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.