By Abukar Arman
Despite the 18,000 faithful who gathered recently in Washington, D.C. to pledge their unwavering support to Israel, AIPAC finds itself in a Dickensian moment of history that could be described as ‘It was the winter of gloating; it was the spring of scrutiny’.
AIPAC’s guests of honor may vary in faith and political affiliation; they may vary in fame, clout and the sizes of their wallets. But on certain characteristics they are all identical: their cultish faithfulness in the mentality of ‘what’s good for Israel is good for America,’ and in their adherence to disseminate the committee’s talking-points on foreign policy ad nauseam.
As usual the AIPAC conference has attracted big names such as Vice President Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others to rub shoulders with many bigwig donors, pundits and ‘king-makers’.
After 7 decades of statehood, Israel remains unsustainable without billions of U.S. tax-payers’ money, without U.S.’ blind commitment to veto any resolution that attempts to hold Israel accountable for the routine human rights violations and transgressions against international laws- something that ironically would have justified ‘regime change’ if it were another country doing it.
Over the years, AIPAC has successfully marketed Israel as a logical cognitive dissonance. Though 2019 Global Firepower ranks Israel the 16th most powerful military in the world, it is presented in the US as a nation that is under existential threat. Though it is a wealthy, innovative, and advanced nation, it is presented as a nation that is worthy of perpetual unconditional funding from American tax-payers.
Looking Through the Stained Glass
Following Israel’s 70th anniversary, these 3 controversial AIPAC lobbied-issues came to fruition: termination of the Iran Nuclear Deal, transfer of US embassy to Jerusalem, and getting U.S. to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel; hence underscoring AIPAC’s exceptional clout in driving U.S. foreign policy. The only outstanding item in Israel’s wish-list is to declare the remanence of the Muslim Brotherhood—most of whom are in the dungeons of Egypt—a terrorist organization. Surely these accomplishments could boost Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Donald Trump’s image- something they desperately need as specter of corruption charges looms.
That being said, despite the common perception, America, save President Carter, has never been an ‘honest broker’ in its effort to help negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine. And that duplicitous brokerage is now on steroid. Unlike previous U.S. envoys to the Middle East who diplomatically concealed their staunch support of above-all-laws Zionism, Trump’s son in law Jarod Kushner who is now piloting U.S.’ Middle East policy, seems to enjoy being closely affiliated with Netanyahu and the extreme elements of Israel politics.
The Missing In Action Media
AIPAC relies heavily on U.S. mainstream media for dissemination of Israel’s narrative and for perception management by omitting daily human rights violations that IDF commits against Palestinians, including children. So it should shock no one to see media groups that would assign reporters to file stories from dangerous war zones would never send reporters to educate American audiences on what happens at military check points or about the unbearable living conditions in Gaza.
Generally speaking, in democracies, media provides some of the most critical public services- information, scrutiny, and empowerment. Without them, the masses will remain ignorant or ill-informed, therefore easily exploitable socially, politically and economically, and those whom power is entrusted with willgrow more authoritarian and abusive, with impunity.
By the same token when media surrender their journalistic independence to the highest corporate or individual mogul bidders, they, in due course, grow dysfunctional and lose sight of their role to advance the public interest and keep power in check. In such condition, media become dangerous tools.
According to Gullup media trust survey, older Americans are more likely to trust the media than younger Americans are. In this latest survey, 53% of those aged 65 and older trust in the media, compared with just 33% of those under age 30,” And this demographic perceptional enlightenment is the biggest revolution against fictional narratives that cannot withstand the smell test. That revolution is not only active in social media; it has real presence in the United States Congress. And said presence is more profound than Adam Milstein, a major pro-Israel funder’s, Islamophobic claim that “The Muslim Brotherhood is now part of Congress” in reference to Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib or President Trump’s reckless posting of a propagandistic video implicating Rep. Omar as a terrorist sympathizer. Death threats against Omar have alarmingly increased since then.
Imminent Clash With Congress
Donald Trump’s tweet has set the stage for U.S.’ formal recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel posted the day before the Special Counsel Rober Mueller turned in his final report on the Russia Investigation. Of course, this latest of ‘Trumplomacy’ adventures has very little, if any, to do with U.S. national interest.
Trump’s violation of the international law that considers the Golan Heights as an occupied territory was meant to give another troubled leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is AIPAC’s choice, a boost in the upcoming election. This blind loyalty to Israel’s grand objective in the Middle East would further alienate and shut out any opportunity to reconcile with the Muslim streets that are fed up with the despotic older guards such as Egypt’s President Abel Fattah el-Sisi and the more youthful perilous pawns such as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. This reckless decision endorses the ‘might is right’ world view, reinspire irredentism and intensify the sporadic disorders already underway in many parts of the world and undermine U.S.’ geopolitical interest in the long term. Most of the credit goes to AIPAC.
Before AIPAC came to the scene, the Jewish Zionist Council used to do heavy lifting when it comes to lobbying for Israel. Under the Kennedy administration, Attorney General Robert Kennedy launched an investigation that later found out that the Council has “compromised its position”thus ordering it to register as a “foreign agent”. The Council never registered. It was voluntarily dissolved, and, in late 1960s, AIPAC whose mission is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel” assumed its functions.
Due to the blurred line of U.S. national interest and AIPAC’s emboldened status under the current administration, it is a matter of time before the new generation in the House would demand hearings citing that 1962-63 investigation as a precedent.
This year’s de facto conference theme was ‘Let’s gang up of Ilhan, shall we?’ Led by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who told the conference “take it from this Benjamin, it’s not about the Benjamins,” it is about Israel’s shared values with the U.S., he added. This assertion might persuade anyone who is oblivious to or ignores the fact that United Kingdom is the closest to U.S. when it comes to shared values, history, fighting side-by-side in major wars, and strategic partnership that ensures each a robust support for the other. But, everyone knows no politician who knows a thing or two about international relations could claim that U.K. and America will be friends forever. Yet, “Israel and America are connected now and forever,” said Speaker Pelosi.
AIPAC has been having a rough time spinning any and all legitimate criticism of Israel’s ruthless oppression of the Palestinian people as an ill-intentioned anti-Semitic attack on all Jews, though many of the most antagonistic toward that apartheid-like system are thoughtful Jews, Jewish human rights and peace-promoting organizations.
The United Nations has recently issued a report blaming Israeli army for cold-blood killings of 189 unarmed Palestinians that include 35 children and some journalists and first aid workers and maiming more than 9,000 during last year’s ‘right to return’ protests in Gaza. The report which was based on more than 300 interviews and more than 8,000 documents concludes that Israel may have committed crimes against humanity. With these kinds of crimes and Netanyahu’s Likud Party forming partnership with a zealot party that promotes forced removal of Palestinians had compelled many including 2020 presidential candidates such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Kamala Harris to boycott attending the conference. President Trump did not waste time in condemning their decision to not pay their loyalty homage as an anti-Israel stance.
Meanwhile, the BDS movement continues to rapidly grow. Recently Brown Uniersity became the first Ivy League university to officially join the movement. Expect other universities to follow.
Many holes are poked in AIPAC’s ‘carrot or stick’ groupthink power that had total monopoly on the Middle East narrative and the future of the Palestinian people. Just don’t tell those diehard AIPAC loyalists who were at the conference about it.
When groupthink rouses the masses into disorder it is a tragedy. And when groupthink rouses the political, economic, social, and the intellectual elite to surrender their autonomy to think critically and independently, it is a tragic comedy.