AIPAC: The Essential Profile

This week, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy meeting, and this one was quite different from many that came before it. For years, AIPAC conferences celebrated strong bipartisan support for Israel and for the unqualified U.S. support of Israel. But in 2019, that unity is very clearly fraying.

Where once there had been a significant number of foreign policy realists in the Republican Party who felt that the U.S. approach needed to be more even-handed, the GOP these days is passionately and overwhelmingly supportive of Israel and displays little if any concern about the lives of Palestinians. Democrats, on the other hand, are displeased with the Trump administration’s approach to the regional issues, feeling it has endangered and possibly doomed a two-state solution to the conflict.

But the Republican-Democrat divide is not the only area of division on Israel and Palestine. Within the Democratic party, a schism is widening between those who insist on supporting the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu—which includes the powerful centrist leadership of the party such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Eliot Engel, and Hakeem Jeffries— and the more progressive wing, led proudly by women like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, and others, who want to open a debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East and orient it more toward universal human rights.

But AIPAC is not just the venue to display these growing cracks in the bipartisan consensus that have made it even more difficult for the United States to play a productive role in resolving this devastating conflict. It is also a major player in the policy process, especially in Congress, as well as a source of intense debate and controversy over the question of why the United States behaves as it does in the region.

At this year’s conference, Ilhan Omar was attacked by members of Congress from both parties as well as by members of AIPAC and by the vice president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel. The reason for these attacks was that Omar had the temerity to call out and challenge AIPAC’s destructive influence, its role in directing the campaign funds of pro-Israel political actions committees (something AIPAC itself is not, despite its confusing name), and its efforts to establish the boundaries of discourse in Washington. Read more at LobeLog

Steve Rosen’s Anti-Peace Work Is The Issue, Not His Sex Life

Across the spectrum of opposition to American Middle East policy, no organization is seen as a greater opponent of ours than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC.

So, when the focal point of the “Israel Lobby” becomes embroiled in a sleazy scandal, one might expect that some of its opponents would succumb to the temptation to sink into National Enquirer-style writing.

And, indeed, that has been the case in many parts of the blogosphere (the mainstream media has not, as yet, picked up on the story). The leaked deposition of Steve Rosen (warning: that link leads to a very large pdf file) and various AIPAC

Steve Rosen, former AIPAC leader

staffers and agents involved in his ongoing lawsuit against his former employers spends a lot of time discussing pornography in great detail, as well as Rosen’s sex life.

Rosen, a 23-year employee of AIPAC was fired in 2005 after being indicted for receiving classified information from a Defense Department employee and passing it on to Israeli officials, though the charges were eventually dropped. Rosen contended that he had done nothing out of the ordinary for AIPAC, while the organization, despite having no policy at that time regarding encounters with classified information, painted Rosen’s (and his fellow accused, Keith Weissman) actions as that of a rogue employee. Rosen responded by suing AIPAC for defamation.

Some of the issues at hand right now hint at matters of real potential importance: the fact that Rosen’s first response to hearing from the FBI wasn’t even to go to his bosses at AIPAC, but rather to his closest contact at the Israeli embassy; Rosen’s and Weissman’s comment to Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler that appear to show they were aware that they had sensitive material that could “get them in trouble”; and, most importantly, Rosen’s implication that he can prove AIPAC defamed him  by revealing “about 180 internal documents showing that officials routinely gathered inside information from government officials about U.S. policy in the Middle East.” Continue reading