It’s the biggest convention of Israel-haters, attended yearly by some 15,000 representatives, and the damage, historically speaking, that it has done to Israel is perhaps graver than any done by Iran. The convention is held once a year, and time seems to stop. It’s always the same wheeler-dealers, the same kitsch, the same hollow applause, and the same standing ovation for every Israeli prime minister, no matter his policy. The world turns round and round, but this never changes. Even Israel changes, but not in their eyes. Here, Israel is worthy only of applause, blind and automatic applause, now and forever.
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Like at similar conventions held in Romania by Nicolae Ceausescu, all they do is praise the great leader. Welcome to Bucharest in Washington, to the Kremlin of American Jewry, behold the yearly AIPAC conference. Only here can Netanyahu use his old tricks and gimmicks and be met with a full auditorium on its feet. “I bring you a message from the unified Jerusalem” – applause; Israel built a hospital for victims of the Syrian war, which Netanyahu visited, and he even spoke to a Syrian – cheers; the whole world is knocking down Israel’s door – applause; we will never abandon Israel’s security – the hall rumbles. “BDS is BS,” and this bullshit was praised as well, even though Netanyahu devoted a large portion of his speech to BDS, which was a bigger gift than the organization could have dreamt of.
Behind Netanyahu sat a young American woman who rose to cheer him when everyone else did. I said to myself, Why exactly did she get up and cheer? For the ongoing occupation? For the undermining of Israeli democracy? For the ever prevalent racism in Israel?
“I’m pro-Israel, I’m AIPAC,” says the organization’s slogan. Pro-Israel? The organization’s critics claim that it sometimes acts against U.S. interests; that it also acts against Israeli interests. Yes, it has caused Congress to pass resolutions congratulating Israel on the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. AIPAC also prevented the sale of air defense systems to Saudi Arabia, as well as any weapon to any Arab state. No fewer than 259 Congress members and 79 senators signed the organization’s petition condemning aid for the Palestinian Authority.
Bravo, AIPAC. Seek out the conservative right among American Jewry. But long ago, Israel should have said, “No, thanks.” Not every show of loud and pushy, even crazed support is a display of friendship. Sometimes caring and friendship mean criticism. But that is not in AIPAC’s playbook.
The word is that the organization’s power is waning, but it doesn’t look that way on the ground. We see what happens to Congress members who dare to criticize Israel. AIPAC is still in the field with its army of lobbyists, and it is the second most effective lobby in Washington, after the gun lobby – and this should cause Israel to worry. Just like the gun lobby, the Israel lobby is not a good partner. It has affected U.S. policy in the past, as one of the factors that led to continued American support for the occupation, as well as Israeli violence and expansion.
If AIPAC wanted to show true friendship for Israel, it would have stopped cheering long ago and started whispering. Whisper in the prime minister’s ear, that something bad is happening to the state that AIPAC loves so much. Whisper that something bad is happening in America, too, that people are becoming fed up with Israel’s refusals. A false friend would give a drug addict more and more money, and the addict would thank him for it. A true friend would send him to rehab, and the addict would be angry. The occupation addict is in need of a true friend, one that would send her to rehab. AIPAC, and the United States along with it, has opted to be the false friend – and that’s as anti-Israel as it gets.