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Aid for Israel: Put a Condom on it

A tasty little partisan spat is playing itself out in the Jewish media right now over who loves Israel more, the D’s or the R’s. The episode speaks volumes about how far AIPAC has positioned itself in the Republican camp, how deeply in denial the Democrats are of this fact, and how deliciously divorced from Israeli reality the American political debate is.

The story is about the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill voted on in the House last week. With the House back in the Democrat’s hands, language was included to amend what is known as the “Mexico City policy” and to again allow US funding for overseas groups, whose positions on women’s reproductive rights may include the promotion of contraception and the option of abortion. In opposing this clause, 164 GOP Members voted against the entire foreign aid bill. So, how did the rubber hit the road, in this case the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway? Well, in opposing the Bill, the GOP of course found itself voting against aid for Israel. For a blow-by-blow account of what happened in the House, read the ever-reliable Lara Friedman’s of APN account here.

The aid to Israel, all $2.4 billion of it, is not in question. A formula without doubt will be found, but what happened next is what really speaks volumes. Nothing. Silence from AIPAC. The GOP explained its position. AIPAC chose not to score the vote, nor to in any way publicize any issue it might have with opposition to a women’s right to choose being a higher principle than aid to Israel for the Republican Congressional minority.

Democrats started falling over themselves with cries of foul play. Throughout their years in the wilderness of political opposition, the Dems have never been treated with such kid gloves by the, wait for it, non-partisan AIPAC. On a number of occasions “pro-Israel” Democrats had found themselves holding their noses, swallowing hard (temptation to make condom joke suppressed), and voting for Republican ForOps Bill to avoid incurring the wrath of the vote scorers. I am not sure which is more unfortunate, Democratic naiveté or the extent to which AIPAC has aligned itself with the Republican side.

Ron Kampeas, writing for the JTA puts it diplomatically, “AIPAC’s decisions to refrain from criticizing the GOP is likely to reinforce the view in some Democratic circles that the pro-Israel lobby has been favoring Republicans in recent years.” You don’t say! So the alliance with the neo-cons and the Christian right was not a heavy enough hint? Rapturous applause for Rev. John Hagee, compared to the boo’s aimed at Speaker Pelosi at this year’s AIPAC conference, meant nothing? Some Republicans were apparently even spinning the story to Haaretz correspondent, Shmuel Rosner, that Rep. Nita Lowey, who was behind the “Mexico City policy” amendment, only introduced it in order to trap the GOP, ignoring Lowey’s record of years of principled commitment to women’s reproductive rights.

I have on several occasions expressed my concern at the closeness of the relationship between AIPAC, the Christian right, and the neo-cons. I think it is unhealthy for American Middle East policy, unhelpful for Israel, and unpalatable for the Jewish community. Either AIPAC should undergo a radical rethink or the majority of the Jewish community that supports Israel, but that also supports progressive policies, peace, and the Democratic party, should find a new vehicle for expressing its opinions.

Of course people will say “But Israel should not be politicized or made a partisan issue.” Sure, the very basic issue of supporting Israel, or its relationship to the US, need not be questioned. But beyond that, the debate on Middle East policy, on what’s best for America (and by the way, for Israel), who to talk to, how much to promote peace, etc. should be discussed politically as these are political questions. The current Congressional approach, a continual race to prove who loves Israel more, hardly makes for mature or constructive policy. This is mainly because the love being expressed is of the – “I have no time for the real you, or what your problems may be, so I will simply shower you with toys, and thereby express my love for you.” This kind of love has done a great disservice to Israeli interests, and to American interests. As in any such situation, it is a love that encourages irresponsible behavior, the same kind of irresponsible behavior that would ban the provision of US funds to groups that encourage the use of condoms.


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Comments (5)


Its more than that. AIPAC power results in congressional staff appointments and appointments all over our government. That is another interest that is lost for the average American. The right to have a government WITH appointments that are diverse like our nation....not stacked with a small ethnic minority that provides all the campaign dollars.

You are right, it is a ponzi scheme but it is far more larger than Israel/Defense Contractors and Congress.... the ponzi scheme runs down to federal, state and local appointments.

But the US project regarding Israel is at its deepest level a product of cooperation between arms and oil hawks, on the one hand, and RELIGIOUS 'zionist' jewish leaders on the other. Check the figures - almost all the US donor organisations are staffed by rabbis. This ultimate aim is to re-impose religious orthodoxy on the jews of israel, if necessary by means of first imposing a nuclear war upon them, which is supposed to make them more open to the arguments of the rabbis.

RB Renfro:

I am going to say something as a American...whatever Israeli supporters or those on the other side want to take offense at the truth will just have to take offense.

America is not Israel. Israel is not part of America. There is no similar culture or shared values between a Jewish/Religious/Ethnic state and a assimilated democracy with no official religion or requirement to maintain a majority of a particular ethnic or religious group.

The "one and the same" and the "majority of Americans" support our favoritism towards Israel is a PR myth of the Israeli lobby and a self delusion that ardent Israeli supporters in the US adopt to justify their actions and continue what is basically a taxpayer financed ponzi scheme between Israel, congress and the US's weapon industry. American's own interest will never always coincide with Israel's any more than they will Saudi or any other country.

The most striking thing about the Israel- Palestine conflict in relation to the US is it is the "one" conflict that we could have ended long ago without firing a single shot. And more and more Americans are becoming aware of the dirty political reasons why we have not done just that...why congress always falls on the side of the radical Israeli cultist instead of the Israeli peace camp.

Observing how far this segment of Israeli influence has burrowed into my government and governing body and policies as this post of Mr. Levey's points out raises red flags for me as an American.

The Israel Palestine conflict is a blot on America's reputation around the world and a concern for all Americans who are thinking about their children's future in their own country. The subversion of the American "peoples" overall interest to promote the interest of a small minority in our country, especially when their agenda is something most fair minded American would not find acceptable cannot last forever. I will admit that I am most in favor of cutting Israel loose from the US because I am naturally first and foremost concerned for my own country and I see Israel as it currently operates as a terrible influence on my country...but I also think that seperating US support from Israel is the only thing that will ever give Israel an incentive and overwhelming need to end their occupation and force them to a peace agreement with Palestine and others in the region.

For those in the right wing camp of Israel, Jewish or Gentile religious cults, or political power seekers, who want to use my country any further for anything except as a fair broker for a settlement of the Israel-Palestine problem I say to you..turn around..back off...you are headed for trouble...and that includes our congress.....you are looking at an eventual political and public blowback in this country.

The one thing I hear the most in my own community and around my state's political circles and on the net is that the US government represents every special domestic and foreign interest "but" Americans, at home or abroad...and that roar is getting louder and louder and louder.

So change is in the wind and part of that change includes Israel-congress among other special domestic and foreign interest collusions because Israel has put itself front and center in the view of the general US public in our US ME policy...policies which most Americans now totally reject and disapprove of.

That change, however and whenever it comes, will probably in the final end be the real legacy of 911 and the war on terror.

Let us hope it comes in time to prevent any more disaster for everyone involved.


“Either AIPAC should undergo a radical rethink or the majority of the Jewish community that supports Israel, but that also supports progressive policies, peace, and the Democratic party, should find a new vehicle for expressing its opinions.”

AIPAC has plunged down the rabbit hole, and is thus incapable of reforming itself. Mr. Levy’s latter prescription, that the non-Likudnik segment of America’s Jewish population find another umbrella (condom?), is the only way to counter the unholy alliance with the Christian Right and neo-cons. If such a group emerges, it might have an immensely curative effect on American politics vis-à-vis Israel/Palestine. Thank you for stating this!


So are you saying that even if Republicans tend to have more support for Israel, AIPAC should focus more on the Democrats? AIPAC doesn't care at all whether the politician is R or D- they care that the politician supports Israel. Note also that AIPAC does in fact support multiple candidates in a single race (through canvassing, etc.), as long as the candidate is pro-Israel. The group understands the value in making as many friends as possible, without alienating current or potential friends. The ones they alienate are the ones who vote against trying to stop Palestinian terrorism.

I'm very unhappy with the Republicans' choice to oppose increased availability of contraception. But, I think it was right for AIPAC not to intervene in the issue- it's not in AIPAC's interest to tell politicians that the only thing that could possibly matter to their constituents is Israel. It would only hurt them to take on such a divisive issue that is normally irrelevant to their goals.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 27, 2007 7:34 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The Shalit Tape and the Sharm Summit: Competing for Attention.

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