By bouncing up and down, again and again, Democrats and Republicans in Congress demonstrated their support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even as he criticized the Mideast policies of President Obama and essentially shut off prospects for serious peace talks. Lawrence Davidson looks at what was behind this curious congressional spectacle.
By Lawrence Davidson
May 29, 2011
According to a May 19 story in the Wall Street Journal, the American Zionists are starting to turn the screws on President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
“Jewish donors and fund raisers are warning the Obama re-election campaign that the president is at risk of losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel,” the article said.
If you doubt that this tactic can work, just watch the video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Those 20-plus “sustained and standing ovations” did not come from mere true believers.
They came from the thoroughly bought and bullied.
The Zionists have a strikingly successful and very longstanding vote-buying operation and they are, of course, applying it to the President and his reelection campaign.
As a consequence, the Wall Street Journal tells us that Obama will “court Jewish donors at a June fund-raiser.”
There is every indication that the Obama campaign plans to be “extremely proactive” in letting the “Jewish community” know that the President does not want to be “too critical of Israel.”
All of this is very odd. In 2008, Obama took 77 percent of the Jewish vote. According to reliable pollsters, there is no indication that it will be much different in 2012.
Most Jewish voters don’t vote primarily on Israel or foreign policy issues. Like other Americans they vote on domestic, and particularly economic issues.
According to pollster John Zogby, “the lines are drawn fairly well, and I think it is hard for it [the Jewish vote] to not be a 75 to 25 percent split for Obama and the Democrats.”
The 25 percent constitute the hard-core Zionists and capitalists amongst us.
Yet, considering that in 2008 Jews accounted for about 2 percent of American voters, the Zionist capacity to trigger a panic attack among Democrat campaign staffs cannot, except in a few select neighborhoods, possibly be about votes. And indeed it is not.
It is about money. It is estimated by multiple mainstream sources that approximately 60 percent of Democratic campaign funds come from Jewish sources of all kinds.
That is not just from Jewish Zionists, but also from ordinary unaffiliated Jews. (It is very important to keep in mind that the “Jewish community” is much more than just the Zionists.)
Indeed, the hard-core Zionists probably give more to Republicans and those handouts help account for about 20 percent of that party’s campaign funds.
It is hard to know what percentage of the 60 percent of Democratic campaign funds is given or withheld due to a politician’s stance on Israel. Let’s guess high and say that it is 40 percent of the 60 percent. That means about 24 percent of Jewish campaign funds are given on the basis of Israel.
But there are some very wealthy people who use Israel as a criterion for their contributions. One is Haim Saban, the self-made billionaire who helps fund the Brooking Institution. He is one of those who says his enthusiasm for the Democratic Party has waned due to Obama’s stand on Israel.
Yet Saban also notes that “President Obama has raised so much money and will raise so much [additional] money through the Internet [that] he frankly doesn’t, I believe, need any of my donations. [However] will I donate if I am solicited? I will donate.”
So it may well be that, at least when it comes to the Obama presidential campaign, the Democrats exaggerate the need to hold a pro-Israeli line in order to procure funds, even from Jews.
It is different at the level of Congress and the Senate. The Democratic Party is yet to organize itself to the point where each of its federal candidates can match the financial independence of the President’s reelection campaign. That makes candidates for these offices more dependent on lobby money.
At this level, 24 percent given on the basis of support for Israel is probably a crucial number and Zionists manipulate the money very well, shifting it around during both primary and regular election campaigns to those who swear allegiance.
That is what makes the U.S. politicians dance to their tune. For the sake of that money, they will greet the most outrageous nonsense with roaring acclaim. And last Tuesday, the Israeli Prime Minister proved it to be so.
Here is how one Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy of Haaretz, characterized Netanyahu’s speech before Congress:
“It was an address … filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It’s unlikely that any other has attempted to sell such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu. ”
If you are going to do this sort of thing, transforming Congress into a circus, you really have to know your audience.
Here are some of Levy’s other comments on the speech,
1. “How can the Israeli prime minister dare to say that his country ‘fully supports the desire of the Arab peoples in our region to live freely’ (as long as they aren’t Palestinians)?” When the Arab popular protests started “he was … warning of the dangers of an extremist Islamic regime and rushing to build a fence along our border with Egypt.”
2. “How could he rain praise on Israeli democracy when his government has done more than its predecessors to deal [a] mortal blow to that democracy, to pass completely anti-democratic laws?”
3. “How dare he speak about freedom of worship in Jerusalem at a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been denied that freedom for years?”
Levy observes that Netanyahu is “the man who explicitly said he would do his level best to destroy the Oslo Accords.” And yet, “suddenly … he’s in favor of peace with the Palestinians.”
That is indeed what Netanyahu asserted. The prime minister told Congress that, “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. ” This brought the Congress to its feet for one of those “sustained ovations.”
But then came the qualifiers, which no politician in the audience seemed to find unreasonable. Nonetheless, they demonstrate conclusively that the prime minister is unwilling to compromise on just about everything the Palestinians want and need.
a. No compromise on the Right of Return. “This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
b. No compromise on Jerusalem. “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”
c. And here are a number of other non-negotiable demands: “a Palestinian state must be fully demilitarized. … it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. … Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda [Hamas].”
While the Congress seemed not to notice that these qualifiers are fatal ones, another Israeli journalist did.
Ben Caspit, writing in Maariv, tells us that “Netanyahu knows very well that the conditions that he set [in his speech] for a peace process are complete non-starter[s]. There is no Palestinian in the world who will accept them, there is no Arab state in the world that will support them.”
Yet over 20 times, America’s congressional leaders leapt to their feet and clapped their hearts out. How is one to explain this?
Gideon Levy concludes that such behavior “says more about the ignorance of its [Congress’s] members than the quality of their guest’s speech.”
Ignorance is certainly part of it. The bought and bullied are willfully misinformed.
Money Buys Reality
Most of Congress is ignorant about the real nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about the real consequences of American foreign policy relative to it.
That ignorance is sustained by the fact that the U.S. information environment relating to the conflict is still largely controlled by the Zionists.
For instance, much of the briefing material on the issue going to congressional members is produced by AIPAC and allied Zionist organizations; the State Department has been purged of anyone sympathetic to the Palestinians or the Arabs in general; the media remains almost uniformly biased in favor of Israel; and finally, for the politicians, ignorance is underwritten by that 24 percent of their campaign contributions.
It also helps enormously that this ignorance is shared by the American public at large.
The result is almost post-modernist in nature. Right and wrong become relative. Reality is one way for the Israelis and their boosters in Congress and another way for the Palestinians and their supporters.
The stronger party, figuring that the winners ultimately write the history books, are not really in a compromising mood. That is why Netanyahu’s version of compromise was such a farce.
The Zionists figure that as long as they can militarily prevail, and continue to manipulate the U.S. version of reality, they will eventually be writing the definitive histories of this struggle.
Essentially, ignorance makes all crimes invisible. Control of an information environment keeps them invisible.
Alas, in the long run this is really an impossible gambit. The required ignorance, though almost complete in the halls of Congress, is nowhere near so in the outside world. And so the truth must occasionally break through.
It must do so even at an AIPAC-staged speech by a duplicitous Israeli prime minister given within the inner sanctum of the U.S. government.
Early into Netanyahu’s speech a women rose up and shouted, “stop the occupation.” It turns out that she is a Jewish Israeli peace activist and a member of the group Codepink. Her name is Rae Abileah.
She was, of course, immediately attacked and silenced by the AIPAC supporters sitting near her. Netanyahu’s reaction was that of a consummate improvisation actor. He “seamlessly incorporated the moment into his overall narrative.”
He told his audience, “I take it as a badge of honor that in our free societies you can have protests. … This is real democracy.”
As it turns out, Ms. Abileah was so injured by her attackers (none of whom have been charged with assault) that she ended up in the hospital where subsequently she was arrested for her protest.
In Israel, not only would such a protest by someone in the galleries not be tolerated, but even Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset who protest Zionist policies are physically attacked as the address the chamber. That is the real meaning of Netanyahu’s “real democracy.”
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. Congress’s accepted version of reality is maintained by Zionist misinformation fortified by donor dollars to the campaigns of both parties.
Without the one-sided story line and its attendant financial pillars (and the stealthy way the money is handed out or withheld), the incentive to dance the dance and see the conflict through Zionist-tinted glasses would be considerably less.
Yet that is not the way the U.S. system works. Within the realm of American politics, it is the money that conditions the mind to an uncritical acceptance of a perverted reality.
That is what allowed for the circus spectacle in Congress last Tuesday – where men and women in positions of power were induced to give multiple “sustained and standing ovations” in response to little more than “lies and illusions.”
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.