Getting the Facts Right about AIPAC

March 26 2019

The political scientists Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the 2007 book The Israel Lobby, were not the first to discover that attacking the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is an effective way to disguise anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; nor have they proved to be the last. As AIPAC gathers for its annual meeting in Washington, DC—on the heels of the latest round of smears, themselves echoed by major publications—Mark Horowitz points out that nearly every assertion made about the organization by its detractors is based on misinformation:

Progressive groups are demanding that Democratic presidential candidates, who in past cycles might have rushed at the chance to address such a large and engaged crowd, stay away. . . . The bill of particulars never changes: AIPAC has too much money and power. AIPAC bribes Congress into twisting American foreign policy against the national interest. American Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to the United States. And, most laughably, the Israel lobby silences all criticism of Israel.

AIPAC’s success, [however], . . . flows from the fact that a majority of Americans, not just Jews, are predisposed to support Israel. . . . Why is it so surprising, then, that a lobbying organization exists to channel this support into political and legislative action? Labor unions do it, chambers of commerce do it, abortion-rights groups do it, and Arab-Americans do it. It would be weird if there weren’t a pro-Israel lobby. . . .

And AIPAC was never the big spender its antagonists claim. Its total lobbying expenditures in 2018 came to $3.5 million, which doesn’t even put it in the top 50. (Realtors spent $72.8 million.) . . .

The idea that AIPAC is tied at the hip to the Republican party and Israel’s far right is also an exaggeration. AIPAC is more comfortable, and was always more effective, as a bipartisan operation, positioned near the center of Jewish-American politics. Today, it supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, a view that is widely held by American Jews, but opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current coalition.

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More about: AIPAC, Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, US-Israel relations

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations