It should have come as no surprise that US secretary of state John Kerry scurried over to Israel as soon as he could after reaching a deal with the Russians that averted the bombing of Syria, at least for now. Israel and its lobby in the US had been going flat out for the US to bomb Syria. AIPAC went all-out in support of the congressional resolution authorizing bombing Syria, after being signaled by the Obama administration that it needed help in getting the legislation passed. Back on September 5, when it looked like Congress was going to balk at going to war, the lobby went into overdrive.
Officials say that some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists will storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week to persuade lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution or risk emboldening Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They are expected to lobby virtually every member of Congress, arguing that “barbarism” by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated, and that failing to act would “send a message” to Tehran that the U.S. won’t stand up to hostile countries’ efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to a source with the group.
Even billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for whom support for Israel is his main interest and who used to be a fierce opponent of Obama, threw his weight behind this very public lobbying effort.
The fact that the lobby did not succeed in achieving the goal of driving the Obama administration to war and the chemical weapons issue is being addressed diplomatically must have worried the Obama administration who feared loss of support by the lobby. So Kerry had to go to Israel and have a joint public news conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would give the signal to the Israel lobby not to wreak vengeance on those Democratic congresspersons who, on this rare occasion, did not acquiesce to the lobby’s demands.
The fact is that, as John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen R. Walt noted in their 2007 book The Israel Lobby and U. S. Foreign Policy, AIPAC and the rest of lobby are not only not made up exclusively of Jews, they do not even speak for most of American Jews, many of whom resent the fact that they try to give the impression of doing so. The lobby represents a narrow spectrum of right-wing political opinion. Over 100 prominent Jews signed a petition distancing themselves from the lobby’s efforts, saying:
We are appalled that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is sending hundreds of people to lobby Congress to approve a resolution to bomb Syria. The media also reports that Sheldon Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition are pushing hard for war. We don’t want it to be known that Jews stood silent as the powerful Israel lobby helped push the U.S. into a war in defiance of international law and American public opinion.
The Israeli government should stop pointing the finger and admit its own abuses of chemicals. It used white phosphorus in its terrible 2008 attack on Gaza. Over the years it has used tear gas recklessly and killed and sickened many, many Palestinians.
The Israeli government’s apparent belief that Jews are better off if Arab or Muslim countries are devastated one after another must be challenged and repudiated.
But at the same time, the joint news conference by Kerry and Netanyahu was a nauseating display of hypocrisy. Here were two countries that between them have attacked more countries on more occasions than one can count, have used all manner of lethal weaponry including chemical weapons such as agent orange, napalm, depleted uranium, and white phosphorus on civilians. In addition, the US is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, annihilating two major cities with them and has never ever apologized for doing so, which fact alone should shame them from ever lecturing other countries.
And yet we had the spectacle of the prime minister of Israel, a country that has not ratified the chemical weapons treaty and refuses to so and has an arsenal of chemical and nuclear weapons, having the nerve to lecture Syria and Iran about their weapons and behavior. And even though Israel is the most egregious violator of UN resolutions, and has been almost universally criticized for its apartheid policies towards Arabs in the occupied territories, Netanyahu had the brazenness to lecture Iran about defying the international community.
Despite Kerry’s predictable groveling to Israel, what was interesting was that on this occasion at least, US public opinion was able to counter the Israel lobby’s efforts. And what was even more interesting is that the mainstream media are now openly referring to the ‘Israel lobby’ and describing its actions. This used to be a taboo subject and the credit for bringing the lobby’s activities out into the open has to be given to Mearsheimer and Walt who aimed to do just that. Of course, they were subjected to the usual smears of being anti-Semites, the favored tactic of the lobby to silence critics of Israel and its lobby, but they survived and even flourished and now the topic is no longer taboo. The activities of the lobby have come out of the shadows.
The strength of the lobby, like that of that other major lobby the NRA, lies in its appearance of invincibility. Members of Congress must be made to fear that they will be defeated if they cross it. Brent E. Sasley wonders what made the lobby miscalculate on Syria and how much this defeat will dent that aura of power.
Theories on the high profile of the AIPAC effort range from sheer hubris, to a desire to showcase its power and/or its support for the strikes, to a simple miscalculation. Most likely, AIPAC decided that the risks of a public intervention (getting members’ backs up, opening themselves up to “the-Jews-want-war-again” accusations, turning their failure to get the yes vote out into a public spectacle) were simply worth the benefits.
But whatever the outcome, one thing will not change. The US and Israel will continue to act as if their hands are clean and that only they have the right to dictate to other countries how to behave and what they can do. When it comes to outright hypocrisy, they tower above the rest. And the mainstream media will enable that by now pointing it out.