Last week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the influential pro-Israeli lobby group, staged its annual policy convention in Washington, DC. It is a yearly event to showcase Aipac’s enormous influence in America’s corridors of power.
If truth must be told, Aipac was formed to put a PR spin to Israeli atrocities.
The convention, attended by 18,000 delegates, set out to do two things. One, rein in Iran’s growing sphere of influence in the Middle East. Two, limit the United States’ financial support to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
At the podium, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was all fire and brimstone. He blamed the “radical tyranny” in Iran for several “malicious acts” in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen and for persisting to seek Israel’s destruction.
Notwithstanding Netanyahu’s fire and fury, Israel’s influence over Aipac had waned somewhat after he failed to get the lobby group to block Iran’s nuclear deal. Perhaps looking several steps ahead of Netanyahu’s next move, then-president Barrack Obama had in September 2015 emplaced enough safeguards in the Senate to protect the Iran nuclear deal from being dismantled.
It is an open secret that Aipac makes many demands on those who hold power in Washington as part of its mission to garner bipartisan support for Israel. Two of them this time is to ask the US Congress to codify the US$38 billion (RM149 billion) military aid to Israel and to counter the widening campaign to boycott Israel and its West Bank settlements. Several Republican and Democrat congressmen have indeed sponsored legislation to curb the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which aims to pressure Israel into ending its occupation of Arab and Palestinian land.
Many, including Americans, have been alarmed by the Zionist lobby group’s hold over the US administration and the American public. Aipac does this by clever PR bromides, legitimising the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by giving it a non-existent historical twist. The Israelis call this forceful acquisition “creating facts on the ground”, making a claim now by way of illegal settlements for a future state. The Zionists believe that just as the illegal settlements of pre-1948, which finally helped create Israel, the illegal settlements of today in occupied Palestinian territories will help create a greater Israel.
However, Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, the US, says the Zionists have failed to frighten the moral conscience of the US into silence despite spending millions on propaganda.
Paradoxically, Aipac conventions do expose to the whole wide world the dark secrets of “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”, as the group officially describes itself. Writing in The Washington Post, Doug Rossinow (who teaches history at the University of Oslo, and is writing a history of American Zionism from 1948 to 1995) puts it thus: “Everyone pays Aipac attention. And for good reason. Since the late 1970s, it has informally directed substantial campaign contributions towards chosen candidates for Congress. Its messaging on the Middle East is essential in Washington’s foreign-policy conversation.”
Protesters too are paying attention to Aipac. One of the pro-testors, Eric Resnick, a Jewish-American who had lost his family members in the Holocaust, told Al Jazeera: “My family did not die to justify what these sick Zionists are doing to Palestine.”
His thoughts were echoed by Rabbi Yisroel Weiss of Jews United against Zionism, who told Al Jazeera: “Zionists have no right to steal the Jewish name, let alone speak on behalf of Jews,” before adding emphatically: “We as Jews want to live in peace and harmony with our Palestinian neighbours as we have done for hundreds of years before the Zionist project destroyed Palestine.”
Rossinow summed it up succinctly in the article he penned for The Washington Post: “Some love Aipac, some hate it, some fear it, but it is a huge factor in US policy, in American politics and in American Jewish life.”
George Soros, it seems, belongs to the club that hates Aipac. The billionaire does not hide the fact that he uses considerable amount of money to support anti-Israel organisations to smear the Israeli government and undercut its relationship with the US. Soros’ foundation and the New Israel Fund, another Soros beneficiary, fund Adalah, a group that trains Israelis, Arabs and Jewish progressives against the Jewish state.
There is a common perception that Zionists are in control of everything, with plenty of power to spare. As Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians reaches more American homes, a greater number of liberal American Jews are starting to dissociate themselves from the brutal Israeli government.
We hope, some day soon, if not now, the Americans and the rest of the world will see the Zionists for what they truly are.
Dr Paridah Abd Samad, a Fulbright scholar and Japan Institute of International Affairs fellow, is a former lecturer of UiTM Shah Alam and International Islamic University Malaysia, Gombak.