Bahbah: After 50 Years, AIPAC is Becoming Less Effective in Supporting Israel and Fighting Palestinian Rights
By: Bishara A. Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist
Even as 20,000 members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meet in Washington, D.C., for its annual policy conference, AIPAC is on the path of becoming less relevant and less effective in its 50-year mission of strengthening US unwavering support of Israel and fighting Palestinian legitimate rights.
The writings are on the wall but AIPAC choses to ignore them because of its unprincipled, immoral policy of supporting any Israeli government in power and any U.S. administration that supports Israel regardless of which party controls Washington, D.C.
Despite its impressive strength in numbers, over 100,000 members and growing, AIPAC’s growth is no longer broad among American Jews. It is becoming deeper among only a smaller segment of American Jews who lean to the far right of the political spectrum. They protrude like the entrenched weed and thorns in a bed of flowers.
AIPAC’s supporters tend to oppose a two-state solution, encourage the expansion and even the annexation of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands. They sponsor just about every anti-Palestinian legislation in Congress and they treat members of Congress as their little lap dogs and buy them with treats – direct and indirect contributions. AIPAC’s new membership base also tend to be less liberal on civil rights issues and less tolerant of other fair-minded American Jews both secular and religious.
Here are the realities on the ground and the writings on the wall for the new AIPAC:
American Jews are more fractured than ever
Not so with regard to the right of Israel to exist and be strong – rather, they question Israel’s misguided settlement policies and the continued disregard of the human and political rights of Palestinians under Israel’s control. They have become more accepting of a two-state solution as the only path that will ensure the “Jewishness” of the State of Israel and the only morally acceptable path to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The American political landscape has changed
According to a Pew Research Center survey released in January of this year, 79% of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians while the figure among Democrats (historically, the party to whom most American Jews belonged), the numbers are eye popping. Only 27% of Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians. Need one remind AIPAC – who won the last popular presidential vote – Trump or Hillary? And, what if this November the Democrats win Congress back and, in 2020, they win the White House?
Many American Jews are not happy with Netanyahu’s deceitful treatment of their religious concerns
Netanyahu discarded the “Western Wall Agreement” that American Jews lobbied so hard for. To maintain his Orthodox Jewish support and to help him cling to power, Netanyahu has failed to recognize the legitimacy of American Reform and Conservative Jews. Netanyahu and his AIPAC allies have engendered an Israel that excludes the interests of American Reform and Conservative Jews and, hence, does not deserve their respect or support.
AIPAC has embraced President Trump, in all his bigotry, and adopted the policies of the corrup almost indicted, influence peddling and reviled Benjamin Netanyahu.AIPAC has embraced President Trump, in all his bigotry, and adopted the policies of the corrupt, AIPAC has turned its back on the Democratic Party and has been indifferent to the concerns of young Americans and young American Jews who, given the support they gave to former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have demonstrated their distrust about Israel’s policies and the general policy direction by the likes of Trump.
No matter how awful Trump’s ultimate deal might be to the Palestinians, it will undoubtedly include elements that both AIPAC and Israel will find totally intolerable.
Despite Trump’s pandering to Israel by appointing a staunch pro-settler as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel and then in December by recognizing Jerusalem, not just West Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital, Trump’s ego-maniac personality still wants to implement the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. No matter how awful this ultimate deal might be to the Palestinians, I have no doubt that it will include elements that both AIPAC and Israel will find totally intolerable. What if the Palestinian leadership played it smart for once and used the deal presented to them as a stepping stone to a better deal? This will end up pitting Trump against both AIPAC and Israel’s right-wing government. Knowing what we know about Trump, who do you think will win this battle? Can they afford the ire of a mercurial Trump?
Trump and his most influential advisors are not oblivious to the fact that even an imperfect or an unjust peace agreement will require that Israel make sacrifices
Everyone knows that the Trump Administration is all over the map on Israel and on almost every other issue of concern to Jews. Anti-Semitism has grown significantly during Trump’s tenure. His commitment to Israel’s goal of annexing the settlements is far from assured and is nothing but wavering. Trump and his most influential advisors are not oblivious to the fact that even an imperfect or an unjust peace agreement will require that Israel make sacrifices and, as of yet, no one knows how painful they might be.
Why should American Jews continue to unequivocally support an Israeli government, especially under the leadership of a power-grabbing and opportunistic politician, like Netanyahu
Absent of the existential threat to Israel’s survival by any combination of Arab or Iranian military power, the grand consensus that once existed among American Jews on Israel has evaporated. Why should they continue to unequivocally support an Israeli government, especially under the leadership of a power-grabbing and opportunistic politician, like Netanyahu? To many conscientious American Jews, there are better and more caring and increasingly more effective Jewish umbrella groups that they can turn to such as JStreet, a pro-Israel group that stands to benefit from the demise of AIPAC with its centrist and pro-peace stance. And, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) which stands up for Palestinian human rights and works for equality, safety, and freedom for both Palestinians and Israelis. JVP played a prominent role and has risen in power and influence following its solid support of Bernie Sanders’ presidency and his agenda on Israel/Palestine. Netanyahu has further angered JVP’s 200,000 army of members and supporters by denying their leaders entry to Israel.
It is not an undeniable fact that AIPAC has risen to be the most powerful and effective lobby in the United States history possibly only rivaled by the National Rifle Association (NRA). However, Washington has changed and America has changed. More importantly, the position and perception of Israel in America has changed as well. And, so has the almost unanimous support of AIPAC among American Jews.
Let the AIPAC crowds in Washington, D.C., celebrate. AIPAC and its supporters are now so out of touch with the realities on the ground, it is only a matter of time before they recognize that they have lost their power base among American Jews and with it, their grip on power and the powerful in the White House and Congress.
Prof. Bishara Bahbah was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.