Actually, We CAN Change Things, If We Decide to Try

In response to my article today, a long-time reader commented as follows:

“What’s needed is an Eliot-Ness-type figure to bring down this AIPAC mafia. But where is one to be found in this post-heroic era?”

US elected officials treat Israel as a sensitive domestic issue, not a foreign policy matter. Must it be so?

I thought it was worth bringing my response over here, because I think this sort of thinking, while certainly based on being well-informed and thoughtful, is ultimately self-defeating and unnecessary.

My response:

I don’t think that’s what’s needed. in fact, I think that approach is part of the problem. Sure, AIPAC has done some shady things in its history. That’s also true of other lobbying groups, incidentally. But the bulk of their success is due to things that are perfectly legal–propagandizing, badgering their opponents, and directing campaign funds. Most of all, straightforward lobbying of elected officials.

Even if AIPAC was less connected to the Israeli government per se, they’d still have a lot of the effect they do. In part, that is due to the fact that they capitalize on the sorts of things I describe in the article above–American idealization, almost deification, of Israel as a military power, American anti-Muslim/anti-Arab bigotry, and the stability of Israel as a country and an ally. While Israel often spits in the face of US desires, the Israeli government knows exactly when it needs to stand by the US–usually when no one else will.  Continue reading

Bibi’s Big Gambit

Did Benjamin Netanyahu overplay his hand?

Probably not, but he’s definitely testing the boundaries. That is the only way to explain his going beyond even his own usual hubris and obnoxiousness this week.

What looked at first like more of the same old Bibi nonsense – he comes to the US, Israel announces more building in both East Jerusalem and Ariel – has morphed into something more. The Obama Administration, displaying what is by now its customary weakness in the face of Israeli intransigence, merely said it was “disappointed” with the new construction.

There was little else there of substance, and Israel could simply have gone along its merry way, continuing to build while Bibi whipped the zealous masses into a frenzy in New Orleans. Instead, Netanyahu decided to escalate the matter by stating that building in Jerusalem is completely separate from peace negotiations.

This is a total re-framing of the issue, and one the Americans could not just ignore. They directly contradicted Bibi’s statement, drawing a line in the sand. Again, though, it was a mere statement; there seems to be no consequences from Washington if Bibi continues to defy them. That may change in the next few days, but thus far, Bibi seems to be making it even clearer than before that he will do what he wants with the full knowledge that the United States will do nothing to stop him, even if it makes America look absolutely impotent.

Some see Bibi’s move here as a test of the post-election Obama, a sort of poke to see if Obama is going to be even weaker with an incoming Republican House and smaller Democratic majority in the Senate than he was with the Democrats in full control of Congress. I think it’s actually directed at that incoming Congress and to the Jewish and Christian activists who will bring the pressure next year to prevent any move toward peace.

Bibi is sending a message that he believes the time is ripe, with the incoming Congress, to put the final nail in the coffin of the idea of a Palestinian state. He’s doing it on two fronts: Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.

Bibi is hoping to re-orient American policy on both of these issues by bringing them more out into the open. Continue reading

Israel's A Domestic Issue–That's the Problem

In the 21st century, Congress has demonstrated both incompetence in handling its limited responsibility in foreign policy, and how disastrous it is when it oversteps its bounds and tries to get more involved in foreign affairs than it should.

Outside of those working actively in foreign policy, it still seems like Americans have not grasped the magnitude of the

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA, seated at the left) prepares to address a pro-Israel rally

foolish decisions to go into Afghanistan and Iraq. But, for reasons that did not include a clear and sober calculation of American security or even geo-political interests, Bush, Cheney, and their neo-conservative cohorts did, in fact, put us back into a Vietnam-like quagmire.

But this one is worse. Vietnam was predicated on the “domino theory,” which dictated that the fall of a country in Southeast Asia of relatively minor importance would set off a chain reaction and lead to more crucial countries falling to Communism. Once the theory was discarded, it was possible, even if not so simple, to extricate ourselves from the war.

That’s not the case in either Afghanistan or Iraq, particularly the latter. Iraq, a major oil producer, could easily fall under the control or influence of foreign powers, including Iran, which would significantly affect the global economy and the global balance of power. Afghanistan has always been a center of instability, but the American intervention has embroiled Pakistan more deeply in the conflicts there, and the threat of Afghani issues destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear power, is very real. In both cases, these are merely singular examples among many other serious concerns.

No, America cannot just up and leave the Middle East as it did Southeast Asia. America also has very little to gain from staying, but must do so to avoid the consequences of leaving. That’s where the Neoconservatives have left the US. Making such clearly foolish mistakes in when and where to go to war is precisely why (among other reasons) Congress is the only body authorized to declare war. Continue reading

Find Me In New Book

There is a new book out that is an absolute must-read, and not only because I was interviewed for it.

It’s called Transforming America’s Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential For Change. It is, in my view, by far the most useful and informative book on the question of how influential AIPAC and its cohorts are, and, most important, how a realistic pro-peace lobby might come about.

If you’d like more information on the book, you can read a review of it at Zeek Magazine’s web site, by clicking here.