Congress Sees Middle East Through AIPAC-Colored Glasses
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During August recess this year, 81 members of Congress went on a junket to Israel funded by the Israel lobby group AIPAC (well, funded by the American Israel Education Fund, but they are really one and the same) to " learn first-hand about one of our closest friends and allies." While the representatives insist they got a balanced view, their itinerary belies that claim: 95% of their time was spent hearing the Israeli government point of view, with only one token meeting with Palestinian reps.
CODEPINK has filed a complaint with the Congressional Ethics Committee stating that these trips--and the upcoming ones scheduled for December--violate the Congressional prohibition on traveling with a lobby group. We feel these Potemkin voyages are part of AIPAC's grand plan to control and monopolize Congress, which is not just unethical, but dangerous. Their bias reinforces a disastrous U.S. policy of unconditional support for Israel that obstructs peace and runs counter to our national interests.
At a recent Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, entitled "Promoting Peace? Reexamining US Aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA)", we got a glimpse of what happens when Congress views the Middle East through AIPAC-colored glasses. Here are a few of examples of their tunnel vision:
* Asking the wrong questions: Congress is intent on looking into the $600 million a year U.S. taxpayers give to the Palestinian Authority, especially at a time, as a few members brought up, of economic hardship in the United States. But they would not dare hold a hearing about the more important issue: the $3 billion a year we are giving to the Israeli government--which is five times what we give the Palestinian Authority. The question they should be asking, but won't, is: How can American taxpayers afford to give "military aid" to the wealthy government of Israel, especially when that government uses our funds to drop white phosphorous on civilians in Gaza, kill international humanitarians on boats trying to break the Gaza siege, bulldoze Palestinian homes and orchards, and imprison peaceful protesters?" CODEPINK was in the hearing with signs saying "No More $$ to Israel", but we were not even allowed to quietly hold them.
* Listening to the wrong people: While the hearing was about Palestine, not one of the four witnesses was Palestinian-American, Arab-American, or even sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view. Like the AIPAC-junkets to Israel, this Washington hearing was completely one-sided. Three of the four people testifying before the Committee were Jewish, and all four were white men from conservative think tanks that take the side of the Israeli government. One of the witnesses was none other than convicted criminal Elliott Abrams, who, after the Iran-Contra scandal, went on to covertly arm Fatah after Hamas won the 2006 elections in Gaza, leading to a bloody conflict and inadvertently, to a Hamas takeover of all of Gaza. What great credentials for giving Congress advice on the Middle East!
When we asked the committee staff why there was not one pro-Palestinian voice on the panel, we were told to be quiet or we'd be ejected from the hearing.
* Polluting the atmosphere with racist comments: Not once was the plight of the Palestinians under occupation even mentioned. Instead, Democrats and Republicans across the board made sweeping statements that were embarrassingly racist. "Sending aid to the PA reinforces bad behavior," said Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen. "The Palestinians refuse to negotiate and they glorify violence," she added. Cong. Carnahan wanted to know why there are no "honest actors" among the Palestinians. Elliot Abrams added, "The Palestinians have been cursed by a failure of leadership for 100 years." There was no mention, of course, that some of the best Palestinian leaders can be found in Israeli jails.