fraud, breach of trust and bribery – for all this to be overturned in a hearing. Mendelblit has been working on this for years, and he knows each and every detail.

Does the expected end of Netanyahu’s political career mean that the Israel Lobby in the United States will be hindered in any way? Not at all. AIPAC never pretended to represent Netanyahu nor his Likud Party. It will be easy for them to simply brush his dust off their shoulders and continue to march. Have no fear. The United States government will be marching with them in lockstep.

###

Back to Part 1
Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

How the Israel Tail Wags the American Dog–1/2

The Israel Lobby’s Sway Over the US Agenda Is About Expert Lobbying, Politicking, and Tricky Payoffs to Members of Congress

Israel Trump

How Much Power Does the Israel Lobby Wield in Washington?

Lots. They can count on the unconditional backing of the US Congress economically–to the tune of some $3 billion annually, making them the US’s most-favored aid recipients both militarily and diplomatically. The State of Israel’s excesses in the Middle East have been protected by US vetoes in the United Nations Security Council 43 times (a UN veto record) since 1972, most recently  a draft UN Security Council resolution on June 1, 2018, that rejected President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (Source: middleeasteye.net) Here’s a link to the full list of vetoes compiled by Jewish Virtual Library.org.

A flagrant example of the Israeli government’s clout in Washington was the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 speech before a joint meeting of Congress. The speech, essentially a harangue against the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, lasted 43 and a half minutes. It would have been shorter had it not been repeatedly interrupted–by standing ovations. That meeting was convened between House Speaker at the time, John Boehner, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, to arrange a speech before Congress for Netanyahu, in defiance of President Obama and without his knowledge. Obama only found out about Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress after it was accorded.

See the Washington Post‘s transcript of the full speech, along w ith a video version.

Support for Israel in the United States Congress is overwhelming. Only 50 members of both houses of Congress boycotted Netanyahu’s 2015 speech. The US and Israel clearly have shared interests–in their pretensions to co-dominance in the Middle East, their virulent allergy to Iran, and their decades-long efforts to conceal Israel’s nuclear arsenal, for example, but are those common interests so powerful as to justify slavish American adherence to all the Israeli extreme-right-wing Likud party’s policy and junkyard-dog defense of all Israeli human-rights abuses?

Outside of Congress there are grave doubts on these questions, including within the American Jewish community. The subject, which had been simmering for a long time, gained notoriety in 2006 when university professors, John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Harvard University), wrote an article entitled The Israel Lobby that was finally published on the other side of the Atlantic in The London Review of Books (Vol. 28, No. 6, March 23, 2006) after being rejected by all the relevant American media. Why was it so universally shunned in the US? The most convincing answer to this question reinforces the main theme of the article: the Israel Lobby’s power was so great that nobody in the US dared to publish an article that criticized Israel.

The Most Powerful Card in the Israeli Deck?

The most powerful card in the deck where US-Israeli relations are concerned, the one that trumps all the others, is and has been for many years the “anti-semitism” card. It’s the Israel Lobby’s ace in the hole. Whenever any American, whether journalist, academic,  notable private citizen or politician objects to any of the policies or actions of Israel’s far-right Likud Party government, the Israel Lobby in the United States whips out the anti-semitism card, whingeing vociferously, “This is anti-semitism!” Actually it usually isn’t. Usually it has to do with clear and present issues of human rights or international law, subjects like the massive building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land–what little is left of it–or deploying snipers to maim and kill unarmed Palestinian demonstrators–men, women and children–on the other side of the Israeli fence/wall.

Ironically, the very word “semitic” doesn’t even belong exclusively to the Israelis, though they have appropriated it for their own use, much in the way the Americans have appropriated “America” and “American,” terms that rightly refer to all the lands and peoples of two entire continents. According to Britannica.com “semitic” refers to:

Semite, person speaking one of a group of related languages, presumably derived from a common language, Semitic (see Semitic languages). The term came to include Arabs, Akkadians, Canaanites, some Ethiopians, and Aramaean tribes including Hebrews.

US Representative Ilhan Omar, the Most Recent “Offender”

The citizens of Minnesota have recently seen fit to elect Ilhan Omar, a young Somali-American woman, to the United States House of Representatives. She’s outspoken, and had the impertinence the other day to suggest that the Israel Lobby was able to use “Benjamins” to get their chosen candidates for the United States Congress elected. (“Benjamin” is slang for a hundred-dollar bill.) A summary look at successful congressional election results, collating them with candidates’ stands on issues that the Israeli Likud Party considers sensitive, would seem to corroborate Omar’s veiled allegation that sympathizers of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other members of the Israel Lobby were buying elections. But truth is scarcely an issue here, any more than it is in so many other questions on the current American agenda. Besides, who isn’t buying elections in the United States these days?

The immediate pro-Israel backlash was led by President Donald Trump himself who said he thought Omar should resign. Both the newly-elected representative from Minnesota and the House’s other new Muslim representative, Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian- American, have criticized the Israeli government for its grotesque treatment of the Palestinian people.  The mere mention of the Israeli apartheid system is politically dangerous for American elected officials. In 2016, when presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dared to say that “We are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” it became a major media event.

Ben Ehrenreich, writing for The New Republic on Feb. 15, 2019, sums up the back story of Ilhan Omar’s alleged faux pas in a single eloquent paragraph:

By the time Ilhan Omar walked onto the national stage, a lot had changed, and not much at all. Since 2006, we’ve seen three devastating and overwhelmingly one-sided Israeli assaults on Gaza, the massive expansion of settlements in a brutal and seemingly endless occupation, the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations and anything that could be called an Israeli “left,” a widening gulf between Israeli and American Jews, and an Israeli prime minister who went out of his way to embarrass a popular Democratic president and to embrace the neo-fascist right. Ever-larger cracks are appearing in the defensive wall the U.S. media has for years erected around Israel: Critical voices—even Palestinian ones—are increasingly making it into the op-ed pages. Space for debate is finally opening up. And the controversy that blew up around Omar is a foretaste of how bitterly that space will be contested.

Money Talks

According to Alex Kotch, writing in The Guardian on Feb. 13, 2019:

Aipac played a role in forming separate pro-Israel Pacs and has encouraged its members to donate to its favorite candidates for decades; it spends more money than any other pro-Israel group every year to lobby the federal government; it holds annual conventions featuring sympathetic members of Congress; and it’s spent nearly $16m since 2000 to send groups of congresspeople to Israel to learn about the two countries’ relationship through the Aipac lens.

In part because of AIPAC’s political efforts, the US has remained Israel’s strongest ally, funding its military and selling it weapons, siding with Israel on UN resolutions, and hardly slapping Israel on the wrist when it expands its illegal West Bank settlements or its soldiers kill hundreds of unarmed Palestinians, Including children, medics and journalists.

Kotch adds in his Guardian article:

The furor over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has led more than half of US states to pass laws attacking BDS. These laws clearly trample on the constitutional right to free speech and expression, but that didn’t stop the US Senate from passing the very first piece of legislation this session, which forbids Congress from pre-empting such state laws.

Go to Part 2

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

%d bloggers like this: