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Friday, August 10, 2007

ZOMG! Teh Joooz Are Taking Over the World!!!111!!!

That's what I hear every time people say things like "Israel is running our foreign policy" and "We're in Iraq because Israel wants us there."

I admit, as a Jooo who lost relatives in the Holocaust, I'm probably oversensitive to anti-Semitism. But I'm also oversensitive to over-simplification. (Note...the title of my blog.) And this type of statement, if not intentionally anti-Semitic, is certainly guilty of being simplistic to the point of ignorance.

I find that what people typically mean when they say "Israel" in this context is in fact, AIPAC, the powerful lobbying organization that purports to represent Israeli interests. What it really represents is neo-conservative interests, of course, which currently reflects the severely right-wing alignment of the Israeli government.

Unfortunately, some people assume that all American Joooz and Israeli citizens automatically support the policies promoted by AIPAC. (Although I love AmericaBlog, I had to stop commenting there because this assumption is rampant in the community.) The reality is quite different, as this excellent article by Allan C. Brownfield states.

Beneath the appearance of continuing power and influence, it is becoming increasingly clear that AIPAC does not in fact represent the views of the constituency in whose name it claims to speak, the American Jewish community. Rather than supporting AIPAC’s embrace of the war in Iraq, a recent Gallup Poll placed the American Jewish community at the top of the list of “major” religious groups opposed to the war. The Reform movement—the largest synagogue denomination in the U.S.—has gone on record in opposition to the war. According to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, his group’s resolution fairly reflects the Jewish community’s attitude toward the war. “It is not us that are out of step with American Jews,” he said.

AIPAC’s role is coming under increasing scrutiny, spurred in part by the debate initiated by Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt in their in-depth 2006 study of the Israel lobby, which originally appeared in the London Review of Books (and was reprinted in the “Other Voices” supplement to the May/June 2006 Washington Report). Mearsheimer and Walt argued, among other things, that AIPAC had encouraged the U.S. to adopt policies that were neither in the American national interest nor in Israel’s long-term interest.


In its March 17 issue, The Economist of London devoted a full page to a discussion of the “changing climate” facing AIPAC: “The Iraq debacle has produced a fierce backlash against pro-war hawks, of which AIPAC was certainly one. It has also encouraged serious people to ask awkward questions about America’s alliance with Israel. And a growing number of people want to push against AIPAC.…AIPAC’s ace in the hole is the idea that it represents Jewish interests in a country that is generally philo-Semitic. But liberal Jewish groups retort that it represents only a sliver of Jewish opinion. A number of liberal groups have started to use their political muscle—groups such as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum. These groups scored a significant victory over AIPAC by persuading Congress to water down a particularly uncompromising bit of legislation, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which would have prevented any American contact with the Palestinian leadership...The growing activism of liberal Jewish groups underline a worrying fact for AIPAC: most Jews are fairly left-wing. Fully 77 percent of them think that the Iraq war was a mistake compared with 52 percent of all Americans...”

Personally, I think there should be a law against any group that lobbies our government in the interests of any other government, AIPAC included. But in any case, it's extremely unfair to think that AIPAC represents the true opinions of Israeli or American Jews. And considering the other voices that were clamoring for the war in Iraq - including those of the Saudi Royal Family and the multinational corporations thirsting for Iraqi oil and no-bid contracts - it is also unfair to attribute our presence solely to AIPAC or Israel.

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