Last Friday’s American veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank illegal was not only shameful, it was possibly the low point of the already foundering Obama presidency. To be sure, United States UN Ambassador Susan Rice accompanied the veto with a stirring rendition of "I’ll cry tomorrow" as she described how the Obama White House really is opposed to the settlements. Really. Rice argued that supporting or even abstaining on a resolution criticizing Israel, however mildly framed, might setback the peace process, which, as she well knows, died completely over six months ago. But let’s not get hung up on the details. Rice should have said instead that her boss in the White House is so afraid of the Israel Lobby that he has to ask permission when he goes to the bathroom. At least that would have been completely credible, something you can believe in from an Administration that has otherwise delivered squat to the many voters who supported Obama in hopes that he might actually be interested in peace in our times.
And Obama has a lot to be afraid of, mostly from the old knife in the back trick from the Israel boosters in his own party. "This is too clever by half," said Representative Anthony Weiner. "Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the UN." Representative Nita Lowey agreed, "Compromising our support for Israel at the UN is not an option."
And over at the GOP side of the House, shortly before the veto, the new Chair of the Foreign Affairs committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized the resolution: "Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State and other free democracies. Offering to criticize our closest ally at the UN isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable." And just to make sure that Israel will have the money to expand its settlements, last Wednesday sixty-seven freshmen Republican House members sent a letter to their party’s leadership supporting full funding of aid to Israel. The letter cited the lawmakers’ "recognition that the national security of the United States is directly tied to the strength and security of the State of Israel."
Nice one, Anthony, Nita, Ileana and all those new congressmen who were elected because they promised to do some budget cutting, but I don’t detect anything about what the American national interest might be, just a bit of nonsense about "support for Israel," "our closest ally," and even more ridiculous bleating about how arming Israel makes America safer. In fact, none of you even mentioned the United States. Excuse me, I thought you dudes were serving in the US Congress, not the Knesset, but I might be wrong about that.
And lest anyone go wobbly on support of Israel there was the usual media claque screaming outrage because Rice had dared to criticize the settlements policy even though she was casting the veto. Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post put it nicely "The US representative, while reluctantly casting a veto, joined the pack of jackals that seek to make Israel the culprit for all that ills (sic) the Middle East."
For those who have been asleep a la Rip van Winkle for the past twenty years, let us recap what has been going on in this country. There is an extremely dangerous domestic enemy out there, and it isn’t the naturalized Muslims that the redoubtable Congressman Peter King is investigating. It is an organization that calls itself the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC. AIPAC is the most powerful foreign policy lobby in Washington, by far. It was founded in the 1950s with the support of the Israeli Foreign Ministry to create an organization that would lobby for sustained American financial, diplomatic, and military support of Israel, but, curiously, it has never been required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA, which would require full public disclosure of finances – details of income and expenditures – as well as periodic reports on the nature of the relationship between the organization and the foreign government in question.
AIPAC is the focal point of the Israel Lobby in the United States. On its website it describes itself as "America’s pro-Israel lobby." It is located in Washington DC but has branches nationwide, has a budget of $70 million a year, and has several hundred full time employees. It hosts an annual conference, this year in May, which attracts 6000 supporters and is a required stop for politicians and civic leaders from both parties, all attending to pledge their support for Israel. Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, and congressional leaders all have spoken at the AIPAC conference. Hundreds of congressmen regularly attend its sessions. During the past two years the conference was focused on the issue of Iran as a threat to Israel and the world.
AIPAC wants the United States to have only one true friend in the world and that friend will be Israel. That means that uncritically supporting Israeli interests has sidelined American foreign policy objectives and led to at least one war, against Iraq, in which thousands of Americans and some hundreds of thousands of foreigners have died. If AIPAC is successful in its desire to convince Washington to solve the Iran nuclear problem by force if necessary, it could lead to another war that almost certainly would have catastrophic global consequences.
The point of all this is that AIPAC is why the UN veto took place. AIPAC and its friends own Congress, the White House, and the mainstream media in its reporting on the Middle East. They are also powerful enough to set policy or overturn initiatives that they disapprove of. AIPAC operates by forcing all American politicians at a national level to respond to various positions supported by the Israel Lobby. Congressional candidates are carefully screened for their views on the Middle East and are coached to modify positions that are regarded as unacceptable. Those who pass the test are then vetted on their degree of reliability and, if approved, become recipients of good press from AIPAC’s friends in the media and cash contributions from the numerous PACs that have been set up to support the pro-Israel agenda. Once in office, the politicians are bombarded with AIPAC position papers, with visits from AIPAC representatives, and are expected to conform completely to the positions taken by the organization. That is why resolutions in Congress relating to Israel generally receive nearly unanimous approval no matter how frivolous or injurious to the US national interest. AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen once bragged that he could get the signatures of seventy senators on a napkin if he chose to do so.
AIPAC’s influence over Congress and the White House is such that the centerpiece policy of successive US administrations, the so-called peace process with the Palestinians, has been essentially fraudulent. Even though it is undeniably in the US national interest to broker some kind of peace agreement, Washington has instead never failed to lean heavily towards the Israeli point of view. The recent discussion of developments in Egypt has frequently been framed in terms of what it means for Israel even though the proper line of inquiry for the US media and politicians should be what does it mean for the United States. Other instances of AIPAC-supported policies that have damaged US interests have been the acceptance of occupations of and attacks on Lebanon, the acquiescence in the January 2009 bombing of Gaza, opposition to the Goldstone Report, and silence over last year’s Mavi Marmara incident in which a US citizen was killed. By taking positions that are lopsided and ultimately untenable, Washington’s hypocrisy has been visible to the entire world and has rightfully done much to fuel mistrust of American policies in general.
Why do office seekers and congressmen put up with the pressure? It is because they know that crossing AIPAC frequently means that the media will turn sour, funding will dry up, and a well-resourced candidate will suddenly appear in opposition at the next election. Ask Congressmen Paul Findley and Pete McCloskey or Senators William Fulbright and Chuck Percy, all of whom were perceived as critics of Israel and all of whom were forced from office in exactly that fashion. Opposing AIPAC can be a political death wish.
Even the appointment of senior government officials to positions that in any way deal with the Middle East is subject to the AIPAC veto. The blackballing of the highly qualified and outspoken Chas Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council was orchestrated by AIPAC and its friends in Congress because Freeman had been critical of Israeli policies. Candidates for Director of Central Intelligence and Director of National Intelligence regularly have their resumes examined to determine how they stand on the Middle East.
So if we Americans are ever to regain control over our destinies we have to start by removing the poison from our body politic. A good start would be by first registering and then marginalizing AIPAC and any other organizations like it that represent pernicious foreign interests. It would also be nice to send Weiner, Lowey, Ros-Lehtinen, and the 67 GOP freshmen representatives who want to keep shoveling money to Israel packing in the next election. And also Obama and Susan Rice since they don’t appear to know what country they live in. We really don’t need their kind of hyphenated patriotism anymore and we certainly don’t need vetoes at the UN that demonstrate to everyone that we are a nation of amoral hypocrites.