The power of AIPAC
I recently attended a program at a local synagogue. The guest speaker was my congressional representative, Charlie Crist. He gave a glowing report about his recent trip to Israel, an all expense paid trip offered to members of American congress.
A question and answer session following the congressman’s presentation showed a limited knowledge about Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. Primarily, his talk reiterated the words of both U.S. and Israeli leaders – America’s commitment to Israel’s security is solidly unshakable. A statement in the “We are AIPAC” booklet quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I represent the entire people of Israel who say, ‘Thank you, America.’” The pro-Israel lobby states: AIPAC is the one organization charged with ensuring America’s support year after year – no matter which U. S. party candidate holds office.
I first heard this when I was in Jordan from a former Jordanian general. It was shortly before the 2004 presidential election between incumbent George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry. During our conversation, I asked him who he would vote for if he were American. The general smiled wryly, then answered with slow deliberation. “It doesn’t matter, your policy is set,” then added, “ But Bush will get in.”
Recently I was reminded by a Palestinian of the first of four basic facts of geopolitics: U.S. Presidents no matter how “unconventional” must always obey the rules set for them, which include regime change across Western Asia.
Heavy-handed propaganda heaped on Americans imposes fear and bends toward justifying the need to bolster military security for Israel.
After the presentation, I spoke with Jewish members of the synagogue where the Congressman spoke. Some told me they had been on Israel guided tours. I listened as they told me of cancellations to Bethlehem due to the danger. One woman said they were warned against making eye contact with Palestinians, others said they were told not to leave the group and to stay close to the guide. When Bethlehem is included, the tour is brief and contact with Palestinians is discouraged. One woman said she felt relieved to get back on the bus to Jerusalem.
None of these fears are based on reality. A statement In AIPAC booklet says, “Israel now faces the largest threats since the founding of the state…” The focus of AIPAC is consistently on threats and on the promotion of fear. Pro-Israel politics concentrates on grabbing the ears of Congress and tenaciously hammering them with issues that serve the interest of Israel.
In Palestine, I met Amira Haas, a prominent journalist for Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper. “If you work to force Israel to see what they are doing, they will be forced to change… Jews create so much hatred,” she said, “politically it is possible to convince the U.S. and Europe that to support Israel is to destroy it.” Haas, who is Jewish, lives in the West Bank so sees the scene with a clear eye. “Can’t Israel see what she is doing? She has planted the seeds of her own destruction.”
Unless you go there, it is not possible to see the obvious, the brutality of Israel’s occupation.
Kept silent by popular news reports pushing “conflict,” “crisis” and “terrorism” as needs to be addressed with military support for security, obliterates reality and sets the course for war.
AIPAC local and Washington D.C. training programs recruit and “educate” members of Congress, political candidates, the media and students: their aim is to cement and control strong support of a U.S./Israel relationship. They have a club and AIPAC club members interact with top political leaders who can shape the U.S.-Israel relationship. Club members are invited to exclusive events around the globe. It all sounds good on the surface. But with the longest occupation in modern history, an unanswered question never addressed remains – What about civil rights for Palestinians?
I did not hear Congressman Crist talk of human rights, nor of help for the people bombed by Israel in Gaza or relief for people denied the freedoms enjoyed in democratic states. Israel has built a wall of fear that keeps the occupied people hushed by the resounding noise of AIPAC.