AIPAC does more harm than good.

Israel’s relations with the Diaspora are in flux. And as Israel prospers and matures, its distance from America’s faux “pro-Israel” organizations will continue to increase. That’s a good thing, not bad, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The anti-Zionist Jewish Left is currently making inroads on a wide front in the USA. To wit, the UJA/JCRC has allowed BDS-supporting groups to participate in today’s Celebrate Israel Parade in NYC. In fact, Israel-bashers like the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and B’Tselem are marching down Fifth Avenue even as I write – and, alas, doing so with little or no organized Jewish opposition. Dan Friedman

By Daniel Greenfield, FPM

Like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, the Israel Lobby is a myth. AIPAC, like jolly bearded men sitting in shopping malls, exists. And like the men with fake beards and pillows under their red coats, it goes through the motions. Its activists lobby, its events attract politicians and the one thing that it and its enemies agree on is its vast sphere of political influence that, like Santa, is absolutely everywhere.

If you believe AIPAC, it’s an incredibly effective organization. If you believe its enemies, AIPAC runs America and parts of Canada. It’s not an accusation that AIPAC denies too hard. Mall Santas don’t deny that they have flying reindeer waiting for them on the roof. AIPAC is a fat man in a rented red suit and fake beard trying to pretend that it can do anything. But AIPAC would have better luck making reindeer fly than countering the dominant power of the anti-Israel left and the Saudi lobby in Washington D.C.

And that’s because it doesn’t even try.

When the Democratic Party’s platform deleted the usual mention of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, removed a call to boycott Hamas and opposition to the “Right of Return” vocal protests came from Jewish organizations.

AIPAC was not one of them.

DNC aides claimed that AIPAC had reviewed and approved the new party platform, a claim that it denied. AIPAC’s submission contained a reference to Jerusalem, but the organization, often wrongly described as “hard-line” or “right-wing” by the media, made no objection to its omission.

Obama had already rejected two of these points, one overtly and one covertly, with the third yet to come up, making them little more than the fake beard they had been all along. AIPAC, which was being the DNC’s bipartisan fake beard for pro-Israel voters, did not waste time talking about them.

Once the outrage bubbled over, AIPAC, true to form, took credit for restoring Jerusalem. It did not do it to protect Israel. It did it to protect itself.

AIPAC isn’t a pro-Israel lobby. It’s a pro-AIPAC lobby.

If AIPAC didn’t exist, Israel’s enemies would have had to invent it. Its existence gives them a powerful “Israel Lobby” to tilt against. Photos and videos of prominent politicians at AIPAC conferences feed the myth of an organization whose influence reaches into the highest levels of government.

But AIPAC’s influence comes from its lack of influence. When influential politicians are naturally pro-Israel, AIPAC takes credit for it in its donation envelopes. And when they aren’t, AIPAC shuts up.

Under Obama, AIPAC has shut up. It sat out the nomination fight over Chuck Hagel. The former Nebraska senator with ties to the Iran lobby had said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” If anything, Obama had intimidated AIPAC. Not that AIPAC has ever been hard to intimidate.

AIPAC not only backed down from Obama and Hagel, it even backed down from criticizing J Street’s Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, over her opposition to sanctions on Iran. It supported Congressman Bill Pascrell over a pro-Israel GOP candidate.

If AIPAC can’t take on Schultz and Pascrell, is there any influential Democratic politician it can take on?

AIPAC backed away from a showdown with Obama over Iran sanctions. Instead after pressure from the White House it pulled out all the stops to lobby in favor of Obama’s strikes against Syria. Some asked whether it had now become the pro-Syrian lobby. AIPAC had avoided the Iraq War, but at a phone call allowed itself to be used to push for Syrian military strikes that would have benefited Israel’s enemies.

It was not the first time AIPAC had lobbied for Israel’s enemies. AIPAC had brought the Palestinian Authority’s people to Capitol Hill and still lobbies against any cuts in foreign aid to the front group for the PLO.

AIPAC’s opposition to Rand Paul’s bill cutting off aid to the PA/PLO after its unity agreement with Hamas wasn’t anything new. AIPAC had also opposed Eric Cantor’s proposal in 2010 to separate Israel aid from the rest of the foreign aid budget which would have made it easier to achieve reductions in foreign aid.

AIPAC endorsed the 2007 Ackerman-Boustany letter which called Abbas a “peace partner” and urged more aid to the Palestinian Authority. By signing on, AIPAC was joining the ranks of left-wing Anti-Israel groups such as Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum and the Arab American Institute.

Around the same time AIPAC neutered a series of divestment initiatives in companies that do business with Iran and Sudan. It was one of many instances in which AIPAC interfered with a pro-Israel initiative.

Why does AIPAC do these things? Its primary mission is to protect its influence. It’s not, as its critics accuse, an arm of Israel in the United States. Instead it’s a Beltway institution whose agenda is driven by insider contacts and favor trading. Like many other Washington lobbies, its commitment to its political networks is far more important than the agenda that it claims to represent.

AIPAC engages in outreach, not to convince politicians to support Israel, but to convince them to support it. It works to solicit any statement of support for Israel as a validation of its existence.

AIPAC is bipartisan. It is bi-everything. It’s for Israel and for the Palestinian Authority. It’s for supporters of Israel and critics of Israel. If you’re a politician who isn’t openly calling for Israel’s destruction, you can stop by AIPAC’s rubber chicken dinners and deliver a speech written by one of your Jewish staffers.

Everyone comes to AIPAC’s conferences for some cheap applause and a line on their election flyer. Attendees leave believing in the illusion of their own influence, but the influence is a photo op and a few hours of a politician’s time. AIPAC doesn’t ask anything too difficult of the politicians who show up and avoids taking any positions that might embarrass them.

Meanwhile the actual support for Israel, more among Republicans than Democrats, has to do with the Jewish State’s popularity in the United States and its ties to the defense industry. That support rarely moves beyond the tangled defense industry relationships which account for the large foreign aid figures.

AIPAC’s contribution is the production of meaningless letters and resolutions. These policy statements, like the support for Jerusalem, never actually become policy. Instead they provide political cover for politicians like John Kerry who talk pro-Israel and act anti-Israel.

These are the fake beards of the politicians who play Santa to AIPAC while AIPAC plays Santa to American Jews. None of it is real, but it is deeply comforting. AIPAC keeps many American Jews from having to grow up and when reality intrudes, as it did when the Democratic Party tossed Jerusalem, it convinces the Democratic Party or the Republican Party to help it lull them back to sleep.

AIPAC’s influence comes from its relationships, but it avoids fights so as not to endanger those relationships. It would rather have a meaningless letter signed by most of the Senate than back a controversial bill that might make a genuine difference.

Like so much of Washington, AIPAC is an establishment. It’s another of the many institutions in the bubble of the nation’s capital that stopped representing the people and began representing themselves.

June 1, 2014 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Oh goody goody, let’s attack our friends like AIPAC because sometimes AIPAC doesn’t toe what some right wing looney tune thinks is the Israel party line. We Jewish Israeli nationalists have enough trouble finding and keeping friends and pro Israel groups like AIPAC on our side because we have our share of wild eyed fanatics who treat AIPAC like it is an enemy of Israel. These right wing nuts always complain that Netanyahu is no better than Tibi, or worse, that Bibi and the Likud are just carrying water for Meretz, Hadash, or the Labor party. Yeah, keep on attacking AIPAC and the Likud or anyone who dares to be diplomatic and careful about protecting Israel’s interests, that’s right, you right wing clowns, keep on accusing Bibi and the Likud of trying to betray Israel, divide Jerusalem, or sell out Israel to the Palestinians. It must make you feel really good to accuse Israel’s friends of being traitors! The truth is that with all these silly, ridiculous, and patently false accusations about Bibi and the Likud, all you do is weaken those of us who deeply support Israel, confuse and anger our supporters, and drive away the Israeli independents and moderates who are essential to keeping the Israeli nationalists and moderate right wingers in power in Israel and keeping Labor, Meretz, and the other anti Israel and pro Palestinian radical Leftists out of power. Rant and rave and make your silly and false allegations about Bibi and the Likud, do what Hanan Porat and Moshe Levinger did back in the 1990’s to Yitzchak Shamir and the Likud and accuse him of selling Israel out to Bush and Arafat, and you will put another Rabin type Left wing government in power, and we will get another Oslo debacle just like after Shamir got kicked out! That must be what you clowns want, the rest of us, the rational nationalists, well we like winning elections and keeping Israel safe and intact, and we like building more and more settlements and housing in Judea and Samaria, and we like keeping Peace Now, Labor, and Meretz in the opposition. But you far right fanatics, keep on making the stupid accusation that AIPAC does more harm than good for Israel, it may make you feel superior but all you do is cause terrible and lasting harm to Israel and those of us who are working to keep Israel strong and our real Left wing Israeli enemies and our Arab and Palestinian enemies weak!

  2. Did Mr. Greenfield mention AIPAC (like Abe Foxman / ADL) supported the forcible uprooting of thousands of peaceful, law-abiding Jews from Gush Katif, Gaza, August 2005? AIPAC would not allow one anti-“disengagement” speaker to address AIPAC delegates at its annual 2005 convention in Washington. AIPAC keeping Israel dependent on American aid is not doing Israel any favors in my view.

    This is the first comment at FPM.
    The other comments are worthwhile reading also. They generally agreed with Daniel.