Like a Moslem undertaking the Hajj, the once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, or a Catholic chancing to see the Pope speak from his Vatican window, presidential candidates seemingly long to trudge to the annual AIPAC conference to pay fealty to Israel and its Lobby.
This year we were fortunate enough to witness John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton taking turns losing their dignity before the AIPAC crowd. At one point in his parody on The Daily Show , Jon Stewart spoke of John McCain taking with him Senator Joe Lieberman on a visit to Israel, advising McCain that when you visit Israel “you don’t need to bring your own Jew.”
Hillary’s declaration of support for Israel was merely icing on the cake that she earlier baked during the campaign by promising to “obliterate” Iran if it ever attacked Israel. That, without even a declaration of war called for by the U.S. Constitution should we attack another nation. (But see George W. Bush’s attack on Iraq without such a declaration as precedent).
It was left to Barack Obama, a candidate who at one time brought a great deal of hope to many Americans, including this writer, to complete the round robin of pandering to AIPAC, first by wearing not only an American flag pin, but one conjoined with an Israeli flag pin as well. Obama’s nomination has improved America’s image around the world, with the realization that, “everyone has a chance in America,” as the saying used to go. But that is what makes his pandering so painful.
Obama declared Jerusalem indivisible, presumably for the Israelis only, in contrast to the United Nations’ holding that Jerusalem was, and is, an international city, belonging to neither side.
This is all old news, however. Presidential candidates have been kowtowing to the Israeli Lobby for decades, so what else is new? Well, what is new is that the world has come to realize that all such blind, unquestioning support for Israel’s most criminal objectives is a real threat to world peace. Such rhetoric is no longer confined simply to the Jewish vote in America. It has actual impact on the lives of people in the Middle East.
Thus, presidential candidates, one of whom will really become the President of the United States, enabling Israeli aggression can, and has, resulted in the deaths and suffering of tens of thousands of Arabs, in Lebanon, in Palestine, and in Iraq. Such rhetoric allows Israel, with U.S. help, to attempt to starve into submission Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, people who had the temerity to take seriously Bush’s promises of democracy in the Arab world. Despite Israel’s blockade of medicines, food, electricity and other necessities to Gazans, the American government and the American mainstream media have voiced not one word of protest. The U.S. only gives Israel more money and more weapons to continue the attempted starvation.
Obama’s statement of unquestioning and unqualified support for Israel’s objectives will likely embolden Israel to once again try to invade Lebanon to destroy Hizbollah’s fighters, the only force strong enough to resist Israeli aggression in that country. And while the U.S. has no more troops left with which to invade Iran, as Sen. Joe Lieberman and the Israeli government wants us to do, both Israel and the Bush Administration have plans to bomb Iran’s phantom nuclear program. (Whatever happened to the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate announcing that Iran has no longer pursued a weapons program?)
Over the years U.S. politicians have considered unqualified statements of support for Israel’s objectives to be a throwaway, that is, no political cost and all political benefit for the politician. But those days are forever gone, and the danger of increased violence in the Middle East is much higher than the threat level announced in the nations’ airports close to election time.
One would have hoped that Barack Obama would have taken note of the destruction left in the wake of what George Bush thought would be a benign invasion of Iraq, and not try to repeat this kind of mischief with repercussions so serious that the Middle East is on the verge of destabilization.
One would have thought that Obama would have considered the impact of the divisions created by Bush and by Israel in various Arab countries, all with the objective of giving Israel hegemony over the area. Thus, with Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinians being urged to fight internally with one another, those countries will be easier targets for eventual Israeli control.
That strategy, to which Obama seems to be acquiescing, will result in more destruction, more loss of innocent life, more internal divisions, and more destabilization than the Arab world can withstand.
That is definitely not the new kind of politics Obama has held out as his reason for being chosen over McCain.
The tragedy of it all is that as a candidate for the presidency only Ralph Nader has recognized the dangers that lie ahead by a continuation of that policy.
Watching the candidates pandering to the AIPAC crew makes one wonder if those in the Israeli Lobby’s audience felt any embarrassment at all by forcing such groveling for support on what were then three potential presidents of the United States. From what I saw on television, at least the leadership of AIPAC seemed to be reveling in the groveling as each of the three willingly handed over their dignity on national television as they bent over to kiss the behinds of the leaders.
JAMES G. ABOUREZK is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. This article runs in the current issue of Washington Report For Middle East Affairs and appears here by permission. Abourezk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org