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On AIPAC, Obama and the 'pro-Israel' lie

All over the news last week, the term “pro-Israel” was ringing in my proverbial ears. The “pro-Israel” lobby had its “pro-Israel” conference, which was attended by “pro-Israel” congressmen and hosted speeches by several “pro-Israel” Republican presidential candidates – and of course President Obama himself, who defended his “pro-Israel” presidency.

There were reportedly 13,000 people at the annual AIPAC Conference, all boasting their “pro-Israel” credentials, which means defending the righteousness of Israel and cheering the loudest for military action in Iran. As Gary Kamiya wrote on Slate:

This is Washington’s annual pro-Israel orgy, in which politicians from both parties vie with each other to declare their undying fealty to a tiny foreign country.

For those of us who live here, Palestinians and Israelis alike, the fancy conference in Washington is so far removed from our daily realities. We have no say in how the lobby operates and are subject to the whims of its wealthy donors  – and yet it has such an enormous impact on our lives, since AIPAC’s power in Congress translates directly into bolstering the Israeli military industrial complex with the help of  American money.

For those of us who oppose the Netanyahu government and the unsustainable, immoral and unsafe apartheid framework we continue to live in, and who will be of the first ones to bear the brunt of a war with Iran, we have absolutely no voice at such an event. Needless to say, for the millions of Palestinians living under occupation, this disconnect is even harsher, as they have no representation in any government decisions at all. Just the fact that Newt Gingrich – the man who claims Palestinians are an “invented people” -  is invited to speak at a conference regarding the future of Israel and its relations to America is enough to display how out of touch AIPAC and the GOP are with the reality on the ground here, where Palestinians do in fact exist.

AIPAC wears the “pro-Israel” mantle arrogantly and boasts its role as the guardian of the strong America-Israel relationship, presumably in the interest of protecting the interests of both countries. But as an Israeli and an American, I do not feel protected at all. How is defending Israeli government policies – which continue to macerate the chance for Israel to be a stable and democratic state with a Jewish character and definitive borders – good for Israel, or America? How is continuously positioning America as a dishonest and biased broker in the Middle East good for American foreign policy? And how is using their conference as a platform for GOP candidates and others neocons to attack Obama and pit him against Netanyahu good for anyone? As Kamiya points out:

By demanding a war with Iran that Israel wants, and that President Obama and the American people do not, it committed the two unforgivable sins: It made it clear that Israel and America’s interests do not always coincide, and it took Israel’s side over America’s. That was bad enough, and the embrace of the GOP’s dreadful candidates was the final straw. AIPAC and the rest of the Israel lobby are now locked in a steamy ménage a trois with Netanyahu and the GOP.

Indeed, Netanyahu, AIPAC and the GOP are all aligned in a lovely threesome of militancy and opportunism that is anathema to my worldview and values – as well as progressives in Israel and America and Obama himself.

In an oped in The New York Times called “Israel’s Best Friend,“ Thomas Friedman asserts that Obama is one of the most, if not the most “pro-Israel” president the United States has ever had. In many ways this is true - but only if you accept the discourse as it has been hijacked and monopolized by AIPAC. When Obama vetoed the UN resolution confirming the illegality of settlements, was that “pro-Israel”? Or when the Senate passed a resolution against the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, was that in the interests of Israel, whose government claims to seek a two-state solution? For me, both these moves are much more accurately described by the terms “pro-Greater Israel” and “pro-apartheid.”

What Friedman, and others who are as sick as I am of this charade should be pointing out, is not how “pro-Israel” Obama in fact is – but rather how the term “pro-Israel” is a reckless and cynical euphemism for a neoconservative, Islamophobic, militant and at times even anti-Semitic worldview that has little if nothing to do with the well-being of actual Israelis. Until the “pro-Israel” facade is exposed for what it truly is, it would be wiser to simply avoid using the term, or at least place it, as I do, in quotation marks, in order to make clear its meaning is a matter of mere rhetoric.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. directrob

      You are absolutely right, now duck ;)

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      That’s the damned thing about election…the party you don’t like gets into power and runs the country and defines the policy. So when people outside the country support the government’s policy, it is called being pro-Israel and you can’t stand it, as if the majority who elected the government doesn’t know what its doing and doesn’t know what’s good for the country. Only you do. Now all you need is a coup d’etat to throw out the people you don’t like and to put you and your friends into power. Simple.

      Reply to Comment
    3. bobby

      how about you go back to new york? that would be more helpful to the occupied colonized palestinians than this article… thanks!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bill Pearlman

      What this woman doesn’t understand about politics and government in the United States could fill a phone book. ( and yes I know nobody uses phone books anymore )

      Reply to Comment
    5. @bill – “what this woman”? Seriously?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bill Pearlman

      Ok, Ami, enlighten me. Is she not a woman?

      Reply to Comment
    7. @bill – you just sound a tad chauvinist. Can’t imagine you saying “what this man doesn’t understand”. But that could just be me. Anyway, it’s off topic.
      .
      @Mairav – great post.

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      Misogynist Pearlman strikes again.

      .
      I would love to see Mairav publish this as an op-ed in some US mainstream news outlet. It’s a case where her Israeliness gives her a standing to be heard that most of the rest of us don’t.

      .
      Because this standing itself is enough to embarrass the alte kacker constituency of AIPAC, who fear in their hearts the question, “If you ‘love’ Israel so much, why aren’t you there?”

      Reply to Comment
    9. Mairav Zonszein

      Thanks @Ami – I didn’t think @Bill was being a chauvinist – but his comment, instead of bringing something to the table, is just insulting without any substance at all.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Zach

      I get that many readers here don’t exactly jive with the writer’s humanistic point of view, but no one has yet actually argued against the merit of Mairav’s specific arguments.

      As she has pointed out in previous work, there is plenty that “friends of Israel” could be discussing about actually addressing problems in Israel and increasing it’s stability, but no one seems interested in hearing about anything that doesn’t align perfectly with a neo-con world view.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Bill Pearlman

      Actually I would say “what this guy doesn’t understand”. Really wasn’t going going down that road.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Bill Pearlman

      And Mairav, I really think your clueless about aipac. You’ve been reading too many articles in the “The Nation”.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Marc

      What this “journalist” should understand is that putting words in quotation marks is an obvious mark of her “integrity”.

      If one wants to participate in a civil discussion, a precondition is a modicum of respect for those with opposing points of view.

      I am pro-Israel, not “pro-Israel”. After over sixty years, it is time for the Palestinians to end the war on Israel. Once the Palestinians resolve their internal conflicts, unite, renounce violence, and recognize the State of Israel, it will end the occupation, bring down the wall, and Palestinians will be able to live in peace in their own state. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore.” Now that’s a quotation we can live with.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Jazzy

      Always funny when BDS supporters think they’re in a position to tell others what ‘pro-Israel’ means. Maybe +972 should publish a Moshe Feiglin piece about what ‘pro-Palestinian’ means. I’m very sympathetic to the idea that fans of a ‘Greater Israel’ are not ‘pro-Israel’, but anti-Zionists don’t have the credibility to make this argument.

      Reply to Comment
    15. XYZ

      I think it is about time the peace camp open its eyes and realize that most people in the world don’t think about things the way they do, including the Arab/Israeli conflict. Most people in the world couldn’t care less about the settlements, the Palestinians and such. Sure, almost everyone would be happy with a nice compromise peace but most people outside of Israel realize that it is the Palestinians who reject this. Obama certainly learned it first hand when he made all sorts of promises to them if only they would not insist on the unilateral proclamation of a state. Journalists report that Abbas avoided talking to Obama for months, because he doesn’t want to get involved in real negotiations with Israel, just like he squirmed out of the negotiations with Olmert who was willing to go so far as to give the Western Wall over to the Palestinians by way of a “neutral international body” that would have many Arab states sitting on it.
      Wringing your hands and moaning about the fact that both Israeli and non-Israelis now understand there is no possibility of a contractual peace agreement being reached.

      Reply to Comment
    16. JG

      There is probably much more to be said about the debate over labels — including, J Street’s quixotic attempt to claim “Pro Israel” as exclusively the pro-peace, pro-agreement position.

      Bernard Avishai has suggested Greater Israel vs. Global Israel.

      It’s generally ineffective to try and suggest a negative framing for the other side (“pro-apartheid” has as much staying power as “anti-choice” in the U.S.)

      I see myself, and +972, as being pro-justice. That might be a frame which resonates with mainstream American Jews are conventionally Zionist (pro-Israel, anti-terrorist).

      Reply to Comment
    17. Sol

      “What this woman doesn’t understand about politics and government in the United States could fill a phone book. ( and yes I know nobody uses phone books anymore )”

      Everyone likes Bill Pearlman – especially when he beats his wife in public to honor Judea and Samaria.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Bill Pearlman

      Sol, explain that one to me please

      Reply to Comment
    19. Dave P.

      Actually, not a bad article but you almost lost on the first sentence. How can ears be proverbial? Anyways, my guess is the missles will stop when Israel stops occupying more and more land and then there should be no need for retaliating raids that kill more women and children than the actual combatants. Just a thought.

      Reply to Comment
    20. ginger

      It just makes me sick to see the constant AIPAC attempts to melt Israel into the US – with every logo imaginable trying to meld the two together, the melted flags, the melted Star of David with stars and stripes, the ridiculous melted hands

      Israel is desperate to co-opt America and use it’s finances and military in support of the most heinous Israeli policies

      Time to out the Israelis and get them out of America

      Reply to Comment
    21. aristeides

      Yet if you suggest this means dual loyalty, they squawk like a duck

      Reply to Comment
    22. AIG

      Meirav,

      How about all those people who voted for Likud and the other parties in the current coalition, are they anti-Israel also or not pro-Israel?

      What is it about leftist discourse that is so anti-democratic? We had fair elections and you lost. Therefore, the ruling government decides what Israel’s interests are until the next elections. And by definition, supporting Israel’s government is being pro-Israel because it represents the collective will of the Israeli people. So unless you want to argue that the Israeli government is not legitimate for some reason, you argument is just plain wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Bill Pearlman

      You know who constitutes AIPAC, Its a bunch of American Jews who were taught that you didn’t betray your family, your friends, your people. You just didn’t do it. People who when they read about a firefight between the IDF and Hamas, hopes the IDF wins. People who think that when Iran threatens to exterminate Israel they mean it. And people who think that in a hostile world its nice that Israel has at least one ally who is reliable. Look Mairav, you want to have an Islamic Jihad cell move in next door, God bless. I just don’t want you to be forced to do that.

      And BTW. When the assholes come out in force I really wish they would shelve the necocon and zionist bullshit. And say what they really mean. Which is JEW. Same has its always been.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Philos

      The Jews in Rome, being wealthier and better established in the Pax Romana than their brethren in the Levant, twice instructed their senators to side with emperor,’s Vespasian and Hadrian to put the Jewsish revolts against Rome. Sooner or later the Jews in America will throw us under the American bulldozer

      Reply to Comment
    25. Steve

      To MAIRAV ZONSZEIN: Yeah! Supporting Israel and helping Israel protect itself is obviously NOT pro-Israel!

      Relentlessly criticizing Israel in dishonest, exaggerated fashion, while NEVER criticizing Hamas, or Palestinian terrorists, or antisemites, or people who seek to undo Israel’s existence, THAT is being pro-Israel! You tell ‘em!

      Not.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Steve

      It’s always interesting when people who seek to undo Israel’s very existence want to tell other people what being “pro-Israel” should be.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Ayoosha

      How is this article or this magazine seeking the destruction of Israel? Also, consider that Palestinian terrorists constitute 1%< of the Palestinian population – maybe that's why we don't talk about them? Also, consider they are not the ones in power and are, in fact, okay with the existence of the State of Israel. Also, consider reviewing the definition of semite. FYI Arabs are in fact Semites too, so it'd be silly to consider them anti-Semite.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Steve

      Hamas were the main Palestinian terrorists.
      And millions of Palestinians voted for Hamas in elections.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Caruthers Sebastian

      The author is entitled to have her own view about what is in the “interest” of Israel, and to argue that position, and to argue that opponents likely have their own self-serving agenda. Much like Noam Chomsky is entitled to argue that the true interest of Israel is to foster conditions that allow the population to live “decent and honorable” lives—-with “decent” meaning that no one has his boot on your neck and “honorable” meaning you have your boot on no one else’s neck. Chomsky is thus entitled to disagree with the rabidly militaristic neocons (and by “neocon” I mean “neocon” and not “Jew”) such as Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, etc.), who in a policy paper written for Netanyahu, urged the US and Israel to embark on massive aggressive war-making throughout the Middle-East in order to break up the Muslim and Arab countries into chaotic, rival factions, enabling Israel to rule the entire resulting “Ottomized” Middle East. And the mere fact that a country is formally a “democracy” does guarantee that it’s policies reflect the will of the people, as the democratic deficit in the US proves. And to blame violence in Palestine on the dispossessed and occupied rather than on the dispossessors and occupiers is ludicrous—like blaming Native Americans for conflicts with European settler-colonialists and saying, “if only the Natives would stop resisting their violent dispossession and expulsion, the dispossession and expulsion would stop. Policies and statements from leading Zionists from Ben-Gurion to Dayan to the present day show a determined resolve to make all “Ersatz Israel” into a Jewish state, governed by and for Jews, and a recognition of the obvious fact that this would require the. Ient expulsion and dispossession of millions of people who already lived there.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Lee

      Great piece. Glad to see there are folks still willing to ask real questions and present sensible dialogue. I fear for Israel’s future as well as the US. And that fear has nothing to do with “terrorism” or whatever boogeyman words are used today. But I worry that the countries don’t starve themselves into poverty and continue to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.

      All reasoning, logic and justice get tossed out the window because “we” are the ones in charge. But we seem to have learned nothing from history. Killing and oppression are expensive and generally bankrupt a society – both economically and morally.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      A lie is a statement that the speaker *knows* is false when he asserts it. Did the author suggest the headline? If so, did she really mean what she wrote? Or is it just the usual name-calling for rhetorical effect, kind of like “neoconservative, Islamophobic, militant and at times even anti-Semitic”?
      *
      Other than that, I do like the point of the article. I also liked the author’s earlier suggestion (if it was actually someone else, my apologies) that opponents of AIPAC call it “anti-Israel.”
      *
      I guess I’m supposed to care about AIPAC, J Street, and all those other organizations, but like probably most other American Jews, I just don’t think about them one way or the other.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Jeff Blankfort

      What I have seen in Washington is the American Zionist equivalent of Nuremberg rallies, except that those put on by AIPAC occur every year, each bigger than the one before. These are not lobbyists–since lobbying is no longer necessary–but the agents of an alternative government that controls, quite openly, one of the three branches of my government, 2/3 of which came to the convention center to pay their respects to the man they regard as their leader, not Pres. Obama, but PM Netanyahu.

      In other words, Congress is Israel’s most important occupied territory and, in keeping pace, with its expansion of settlements in the West Bank, its degree of occupation of Congress has continued to grow over the years. At some point I expect Americans will say that they have had enough. I have.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Bill Pearlman

      Jeff Blankfort, the love child of Julius Streicher and Stella ( the jew hunter) Goldschlag.

      Reply to Comment
    34. jjj

      “pro-Palestinian” is a much more reckless and cynical euphemism for anti-Semitic, pro-jihadistic anti-western worldview, than “pro-Israel” would ever be.
      The AIPAC charade, though at times disgusting, is a Shakseperean play, when compared to anti-Israel rallies, talks, papers and campaigns, where pure hatred against Israel is an understatement.

      And the lies of dispossessed vs. dispossessors – that’s a lie that leads to a holocaust, and indeed, practiced by the humanistic organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

      Bending the truth has never been so successful.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Steve

      Lee wrote: And that fear has nothing to do with “terrorism” or whatever boogeyman words are used today.

      Reality Check Terrorism is the correct word, Lee. Isreali civilians used to blow up in schoolbuses and restaurants on a weekly basis. Now, while they still fear that, they do still get rockets fired into their civilian areas on a regular basis. It’s not a “boogeyman word.” Palestinian TERRORISTS (that’s the correct word) used to attack Israel constantly, and many in Gaza still try to do this.

      Reply to Comment
    36. aristeides

      Why has Pearlman not yet been banned from this site?

      Reply to Comment
    37. XYZ

      Aristeides-
      I saw what you wrote at Ha’aretz regarding the Israelis killed in the suicide bombings. I think your comment about Pearlman being banned applies to you instead.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Mareli

      Obama is in the odd position of being expected to get along with right-wing Israelis more than with right-wing Americans. Why should he get along with Netanyahu any better than he does with Boehner or Santorum? Netanyahu and his allies are not Israel any more than Reagan was the US in the 1980s. I heard Obama’s speech and he still wants a two-state solution and prefers diplomacy to war with regard to Iran. I only hope that he told Netanyahu that the US will not let Israel determine its foreign policy any more than Israel allows the US to decide what Israel will do.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Jeff Blankfort

      Actually, Pearlman, my father, who supported a bi-national state, hosted at our home, Moshe Sneh, head of the Haganah and in 1948 staged the largest fundraiser for Israel up to that time at the Hollywood Bowl but his affection for Israel soon began to wear thin when in the early 50s we began having Jewish guests from Israel who had left the country because of the racism against the Palestinian Arabs who remained and they didn’t want to live in a racist state.

      He was one of the few in the LA Jewish community who opposed the Israeli-French-British invasion of Egypt in 1956 and by 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon with 80,000 soldiers in that largely forgotten war, he had it.

      “They are just like the Nazis,” he told me on the phone. “Go back and read Deuteronomy.” I did and recommend it to all of you who wish to understand the direction Israel has been heading since Day One. It will also help to explain the existence of the Pearlmans of our time, a new mutant of the species that Israel’s triumphalism has produced.

      I also went to Israel and Lebanon in 1983 and interviewed members of Yesh G’vul, who described to me what their fellow soldiers had done in Lebanon in that invasion. When, returning to Israel 20 years later, I looked them up and found that those who had emigrated to Israel from other climes, had returned home.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Bill Pearlman

      I don’t give a shit if your father was Moses. If he thinks Israel is the new Nazi Germany then he was an asshole. Same has you.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Jeff Blankfort

      Pearlman, it was the revered Israeli orthodox scholar Shau Leiboiwtz and the godfather of Yesh G’vul who coined the term “Judeo-Nazi” well before my father made the comparison and Leibowitz could see the real thing right in front of him as I did in occupied Lebanon in 1983. One does not have to commit the same crimes to have the same mentality. If you listened to or read the ravings of Israel’s leading rabbis you would see how much they and Hitler had in common as they probably have with you.

      Reply to Comment
    42. klang

      I did in occupied Lebanon in 1983… Lebanon is still occupied 30 years later

      Reply to Comment
    43. Leonid Levin

      There is a certain confusion about the various interests involved. I’d say the interests of the US and Israeli ruling elites are pretty much the same: retain power, control the Middle East and profit from this control. This is quite contrary to the fundamental interests of the American and Israeli people, which are definitely the same: live in peace and solidarity with the rest of the world.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Mareli

      Mairav, I’d like to read your thesis as the topic sounds interesting, as was your blog. Being pro-Israel is akin to beauty; it’s in the eye of the beholder. It is like the term unAmerican, which was used to tar those of us who questioned US foreign policy in the 50s and 60s. Are there currently “Israel: Love It Or Leave It” signs up in Israel these days?

      Reply to Comment
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