U.S. Needs its Own 'Arab Spring' to Counter Power of Pro-Israel Lobby
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Take action by attending Move Over AIPAC, a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, to expose AIPAC and build the vision for a new US foreign policy in the Middle East! More information can be found at www.MoveOverAIPAC.org.
We spent a lot of time in the Middle East this year, during what history will surely regard as the equivalent of a seismic earthquake. In country after country, people rose up and either forced from power tyrants propped up by the United States or put them on the defensive, promising reform after reform in the vain hope of convincing their constituents to go back to sleep.
But the “Arab Street” is awakened from its slumber now, and there is no turning back. The revolt that swept through Tunisia and Egypt, and that is continuing now through Yemen, Libya, Syria and Bahrain, should be a wake-up call for both the U.S. government and the remaining dictators.
One of the most glaring examples of how U.S. policy is out of step is its unwavering support for Israel, even in the face of increasingly rash and alienating behavior – such as the ongoing expansion of its illegal settlements and the murder of nine Turkish internationals in last year’s Free Gaza Flotilla. As we saw recently in the demonstration of Egyptians in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, human rights and freedom for Palestinians are core concerns for Arabs. Once the U.S.-friendly rulers are deposed, or even if they barely retain power, the people’s empathy towards the Palestinians will have to be addressed. A knee-jerk defense of Israel by the U.S. government – or by Arab governments – will become increasingly untenable.
For too long, U.S. foreign policy has been skewed by a fear of offending Israel – or rather, the Israeli government and its right-wing arm in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). On May 22, AIPAC will kick off its annual policy conference in Washington, DC, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a keynote speaker. Already, American politicians are lining up for a spot at the podium. Last year, President Barack Obama sent a high-level liaison – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – to the confab and is likely to do so again this year. Speaker of the House John Boehner and the majority leader for both the House and Senate are confirmed speakers, and hundreds of other elected officials will make an appearance.
Why such a rush to appear at this particular policy conference when similar events are ubiquitous in Washington? To spell it out bluntly, AIPAC has shown its ability to make and break political careers. Offend AIPAC and your opponent will be generously funded. Befriend AIPAC and you may well be richly rewarded in campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, pro-Israel political action committees – most of which are affiliated with AIPAC – contributed nearly $12 million to political candidates in the 2009-2010 election cycle. One senator alone, Mark Kirk (R-IL), received $553,698.
What does all that money buy? It’s difficult to trace the dollars directly to votes, but one can only assume it is a primary explanation for Obama’s instructions to UN Ambassador Susan Rice on Feb. 8 to use the American veto to overrule the other 14 Security Council members, all of whom voted for a resolution condemning as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
That single vote accelerated the loss of faith that began almost immediately after Obama’s famous “message to the Muslim world” in Cairo in 2009, when he boldly proclaimed, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” U.S. credibility has crashed since then as the Obama administration failed to back up its words with Netanyahu.