It is time.
“. . . the United States will not be able to deal with the vexing problems in the Middle East if it cannot have a serious and candid discussion of the role of the Israel lobby.” —John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.
2 NOVEMBER—Two weeks ago, as Israel continued bombing Gaza into a wasteland, the president of the United States sat with Israel’s prime minister at the start of an Israeli war cabinet meeting. Netanyahu had phoned Biden two days previously to request what The Times of Israel called a “solidarity visit.”
Much has passed since Biden’s visit to Israel. The atrocity of Israel’s indiscriminate military campaign in Gaza is now widely recognized as constituting a genocide. Principled non–Western nations—Bolivia, Chile, Columbia to date—began this week to sever relations with Tel Aviv or recall their ambassadors. The world order, as should be obvious, has been disrupted.
But questions remain. What does solidarity, as Biden pledges, mean when Israel is daily committing war crimes for all the world to see? Why is the U.S., in violation of international law and everything it claims to stand for, aiding and abetting Israel’s agenda of ethnic cleansing in Gaza? Why, bringing matters closer to home, is the United States prioritizing the interests and security of Israel above its own, while simultaneously damaging its credibility and authority abroad?
It isn’t possible to understand American conduct in West Asia at this critical moment without recognizing the role that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee plays in setting foreign policy. U.S. foreign policy aligns so congruently with AIPAC’s agenda that there is little distinction between them. In effect, the U.S. lacks an independent foreign policy that reflects its own security interests in that region of the world.
At this critical moment of violence, human suffering, and chaos, we must recognize that AIPAC, an unelected, technically nongovernmental agency, exercises an excessive, wholly inappropriate influence in global affairs as well as in U.S. politics. This is very rarely mentioned in our corporate media, and we can read this silence as a measure of the organization’s unacceptable accumulation of power. AIPAC, it is time to conclude, must be broken. Peace in West Asia and a stable order elsewhere depend on this project.
AIPAC’s influence on U.S. policy, domestic as well as foreign, has been considered many times. Most notably, there is the work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose 2008 book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, stands as the most extensive examination of AIPAC’s power we have to date. Their analysis is now more pertinent than ever. In the current context, given the magnitude of what is unfolding—given its potential impact on relationships among many different nations—we must recognize that AIPAC’s reach extends well beyond Washington or West Asia. Indeed, the committee’s influence now marks world affairs altogether. This is our disturbing new reality.
With this reality in mind—a dangerous reality given the extremist character of this organization—let’s consider Biden’s recent visit to Israel and all that has followed from it.
Biden has given two speeches since that war cabinet meeting, one in Tel Aviv on 18 October, the other upon returning to Washington, when he addressed the American public on 20 October. In each, the president reiterated all of the talking points and established dogma that have long characterized America’s relationship with Israel, all of which support Israeli priorities. Nothing new was offered—no moral clarity, no fresh vision of how to address the original moral crime committed against the Palestinians when their homeland was taken from them 75 years ago, a theft of land that accounts for the never-ending cycle of violence we witness once again.
Two factors explain Biden’s failure: First and obviously, this president isn’t capable of statesmanship of the magnitude required. Moreover, he professes a deep personal affinity for the Zionist vision—for Israel to seize all the lands of Biblical Palestine as its own—and no incentive to do anything other than align himself with Israel’s interest. More important and directly to my point, with Biden serving as an almost perfect example: No new thinking and no new policies are ever possible because of AIPAC’s stranglehold on U.S. elections, politics, and politicians.
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