Getting the Facts Right about AIPAC

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.

Read more at New York Times

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

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas