It is not exactly a secret that in some quarters, the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, is seen as a vast,
powerful organization that has run roughshod over Capitol Hill and
imposed a pro-Israel slant on American foreign policy.
For those who have been asleep for the past couple of years, that is,
more or less, the thesis of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors
of "The Israel Lobby," a book that has propelled those two otherwise
respected but obscure scholars into stars of the left-wing academic
This was the same line taken by former president Jimmy Carter in his
2006 "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," which similarly libeled American
Jews and sought to delegitimize American supporters of the Jewish state.
Of course, both books are bunk.
The reason why the overwhelming majority of Americans back Israel has
little to do with AIPAC's lobbying prowess and everything to do with
the fact that most of us rightly see Israel as a democratic ally with
Western values, assailed by Arab and Muslim authoritarians and
Islamists. Oh, yes, then there is the small detail that a huge slice of
the U.S. electorate believe that their Christian faith makes it
imperative that they support Israel.
AN EFFECTIVE LOBBY
But that said, AIPAC has done a pretty good job rallying this natural
goodwill for Israel, and turning it into votes for measures that buck
up the alliance between Jerusalem and Washington.
Indeed, it has been doing this job for so long that it's getting hard
for a lot of us to remember that once upon a time, support for Zionism
was once very effectively countered by State Department Arabists and
And despite the fact that anti-Israel members of Congress are a
minority these days, foes of the Jewish state still make themselves
heard with ease in Washington and in the academy. They are, after all,
funded by a source that actually dwarfs AIPAC's American Jewish donors:
the Saudis and the Persian Gulf states.
But not all of AIPAC's critics are avowed anti-Zionists. For some
American Jews, AIPAC's success in mobilizing a broad bipartisan
coalition in favor of the alliance is somehow troubling. For
self-proclaimed "doves," AIPAC has become part of what they see as an
American-Jewish-made obstacle to peace. Some on the Jewish left are now
seeking to, in the words of a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report on the
subject, "play tough" with AIPAC via the creation of an organization
calling itself J Street in a takeoff on the fact that many D.C.
lobbyists work on the city's K Street.
J Street's appeal seems to center on the notion that members of
Congress are under the misapprehension that the alleged right-wing
slant of AIPAC is not representative of the views of most American Jews
who are, according to J Street's backers, doves like them.
They want to help promote American support for Palestinian and other
Arab "moderates." J Street's goal will be to puncture AIPAC's aura of
power and make it clear that the "pro-peace" lobby is the true voice of
American Jewry, as well as being more genuinely supportive of the
interests of Israel.
It is a free country, and J Street has every right to use the reported
$1.5 million raised on its behalf to say anything it wants to Congress
or anyone else. But the group's premise is flawed in several respects.
The first is the notion that Jewish criticisms of Israel are being
suppressed in this country.
In promoting these "dovish" views, they are, after all, hardly alone.
Other groups, including the influential Israel Policy Forum, already
provide a forum for the "peace now" crowd. Nor are such views absent
from the American media, which are flooded with abuse of Israel and
where defenses of Jewish rights in the conflict, as well as the state's
measures of self-defense, are often lacking.
Moreover, the notion that AIPAC is a creature of Israel's Likudnik
right is another falsehood.
AIPAC, itself the creation of a broad coalition of groups, has always
reflexively supported the point of view of all Israeli governments,
including the ones that promoted the Oslo peace accords and the
unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Throughout the entire period of
Oslo-inspired peace euphoria, as well as during the leadup to the
pullout from Gaza, AIPAC's policies were a source of great frustration
to right-wingers, who, at times, themselves sought to outflank the
More importantly, the notion underlying the whole initiative is based
on belief in a creature as mythical as the unicorn: Palestinian
The current situation, in which the Islamists of Hamas clearly command
the support of the majority of Palestinians, while being physically in
control of Gaza, is deplorable. But it is a fact.
Diplomatic charlatans, such as the aforementioned Jimmy Carter, may
tirelessly promote, as he did just this week, the idea that Hamas wants
peace but no one not even the Palestinians believe him. Its goal is
not a secret: the destruction of the Jewish state and not merely its
withdrawal behind the 1949 armistice lines.
On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority the body that Israel's
government and the Bush administration claim is "moderate" is
powerless to make peace, even if they really want it. But given the
role that the P.A., and its Fatah and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade
components, plays in fomenting hate and terror against Jews and Israel,
faith in their good intentions requires a substantial suspension of
AN OUTDATED CONCEPT
More to the point, in the aftermath of the crackup of Oslo, the second
intifada and the rise of Hamas, the whole idea of American Jewry, as
well as Israeli voters being split along "right" and "left" fault lines
about peace, is an outdated concept.
The vast majority of both Israelis and American Jews no longer support
the idea of holding onto most of the territories. But the concept that
more Israeli concessions (on top of the enormous sacrifices in terms of
land and blood already made by Israel in the name of peace) will
transform the Palestinians into peace partners is discredited. The
majority of Israelis would gladly make a land for peace deal. But they
now understand that there is currently no one to make it with.
That's a tough pill for many of us to swallow. For those who prefer to
focus on false notions of Israeli intransigence, rather than the actual
record of the last 15 years of failed attempts at peacemaking, J Street
will provide an outlet.
In the coming months, J Street will probably use whatever influence it
can muster to undermine the pro-Israel community's continued attempts
to ask Congress and the White House to hold both Hamas and Fatah
accountable for their support of terror and hate education for
Palestinian kids. They'll probably fail. But that they will do so in
the name of peace won't make their position any less foolish, as well