The talk of the town today is Senator Barack Obama’s recent remark that “no one is suffering more than the Palestinians” — one which comes less than a week after pledging to AIPAC “a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel,” and insisting that the U.S. “should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests.”
Iowa Democrat and AIPAC member, David Adelman, has written a letter to Obama, published yesterday on Ben Smith’s blog, calling Obama’s remark about Palestinian suffering “deeply troubling” and seeking clarification.
For this fact alone, Dov Bear has already pronounced Obama’s campaign dead in the water, Steven I. Weiss seconding that motion, claiming that “as Obama really steps out onto the national stage, the odds were already stacked against him, and with his comments he’s surely lost the Israel-firsters.”
Which is absurd really, if you think about it. Obama has already made a pledge to AIPAC that would alienate just about any progressive critical of Israeli policy in the territories, a point which I raised to his campaign in an email last week:
Having read Mr. Obama’s recent remarks at AIPAC’s conference, I am certainly impressed with his ability to tell this very important and arguably influential lobby precisely “what it wants to hear,” in doing so, allaying whatever fears they might have of a candidate of Muslim heritage. However, in merely alluding to Israel’s responsibilities towards ending the conflict, and asserting that it would be improper for America to dictate security policy to Israel, Mr. Obama may be alienating himself from progressive Jews like myself who feel misrepresented by AIPAC and similar pro-Israel groups (which, mind you, tend to be to the political right of the majority of Jewish Americans). He may also alienate himself from the American Muslim community, which, quite justifiably, is concerned about America’s support for Israeli policies that inflame the conflict, such as the ongoing expansion of settlements, the arrest and detainment of thousands of alleged combatants who are denied due diligence, the imposition of travel restrictions and months-long curfews on Palestinian civilians, and so forth.
Precisely because Israel receives ongoing military aid from the United States, the United States has a key role to play in shaping Israeli policy, whereas it has the leverage to prevent Israel from continuing in policies which oftentimes its own policy analysts denounce as detrimental to both Israel’s security and the prospect of peace.
It is very important to me that my choice in presidential candidates is capable of navigating this very rocky terrain — one whom can balance Israel’s right to exist securely with the valid and pressing concern of Palestinian civilians and their supporters.
To be honest, I really have to wonder why any politician in their right mind would want to be in AIPAC’s good graces. Espionage scandal aside, this is an organization which yesterday booed Nancy Pelosi for denouncing the Iraq War (at a time when 70% of Jewish Americans have come out against the war) and cheered a notorious antisemite, John Hagee, for his Rapture-inspired pro-Israel rhetoric.
The organization has shifted so far to the right, that even traditional Zionist organizations are coming forward to rebuke the group. Today Ameinu, formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance, issued a statement denouncing AIPAC’s 2007 Action Agenda, claiming that AIPAC’s “radical hawkish positions [...] would curtail current tentative Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts [...] contrary to the national security interests of both the United States and Israel.”
AIPAC has jumped the shark and it’s not like no one has noticed. The organization has risen more suspicion of its activities in the last few years than in all of its existence. The only candidates that would coddle AIPAC at this point either have to be operating on a number of wrong-headed and “deeply troubling” assumptions relating to Jewish wealth, power and influence, or simply recognize that AIPAC is just using “Jewish interests” as a sock-puppet for its real agenda — defense contracting.
Frankly, my ideal presidential candidate is one who refuses to kowtow to AIPAC. Rather, my ideal candidate cares what 70% of American Jews have to say about the war in Iraq — that pro-peace majority that wants an end to the Israeli occupation, but isn’t as wealthy and powerful as those who want this misery to persist indefinitely.
In that respect, Barack Obama has a tough choice to make: Which Jewish voters does he want to appeal to? The 80% of Jews who vote Democrat and are both pro-Israel and pro-peace, or the deluded pro-Bush, right-wing Zionists (Jewish and Christian alike) that comprise AIPAC’s core constituency?
I’d rather vote for the guy who sticks it to AIPAC in the name of Middle East peace, than the guy who sucks up to AIPAC for fear of the overreaching influence of a pro-Israel lobby that appears to be completely out of touch with the constituency whose interests it allegedly represents.
If he chooses the latter, it should no longer be considered either alarming or antisemitic to be suspicious of the undue influence of American Jews over American politics — specifically that 20% of them on the right. When the votes of 20% of American Jews are more important than those of the other 80%, you no longer have a conspiracy theory but a stark reality deserving of the scrutiny it incurs.
Sadly, considering that AIPAC’s treasurer is on Obama’s finance committee, it looks like he’s already made his decision. Hence the thought of Obama being unattractive to “the Israel-firsters” seeming absurd to me. Considering that a sizable number of Gazans have been without running water and electricity since Israel’s invasion this past summer, that a mere acknowledgment of their suffering should be “deeply troubling” to the likes of AIPAC’s cretin supporters, just goes to show how completely inhumane and out of touch with reality they are. That this is whose favor Obama is seeking is the only legitimate reason he should lose the Jewish vote.