The United States of Israel, or so it seemed at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) policy conference held last week. US presidential contenders were outdoing each other in affirming their allegiance to a faraway country in the Middle East called Israel.
Invitations had been sent out to all the presidential candidates from both parties and all quickly confirmed their attendance — Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders, running for the Democratic nomination, sent a letter to Aipac requesting to address the gathering by video while he was out campaigning in the west. That request was rejected by Aipac, although in the past, they had extended the courtesy to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Sanders, the only Jew among the candidates, is also the most rational when it comes to Israeli policies and their relationship with the US.
The powerful lobby, Aipac, is the only American Jewish organisation that commands that every presidential contender should attend the conference during election year every four years. Aipac had gone on record to state that its national conference is “attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address”. In defining its power, an executive at Aipac once pointed out to a napkin and boasted, “You see this napkin? In 24 hours, we could have the signatures of 70 senators on this napkin.”
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) called the marathon of speeches appalling, depressing and scary ... “No matter who was on stage. But that’s Aipac. And their relationship to war-mongers and Islamophobia demagogues — whether Pamela Geller or Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu — has always been one of mutual reinforcement. Together they drive public conversation and public policy to ever lower lows, promoting racist policies from drone strikes to the endless funneling of billions of dollars in military aid to Israel”.
Trump started his pandering for Zionist muscle with a disclaimer: “I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel. I love the people in this room. My daughter Ivanka is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby. I came here to speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship and our cultural brother — the only democracy in the Middle East, the state of Israel.”
In spelling out his foreign policy Trump said: “The United States can be useful as a facilitator of negotiations, but no one should be telling Israel it must abide by some agreement made by others, thousands of miles away, that don’t even really know what’s happening.” He also bluntly reminded Palestinian leaders “that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely and totally unbreakable”, and criticised the “culture of hatred” rooted in the Palestinians against their Israeli oppressors. He then echoed the familiar Zionist party line of who deserves all the blame — despite the fact that they live as non-citizens, without the right to vote, under military law and fire. But details have not been Trump’s strong points.
Hillary reminded the audience that she “had sat in Israeli hospital rooms, holding the hands of men and women”. She added that, “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] to visit the White House”, perhaps failing to understand that a new president assuming office next January will have much more important issues to deal with. She flatly rejected Obama’s initiative to propose a unilateral solution to the Palestinian/Israeli issue at the United Nations Security Council. “I would vigorously oppose such a move.” Isn’t peace something a potential US president be considering and promoting? Not so in front of a largely Right-wing Zionist audience that is in full step with current Israeli policies of illegal colonies and ethnic cleansing and the murder of women and children to achieve those aims.
Cruz said: “Let me be very, very clear: As president, I will not be neutral. America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel.” Continuing his pro-Israeli address, Cruz further said that “Israel is a liberal democracy that shares our values, Israel is a steadfast and loyal ally and our military aid to Israel is not charity, it is rather furthering the vital national security interest of the United States of America”. He concluded by chanting, “Am Yisrael Chai” which means “the nation of Israel lives”.
It was unfortunate that Aipac denied Sanders a forum to speak, for he above all others has the interests of his country at heart. He is a Jew, but an American first and has shown no inclination to be muscled by powerful Zionist lobbies seeking to plant a candidate who would do their bidding next January in the White house.
Judging from all the pandering that went on last week at the Aipac conference in the US, it is not difficult to confuse that country as the United States of Israel, for Israeli interests seem to be the key agenda for all the potential US presidents present at the gathering.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena