Originally published in Tikkun Daily
This week, something unprecedented has occurred: politicians, mainstream media outlets, and political satirists have uniquely joined forces to identify AIPAC – and the 'pro-Israel' lobby – as the political force threatening the Obama administration's historic, diplomatic breakthrough with Iran.
How has this happened? How has such seeming synchronicity occurred when just last week, mentioning AIPAC as an influential lobby would likely earn one shouts of anti-Semitism?
What's happened is that the Israel lobby, and AIPAC specifically, has wildly overplayed its hand in a country where Americans back President Obama's diplomatic efforts with Iran by a 2-1 margin.
So much so that, for the first time I can remember, the Israel lobby is being being publicly singled out by both staunch allies and critics for trying to push the United States toward a war Israel's leaders want, but a war Americans don't.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Jon Stewart highlighted AIPAC's influence over those senators who are supporting a sanctions bill which could railroad the White House's agreement with Iran. However, when Jon Stewart mockingly yells, "The Senators from the Great State of Israel are against [Obama's diplomacy]" while an AIPAC logo appears in the background, it's more that noteworthy.
It's evidence of a potential sea change. (Video of this segment appears below.)
Even more so Senator Feinstein, who is as hawkish as Democrats come with regard to Israel and issues of national security. However, on Tuesday, Feinstein vociferously defended the Obama administration's diplomatic inroads, and had this to say on the Senate floor with regard to the sanctions bill threatening diplomatic progress:
While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the US goes to war ... By stating that the US should provide military support to Israel should it attack Iran, I fear that is exactly what this [sanctions] bill will do.”My mouth, as are the mouths of countless political observers, are still open. Not because what she said is false, but because – until now – it just wasn't said by a mainstream politician. Period.
The New York Times joined Feinstein in uncharacteristically identifying the pro-Israel lobby – specifically AIPAC – as the political force behind the sanctions bill's construction. This is from my post on Tuesday:
This is how The New York Times characterizes what is behind Senate opposition to Obama's diplomacy with Iran:This sudden shift in public discourse – in publicly identifying AIPAC's often destructive political influence in America – has been caused by the so-called 'pro-Israel' lobby itself.
"Behind these positions is a potent mix of political calculations in a midterm election year. Pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, have lobbied Congress to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, and many lawmakers are convinced that Tehran is bluffing in its threats to walk away from talks [if Congress passes the sanctions bill]."The Times here makes a surprisingly close correlation between lobbying efforts by groups such as AIPAC and Senate Democrats' refusal to support Obama's diplomatic breakthrough. For when it states that there is a "potent mix of political calculations in a midterm election year," it's not talking about public opinion.
It has been caused by hawkish, 'pro-Israel' lobbyists – aligned with the Netanyahu government – seeing nothing but trees before them: blooming diplomatic agreements with Iran.
For them, the only answer is to burn them to the ground. However, this time, the problem is that those trees make up an American forest. And people are beginning to notice. For while Americans may turn a blind eye when we destroy ourselves, we prick up our ears and notice when someone else is trying to do so.
For now, the American public has largely ignored the fact that hawkish political entities have been doing a pretty good job of driving Israel – a country I want to see thrive – into the ground by supporting misguided geo-political policies.
I'm not sure the American public will be blind to pro-Israel influences doing similarly here.
Sign J Street's petition and tell our leaders to reject the Schumer/Menendez sanctions bill.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Here is video from Jon Stewart's segment, "Let's Break a Deal." His Israel lobby remarks begin at the 3:30 mark: