Thursday, August 26, 2010

The "Israel American Public Affairs Committee"

Immediately after posting The PRIMER Fairness Doctrine, I checked my email and found the following message from Rod Lopez-Fabrega.

I am thus posting his original letter, immediately below this message, and will follow it with some comments about this message. (Since comments about his original letter have already been posted as Letter to The Hour, I will not include any additional comments about that here.)

Yes, absolutely, you may post both my letters on your site, and I will look forward to your comments.

I do believe my central question deserves a reasoned response because the disproportionate influence of your lobbies on Washington is worrisome. I recognize the fact that at the basis the real problem may lie with our electoral system made much worse by recent pronouncements made by the Supreme Court.

As I said in my original letter, if I were a citizen of Israel, I would do whatever it takes to defend my country. However, that does not mean I am comfortable as an American citizen to being tied to such commitments for another country than my own.

Let me point out also that I have been to Israel twice and have been enormously impressed by what they have achieved. One only needs to look at a map to see the vulnerable shape of Israel, easily cut in two at the waist. I wish them all the best. At the same time, as has been pointed out by many Jewish liberal friends, the original inhabitants have been trampled mercilessly.

Clearly, there are few if any solutions, but I worry to see U.S. politicians in the unseemly position of bending over for any pressure group in the enviable position of granting or withdrawing votes and those ugly campaign funds to influence the foreign policy of the United States of America.

As an American yourself, doesn't this reality give you pause?

Rod Lopez-Fabrega

The letter published August 19:

Israel American Public Affairs Committee

To the Editor:

It is interesting to note the flood of reaction to a few letters published in The Hour questioning the recent actions of the IDF ( Israel Defense Force) off the coast of Israel. These defensive retorts under score the dilemma faced by those of us who deeply admire what Israelis have accomplished with that barren piece of real estate they have occupied since 1948 and at the same time decry the shameful way they have treated the previous occupants.

The knee- jerk reaction from ( presumably) American citizens over a mismanaged incident in Middle Eastern waters serves to raise more questions about the Israel- United States relationship. " Since the Six- Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel", as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt put it in their article four years ago for the London Review of Books. One might begin to wonder why this is so, considering that this unquestioning relationship has harmed US Middle Eastern policy toward all the other states in the Middle East. One answer is that Israel, located in a hostile neighborhood, is an island of democracy that shares our values. Again, Mearsheimer and Walt question the shared values: " Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kin ship." Are these shared values when a very large portion of Israel's population is treated as third- class citizens? One likes to believe that the US has grown past that stage in its own development.

Another question arises when one notes that the US provides at least $ 3 billion in direct aide to Israel every year and that Israel- unlike requirements placed on other countries that are recipients of US aid- needs to account for only 25 percent of where and how it spends that largesse. A good portion reportedly goes to ensuring that Israel is militarily the most powerful entity in the Middle East.

1. A more immediately troubling question pops up when one begins to note the undue influence the Israel lobby has on the US government. We have seen how presidential hopefuls must genuflect to AIPAC ( American Israel Public Affairs Committee) before every US election, and how any government official or member of the media who raises even a slight question about the relationship between US and Israel is made to pay dearly for the " error in judgment". One small but recent example of effects on the media is the fate suffered by veteran journalist Helen Thomas of the press corps attending the White House. OK, so Helen was careless in her comments, but banishment forever? Far more serious is the US commitment to go to war against all comers if an intemperate Israeli leader moves unilaterally to attack his neighbors.

Then there is the influence AIPAC is quite openly exerting on US College campuses, indoctrinating young campus leaders to the cause of Israel as potential movers and shakers of future US governments.

2. It is clear and understandable that any Israeli citizen will do whatever it takes to protect the land he or she claims- rightly or wrongly-- as a birthright. However, in the case of AIPAC, which demonstrably has a huge influence on the American government, is it a case of the tail wagging the dog?

The name 'American Israel Public Affairs Committee' raises the question about the placement of its members' primary loyalties- all presumably American citizens. That question is: Would changing the name to 'Israel American Public Affairs Committee' be more representative of the priorities of its members?

Rod Lopez- Fabrega

We have some comments about Mr. Lopez-Fabrega's message preceding the above letter.

I personally (this is a personal opinion and does not represent PRIMER, which is an media-monitoring organization and not a political organization) share Lopez-Fabrega's concern about harmful effects of campaign funds, although I see no way - short of Constitutional amendments emasculating the right to freedom of speech - of changing the situation for the better and believe all our efforts at campaign reform have actually been counterproductive.

That said, it is clear the anti-Israel lobby has put tremendous resources into its fight and its resources dwarf those of the Jewish community and of the non-Jewish supporters of Israel. It's a tribute to the intelligence and patriotism of our elected representatives that they have generally resisted that pressure and tried to act in America's best interest rather than in the interest of the "American House of Saud."

I'm also pleased that Oopez-Fabrega recognizes the vulnerability of tiny Israel as well as its tremendous achievements.

There is also a grain of truth in his  assertion that "the original inhabitants have been trampled mercilessly," but not in the way he apparently intends.

I believe he intends to convey the impression that the Palestinian Arabs are "the original inhabitants" and the Israelis have "trampled mercilessly" on them, but both are untrue.

Nobody really knows who the original inhabitants were. The Biblical Canaanites were there before the Israelites (the ancestors of today's Jews, including Jewish Israelis), but neither they nor any of their predecessors have survived as an identifiable group. The present day Jews are actually the closest of any to "original inhabitants," while the Palestinian Arabs are relative newcomers.

It's also true that, by today's standards, the Israelites trampled their predecessors mercilessly, as the Romans later did with the Israelites and as the Palestinian and other Arabs have tried, fortunately unsuccessfully, tried to do with the Israelis.

It's also true that their Arab brethren and even their own leadership have treated the Palestinian Arabs shamefully.

It's noteworthy (although, typically, this was generally unreported in the American press) Lebanon only recently gave Palestinian Arabs the same rights as other foreigners - although they still do not have the right to practice many professions or to become citizens. This is typical of their treatment throughout the Arab world. In the Middle East, only in Jordan (which itself comprises nearly 80% of Mandatory Palestine) and Israel are Palestinian Arabs able to be citizens.

It's also worth noting the families of many if not most of the Palestinian Arabs now in other Arab countries have actually resided in those countries far longer than they ever resided in either Israel or the disputed territories, since many of their families were relatively recent immigrants to Palestine, attracted by the economic expansion that came with the Zionist development.

Ironically, some of them are undoubtedly being denied citizenship by the very countries from which their families originated before relatively recently migrating to Palestine.

Within Israel, Arab citizens have the same legal rights as Jewish citizens except for their not being subject to either the draft or the arbitrary oversight of the Orthodox Jewish rabbinical control over Jewish religious affairs.

While Israel was in control of the disputed territories, the Arabs there had more rights than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East except for Israel itself.

So, certainly, Israel has not trampled on the Palestinian Arabs. In fact, a strong argument can be made that Israel has treated the Palestinian Arabs better, and with more respect, than anyone else.

1 comment:

There is NO Santa Claus said...

I believe the Israelis have made a good faith effort to accommodate Arab Palestinians. When one examines the efforts of Arab League states to accommodate Arab Palestinians, Israel's efforts are exemplary. It's sad that few people appreciate these efforts, but I think that has more to do with hatred for Jews than it does with any real sympathy for Palestinian Arabs..