AIPAC is going out with a whimper not a bang

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On the same day when four senators announced for the Iran Deal, giving an unalloyed triumph to the Obama administration and resulting in the firmest warning yet from the White House against vetoing the president’s historic achievement, the headline came out of the American Enterprise Institute. You remember them. They’re the thinktank that gave us the Iraq War!

One of the principal authors of that disaster, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was addressing the hall when a young protester from Code Pink rose to call him a warmonger, and you will see that a sportif gentleman in his 60s clad also in pink jumps past security to tangle with her and in the words of this twitterer, gets owned. He falls back in his chair, defeated after a hissy fit. 

Well according to folks in the know, that guy is Patrick Clawson, the director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). I called and emailed WINEP, which is of course a spinoff of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but have not confirmed the i.d. for sure. It sure looks like it from this image. Chris Hayes was on it last night: Protip, don’t grab the sign.

Patrick Clawson, with combed hair
Patrick Clawson, with combed hair

So let’s be clear, this is what the Israel lobby is reduced to, a hissy fit against a spirited protester in the former scene of feasts and glorious abandonment.

The rightwing Israel lobby has just doused itself in gas and set itself afire, with the assistance of Benjamin Netanyahu. The lobby will never be the same. They are no longer the nightflower, they’re the noonday clown. New York Magazine has a huge article about Sheldon Adelson trying to buy the election — New York Magazine, which has always protected Israel, is hanging the Republicans and Netanyahu out to dry. Haaretz reports on the piece:

The article doesn’t claim to know who Adelson is likely to back – although it notes that while he is close to Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Governor is considered “insufficiently serious” on Israel and foreign policy. As Mort Klein of ZOA [Zionist Organization of America] said of Walker, “Look, he’s the governor of Wisconsin – He knows about cheese and cutting pensions.”

Does Klein have any idea how arrogant this sounds? These guys are used to treating politicians like chattel; and they may have the Republicans today, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have them tomorrow. The same battle that broke out in the general public over AIPAC and Netanyahu’s overreach in the Iran Deal is bound to break out among the Republicans as the Iran Deal transforms international politics. They may be sold for another political year to Adelson, but the 82-year-old mogul’s urging to nuke Iran is bound to be controversial in 2016. And who wants the company of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach? He has been disowned by Senator Cory Booker, and is a walking farce.

Look at Boteach’s latest, comparing the Israel lobby’s stand to Masada, or a scene of mass suicide. “A modern-day Masada that will hopefully rally and unite the Jewish people.”

Amid all of this pain, doubt, and concern, I offer a message of hope.

It’s a message that hit me as I spoke with my dear friend and confidante Michael Steinhardt, the renowned mega-philanthropist and co-founder of Birthright Israel. … Michael and I spoke about whether the battle [against the Deal[ was worth it.

There can be no doubt that it was.

I told Michael, one of the great Jewish leaders of modern times, that he, along with Charles Bronfman, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, and other great Jewish philanthropists, had brought over 500,000 young Jews to … Masada…

That’s a message of hope? The man is actually drinking Kool Aid as he sucks up to rich benefactors. Anyone who takes this seriously should reflect that Adam Bronfman, the son of the late Israel lobby stalwart Edgar Bronfman Sr, is a J Street Jew who can’t stand Benjamin Netanyahu. And Netanyahu sealed the deal for Obama by overreaching, by speaking before Congress and making a scandal of foreign interference and accusations of dual loyalty.

Before Netanyahu’s speech, few mainstream pro-Deal activists wanted to talk about the Israel question. After Netanyahu rubbed Israel’s interest in our faces, they jumped in with gusto, and the media began talking about the lobby.

Of course, the lobby hasn’t gone away. AIPAC still commands millions. Eli Clifton reports that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s betrayal of the president after saying he was leaning for the deal– it has to do with AIPAC. It targeted West Virginia all summer with anti-Deal ads, and Manchin got more than $115,000 of out of state pro-Israel money in the last cycle and doesn’t want to lose funding in a state where Obama polled little more than a third of the vote in the last election. Manchin actually applauded Netanyahu in his awful speech (And Chris Matthews asked last night, Why did Manchin turn? This is the answer).

The lobby hasn’t gone away, but we’re going to get a new Israel lobby, one that is going to have to reckon with the occupation. Last night, Hardball hosted Jeremy Ben-Ami as the crown prince of the new lobby. Ben-Ami is an ardent Zionist but he is also a major opponent of Netanyahu’s and he worked with a very diverse coalition to cement the Iran Deal. J Street’s presence has undermined the lobby’s greatest strength, its unanimity. The Democratic Party is enraged at Netanyahu; and many senators no longer fear AIPAC.  Washington Senator Maria Cantwell’s statement on Iran doesn’t even mention Israel.

Yes, the Obama administration is about to ladle money over Israel. Or it’s trying to but Netanyahu is sulking. Get ready to hear the word MOP over and over again: Massive Ordnance Penetrator. A bunker buster; politicians want to give that to Israel. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Gary Peters covered themselves politically yesterday by saying how much they are going to do to preserve Israel QME– Qualitative Military Edge — in its fight with regional foes. Ron Wyden too; he will be working hard “to strengthen security assistance and cooperation with Israel.”

Last night Chris Matthews couldn’t stop talking about the Holocaust. He asked Richard Blumenthal about his reasons for mistrusting Iran — relatives who died in the Holocaust — and brought up the Holocaust in his closing speech too.

[The Iran debate] has been a battle for the heart. I think of the [Democratic] members in their true, well-based concerns for the state of Israel born in the very aftermath of the Holocaust…. Europeans killed Jewish people by the millions. Having to think of a present-day Iran, present-day Israel, present-day America, and the present-day world, all with the memories stirring of what happened in the recent century is a hard test. Not just a political judgment or policy judgment but in the deepest most permanent of moral terms.

This is a gift to a friend you are making a break with. Matthews is commemorating the Holocaust because the Obama administration is, because they know a generational shift is upon us, and their invocation of the Holocaust is backward looking view, toward the time that it was a central cultural matter. The crushing of the rightwing lobby raises the issue of whether one of its biggest moves, playing the Holocaust card, has been removed from the table of the U.S. foreign-policy discourse. I believe it has.

The Holocaust has nothing to do with Iran, the Holocaust was a European series of events. The fact that the Palestinians are still paying for it is grossly unfair. That debate is about to begin: thanks to the Iran Deal, Palestinian human rights are about to become a major issue inside the Democratic Party.

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A lot of us were saying over the last few weeks that AIPAC will be reduced to a ZOA-esque outfit but with lots more cash and a (slight) pretense of seriousness. I don’t think anyone expected that transformation to happen with this stunning speed. The next battle, and in my… Read more »

I don’t imagine that AIPAC’s thrown in the towel. The test is the pressure they bring to bear on candidates, the primary opponents-from-AIPAC, etc. We’ll see.

… Look at Boteach’s latest, comparing the Israel lobby’s stand to Masada, or a scene of mass suicide. … What’s even more troubling is that he appears to compare the very essence of i) being Jewish and ii) Israel to a suicide mission: … Our fight was never in vain.… Read more »

Clawson couldn’t get it from her hands. lol – classic wimpy chickenhawk syndrome. At least grampa Cheney is there – who is just about the same caliber of man. These think tanks like WINEP are so corrupt and Clawson shows us what a snake he is – implying a false… Read more »

Keep deluding yourself into thinking that this is anything but a vitiation of your theory that AIPAC has the ability to control US foreign policy.