The Republican presidential candidates raced for Jewish votes by delivering incendiary anti-Iran speeches at the annual meeting of America’s largest Jewish lobby group, AIPAC. From Kasich to Cruz to Trump, their common theme of trashing the Iran nuclear deal and promising to scrap it once in the Oval Office drew big applause from the audience, compared to their polite reception of Hillary Clinton, who reaffirmed her support for the nuclear deal, as basically good for both the US and Israeli security, while focusing her attention on the Republican front runner, Donald Trump.
In contrasting styles, while Clinton delivered a powerful jab at Trump, by accusing him of having unsteady hands on issues and therefore untrustworthy, Trump on the other hand capitalized on the unpopularity of Clinton’s position on the nuclear deal and delivered an almost single-issue speech that was distinguishable by the spate of factual errors, such as his gibberish that ‘we gave Iran $150 billions and got back nothing,” thus conveniently overlooking that Iran has been receiving its own (blocked) assets, rather than any western give-aways.
But, as with any populist demagogue in history, they are often fought against on the wrong track, namely truth, which is why it is rather futile to try to set the record straight and somehow convince the New York real estate mogul-turned presidential hopeful that he knows precious little about foreign policy issues and this is not an extension of his popular TV reality shows. On the contrary, Trump has been treating the political landscape as essentially a continuation of his virtual reality, mixing right-wing politics with his populist agenda, which has a broad appeal among the working class white Americans. The pro-Trump supporters are unlikely to be persuaded by any counter-discourse that operates on the level of truth, when their are under the spell of a Trump mystique that is directly aided by the mainstream media that finds Trump a gold mine in terms of viewer rating and television appeal.
Consequently, Trump has managed ahead through a sexist, xenophobic, and militaristic discourse that contains traces of European fascism as well as good old-fashioned American populism, i.e., a potent mix that is quite acidic as his venom on Iran at the AIPAC’s meeting clearly showed. Demonizing Iran and promising to stand up to Tehran and destroy its terror network around the world, etc., Trump’s diatribe was, of course, music to the ear of the pro-Israel lobby that is in a state of disorientation since the nuclear deal, which has potentially turned the limelight on Israel’s relentless land grab and oppression of Palestinians.
Indeed, Vice-President Joe Biden’s earlier speech, in which he criticized Israel’s systematic policy of settlement expansionism, was a lone exception that was probably the Obama administration’s last hurrah on the so-called Middle East peace process, i.e., a totally vacuous term that no longer means much of anything. After so many false starts and dead ends, the peace process has lost its luster and become another ’empty concept’ that is eroded in its core substance, like a plague of meaning that is as a result hardly mentioned any more, as its protagonists have long lost hope and come to the conclusion that it is a chimerical dream that is simply a waste of time.
What is in currency and, indeed, vogue again as far as the US presidential hopefuls, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, are concerned is Iran-bashing, the harsher the merrier. Akin to the Cold war hysteria of Russians are coming, the Republican hopefuls used their time on the AIPAC podium to propagate the narrative of a ‘terror-sponsoring” Iran that is uniquely prepared to spread its wings and cause terror and mayhem against America and its staunch ally Israel, both directly and indirectly through its Hezbollah and other proxies around the world. It was a fine spectacle of Orwellianism, scapegoating a ‘hostile other’ and narrow-focusing on the enemy and its proximate and long-term threats and the need to exterminate it.
In fact, that is what Trump’s worldview ultimately embraces, a politics of extermination vis-a-vis the external enemy. An alarming and dangerous discourse for sure, but one that feeds in the Iran-phobia frenzy of the Israeli government that is at a loss as to how to survive without the center and front familiar danger of Iran? Old habits die hard, and sometimes as in Israel’s planned Iranphobia, it never dies, so long as the expansionist settler state lacks any meaningful agenda to resolve its “Palestinian problem.”