Overcoming AIPAC Is Not Enough
TWO STORIES have recently appeared, each discussing a different approach to overcoming the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby that presently has enough clout to substitute its own parochial interests for the national interest. As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s 2007 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy demonstrated, there is a direct connection between AIPAC’s level of influence in Congress and the White House and the recent disasters that have befallen the U.S. in the Middle East. Indeed, the connection is one of sufficient intensity to have led to the creation in 2008 of a new “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby called J Street.
J Street calls for Israel to accept “borders based on the 1967 line with reciprocally agreed land swaps,” thus allowing for a two state formula settlement. The optimistic view here is that in the relatively near future J Street will become strong enough to displace AIPAC and its hard line “we must keep it all” stance on the Occupied Territories. While this prognosis might be a tad premature, the situation has progressed enough that folks involved in this effort are now discussing tactics and approaches that might speed up AIPAC’s demise. And so, our two stories.
The first story appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on September 26, 2010 and is entitled “Billionaire George Soros Revealed as Mystery J Street Donor.” It is now public information that Mr. Soros sees AIPAC as “too hawkish” and so he and his family have thrown their weight behind the more compromising, “dovish” J Street. They have done so to the tune of 245,000 dollars a year. Soros has in fact been making these contributions since J Street’s founding in 2008. This is certainly not all the money the Washington based lobby obtains per year. J Street has about 10,000 donors and they provide about 11 million dollars annually.
What is important is that a man like George Soros, who is dedicated to using some of his fortune to move the world in what he feels is a progressive direction, has put his money behind the traditional approach to influencing American policy formulation. He appears to accept as a working assumption that interest group politics plays a central role in both domestic and foreign policy making….
The second story comes in the form of a short essay by the Irish writer Maidhc O’Cathail that appeared in the Salem-News.com. It is entitled “The Truth Will Set U.S. Free: Breaking Israel’s Stranglehold over American Foreign Policy.” O’Cathail quotes Philip Giraldi, who is executive director of the Council for the National Interest (an organization critical of the American-Israel alliance), a former CIA officer and also a contributer to The American Conservative. Giraldi’s position is that overcoming AIPAC “must be done from the bottom up as Israel cannot be challenged in the mainstream media, Congress, and in the White House.” The tactic here is to convince enough American voters that “Israel is and always has been a strategic liability that has done immense damage to the United States and its worldwide interests” so they will be led to demand that the Congress and political parties abandon AIPAC. This has proven anything but easy. According to Jeff Gates, a former counsel for the Senate Committee on Finance, the present lack of transparency on the various sources of lobby money means that “the American public is ignorant of Israel’s all-pervasive influence.”…
It must be made clear that a rejuvenation of American interests in the Middle East and Muslim world is linked much more directly to the fate of Palestine than to Israel…. the issue of justice is first and foremost in the minds of a billion Muslims and that at the core of this issue stands Palestine (and not head scarfs). If U.S. interests are to be forwarded in the lands with Muslim majorities, then the question of Palestine must be faced honestly and objectively. This simply cannot happen as long as a Zionist lobby has the power to monopolize policy formulation. The problem is not Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran. The problem is Israel and its American agents. They are the ones complicit in past disastrous policy decisions and they are the ones pushing for equally disastrous future ones….
[As] we move ahead we must meld the liberation of the United States from AIPAC’s wholly negative influence with the revival of U.S. national interests in the broader Middle East and Muslim world, and that in turn with the viable future of Palestine. All three must be promoted as an interlinked package. If they are not, Washington will certainly some day be free of AIPAC, but Palestine will left under the pernicious shadow of Israel. For this we will always be blamed and our interests will always suffer.
Department of History
West Chester University
West Chester, Pa 19383
Dr. Lawrence Davidson has done extensive research and published in the areas of American perceptions of the Middle East, and Islamic Fundamentalism. His two latest publications are Islamic Fundamentalism (Greenwood Press, 1998) and America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001). He has published thirteen articles on various aspects of American perceptions of the Middle East. Dr. Davidson holds a BA from Rutgers, an MA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Alberta.