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Wednesday, April 04, 2007


the decay of aipac

salon's gary kamiya has run a briliant humanizing piece on the plight and politics of judaism in an america where a far-right-wing aipac purports to represent them -- and expressing hope for a future in which that brutal and misshapen political lobby is a spent force, dissipated at the hands of both sensible israelis and mainstream american jews.

The touchiest aspect of all is the role played by pro-Israel neoconservatives in laying the groundwork for the Iraq war. Much of the media has been loath to go near this, for obvious and in some ways honorable reasons: It feels a little like "blame the Jews." But that taboo has faded as it has become clearer that "the Jews" are not the ones being blamed for helping pave the way to war, but a group of powerful neoconservatives, some but not all of them Jewish, who subscribe to the hard-right views of Israel's Likud Party. This group no more represents "the Jews" than the Shining Path represents "the Peruvians."

Logic and forthrightness has traditionally taken a back seat to timorous self-censorship when it comes to discussing these matters. But in addition to the war debate, several other watershed events have helped erode the taboo against discussing the power of the Israel lobby. The most important were the publications of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "The Israel Lobby," and Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The overwrought reaction to Mearsheimer and Walt's piece, ironically, only supported its thesis. Similarly, the opprobrium heaped on Carter only succeeded in making it clear how little room there is for open discussion of these issues in America.

For all these reasons, a powerful spotlight has been turned on the pro-Israel lobby. And there are signs that increasing numbers of Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, are willing to openly question whether it is in America's national interest for AIPAC, whose positions are well to the right of those held by most American Jews, to wield such disproportionate power over America's Mideast policies.

As a group, American Jews continue to be staunchly liberal. A new poll shows that 77 percent of American Jews now think that the Iraq war was a mistake, compared with 52 percent of all Americans. (Jewish support for the war has collapsed: A poll taken a month before the war showed that 56 percent of Jews supported it, somewhat below the national average at that time.) Eighty-seven percent of Jews voted Democratic in 2006. And although data here is murkier, polls also show that most American Jews hold views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are to the left of AIPAC's.

What all this adds up to is that for liberal or moderate American Jews who don't support Bush's war in Iraq or his "war on terror" and who are willing to look at Israel warts and all, the fact that AIPAC has anointed itself as the de facto spokesmen for American Jews is becoming more and more unacceptable. And increasing numbers of them are beginning to speak out.

with the approach of the espionage trial of aipac director steven rosen, now slated for june in the most recent development of the long-running fbi investigation of aipac, one hopes that public awareness of what aipac is will rise -- and what remains of the civilized people of our society can, with the help of people like philip weiss, uri blau, marc ellis, paul eisen and milton viorst, publications like haaretz and organizations like the israel policy forum, at least mitigate the militant extremism of likud. this page has said before -- there is an israeli left, and to continue to ignore it in favor of this destructive insanity is debilitating to both america and israel (not to mention palestine and both the west and middle east generally).

How long AIPAC will hold sway depends on how long it can convince politicians that it speaks for American Jews. It doesn't, but only American Jews can prove that. American politicians are not going to stop paying homage to AIPAC until there's an alternative -- and only Jews can provide it.

resentment of aipac in congress is almost surely beneath the surface and seeking an outlet. let us hope it finds one.

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