People Vs. AIPAC: Mighty Pro-Israel Lobby Loses Grip in US
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will hold a high-profile conference starting this weekend attended by many powerful American politicians. The meeting promises to become the most interesting event in a history of the political lobby, author and journalist Max Blumenthal told Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker.
AIPAC is considered to be the “main arm of the pro-Israeli lobby” in the US, has long seen unconditional bipartisan support in the US Congress. The lobby has long attempted to impose its will on US leaders in questions of foreign policy. For instance, it carried out a costly and ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the US to urge the American establishment to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, Blumenthal said. But this year, he pointed out, AIPAC has seen a decline in its political support.
“AIPAC is being challenged in the way it has never been, by coalescence of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and by very unpredictable presidential campaign,” Blumenthal said to Becker, pointing to the ongoing presidential run in the country.
AIPAC now faces the possible win of two independently-minded candidates from Democratic and Republican sides, he said referring to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
“Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side has support from grassroots donors. He’s got millions of dollars from thousands and thousands of contributors and none of them have anything to do with AIPAC,” he said. “Trump is a self-funding candidate that does not really rely on kind of donors that AIPAC and pro-Israel lobby had hoped to dictate foreign policy on the Republican side.”
Another indication that the trends are reversing for AIPAC is a sea change in public opinion among American Jews toward Israel. Israel, as a culture presenting itself as an exponent of Jewish interests around the world, has lost points by openly suppressing Palestinians and occupying Arab lands in the West Bank.
“The fact is that Israel has an extremely right wing government since 2009,” Blumenthal asserted. “It’s taken an adversely religious, messianic overtone. It’s seeking to impose a kind of “McCarthyism” campaign of censorship on campuses across the country and across the West.”
The fundamentalist position is “anathema” for the liberal Jewish mind and mentality prevailing among the Jewish community in the US, he said, citing polls indicating that the US Jewish population is turning away from the current Israeli administration.
“Most young Jews don’t see Israel as a country committed to peace, don’t support Benjamin Netanyahu and don’t think he’s serious about a two-state solution,” he said. “The Israeli lobby is losing its bipartisan support and it’s losing Jewish grassroots. Liberal Jews overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders – and you see the same amount among young Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. This is AIPAC’s nightmare.”
A recent petition, launched by the BDS movement, calling on Bernie Sanders not to attend AIPAC meetings, has shown that the political climate is changing. Despite the AIPAC’s fierce opposition and attempts to suppress those who support BDS, the petition has gained 20 thousand signatures, showing that people stand for equal rights, and, more specifically, equal rights for Palestinians, according to the journalist.
“It’s clear what the AIPAC agenda is. It’s not to find a solution to Israeli-Palestinian crisis. It’s to criminalize dissent against the special relations with Israel across the United States and across the West,” he said. “The Israeli lobby has become a major threat to free speech in the West.”
The Israeli government’s assault on free speech in the countries like the UK, France and Canada has been successful because AIPAC is dealing with “people who have something to lose,” such as politicians, according to Blumenthal. But dissent has gone beyond the rank and file of ordinary people, angry with the Israeli policy of oppressing Palestinians. Given that “Israel has no strategy of ending conflict with the indigenous population of Palestine,” the violence and dissent will intensify, Blumenthal said.