Groveling Before AIPAC

The recent AIPAC meeting brought four of the five remaining presidential candidates – all except Bernie Sanders – to Washington to grovel at the feet of the Israel lobby, a depressing scene, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

A depressing sameness characterized the speeches of presidential candidates to the recently concluded exercise in fervid conformity that is called the AIPAC annual meeting. Although the event and the organization ostensibly are dedicated to support for, and friendship with, the state of Israel, in practice the dedication was instead to the policies of the right-wing government that currently holds power in Israel, which is something different.

There was nothing approaching a free and open discussion of what policies would be in the interest of the peace and security of Israel and that a true friend of Israel would support. There was no mention of the occupation that, in the course of nearly half a century, has become Israel’s defining characteristic and the single biggest barrier to Israel being able to enjoy a future as a democratic and Jewish state.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a presidential contender, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 21, 2016, (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a presidential contender, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 21, 2016, (Photo credit: AIPAC)

The Republican candidates all found somewhat different ways to say they would destroy the agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program. Such destruction would, of course, serve the purpose of the Netanyahu government in helping it to fulminate endlessly about Iran as the “real problem” in the Middle East, taking attention away from every other problem; maybe we would even see a return of cartoon bombs to the rostrum of the United Nations.

But the candidates did not explain how destroying the agreement, which would mean the Iranians could spin as many centrifuges as they want, enrich as much uranium as they want to whatever level they want, and kick out all of the extra international inspectors provided for in the agreement, would somehow be in the interest of Israeli security. As leading Israelis who have dedicated careers to their nation’s security recognize, it would not be.

Perhaps one question of interest regarding the candidates’ otherwise drearily similar speeches to the AIPAC meeting was who, in this contest in pandering, could out-pander the rest. Donald Trump made a go of it, evidently erasing some of the suspicions he had aroused among this constituency with earlier sinful suggestions such as that a posture of neutrality would be needed for the United States to do something about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

No such lines were crossed in Trump’s speech at AIPAC, and he got a positive reception that would remind some observers of how earlier notorious demagogues could whip up frenzy in a crowd.

But the prize for out-pandering the others should go to Ted Cruz’s speech, as measured by sheer shamelessness in using extreme and outright deceitful rhetoric. Speaking after Trump, Cruz made sure that no one would ever suspect him of falling into that disgraceful state known as neutrality or to do anything that might lead to creation of a Palestinian state.

To make doubly sure no one missed the point, in the second sentence of his speech, right after saying “God bless AIPAC” and stating how thrilled he was to be there, Cruz declared that “Palestine has not existed since 1948.” And if any resolution on Palestinian statehood were to come to a vote at the United Nations, said Cruz, “I will fly to New York to personally veto it myself.”

The thesaurus of extreme terminology at Cruz headquarters must be terribly dog-eared after preparing this speech, including, among much else, the portions about the Iran nuclear agreement. According to Cruz, the agreement “is Munich in 1938” and risks “catastrophic consequences” by “allowing a homicidal maniac to acquire the tools to murder millions” — never mind that the agreement is all about taking tools away from the Iranians.

Among the cascade of deceitful references throughout the speech is a bizarre comparison in which Cruz says that the nuclear agreement “gives over $100 billion to the Ayatollah Khomeini, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” and that this “dwarfs the $3 billion we give each year to the nation of Israel,” a difference that is “unconscionable” and “fundamentally immoral.”

No attention is paid to the fact that U.S. aid to Israel comes straight out of the pockets of American taxpayers whereas frozen assets that have been unfrozen under the nuclear agreement already belonged to the Iranians and the United States is not “giving” Iran any of this, that the amount of unfrozen assets not already spoken for to settle existing accounts is far less than $100 billion, and that Ayatollah Khomeini has been dead for 26 years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2012, drawing his own “red line” on how far he will let Iran go in refining nuclear fuel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2012, drawing his own “red line” on how far he will let Iran go in refining nuclear fuel.

The one remaining presidential candidate who did not speak to the AIPAC meeting was Bernie Sanders. Sanders, campaigning elsewhere, instead submitted a written statement that addresses important issues involving Israel. Sanders, who happens to be the only Jew in the presidential race, notes at the outset of his statement that he is the only candidate with personal ties to Israel, having spent time there on a kibbutz as a young man.

The leading issue that Sanders addresses in the statement is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What he says about it is vastly different from what the other candidates, and especially the Republicans, said about it in their speeches. What he says also should be seen as eminently reasonable by those who genuinely want peace to replace that conflict and by those who are true friends of Israel.

It is a well-balanced statement that recognizes that peace “will require compromises on both sides” and will mean “security for every Israeli from violence and terrorism” as well as “security for every Palestinian.” Sanders does not shy away from using the word “occupation,” and he notes that “it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored. You can’t have good policy that results in peace if you ignore one side.”

The depressing sameness of speeches at the AIPAC meeting suggests that with the election of anyone other than Sanders, there will be a depressing sameness in U.S. policy toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beginning next January. That will mean Israel continuing down the path of apartheid and isolation, with more endless conflict and more shedding of blood of Israelis as well as Palestinians, and Israel moving farther away from ever being a peaceful, democratic, Jewish state.

Barack Obama still has almost ten months to shift that momentum at least somewhat. He already has shown a willingness and ability to defy the rightist Israeli government and the lobby that works on its behalf when he waged the political battle needed to bring the Iran nuclear agreement into existence.

He has given ample indication that he fully understands the underlying issues. He has given other indications of being able and willing to set some new directions notwithstanding the longevity of old, stale, and destructive directions — notably with his changing of U.S. policy toward Cuba. And he never needs to run in any election again, not even for dog-catcher.

Mr. Obama should, sometime before the end of summer, give a major speech that lays out the main terms of what knowledgeable observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have long understood to be necessary parts of any final settlement of that conflict. This would not preclude necessary negotiation of details between the parties, but would lay out the framework for a two-state solution that has been clear for some time.

You might call this an updated version of the Clinton parameters. Then in the autumn the United States should not just not veto, and not just accept, but should sponsor and promote a resolution of the United Nations Security Council that incorporates this framework.

Mr. Obama would be able to do this secure in the knowledge that he can make a case that is strong and truthful on multiple grounds. This step certainly would be very much in U.S. interests, given the damage to those interests of being associated with the continued occupation. It would be in the interests of justice and self-determination for the Palestinian people. And it would be in the interests of Israel, by helping to pull Israel off its current self-destructive path.

The rightist government in Israel would scream, as would the U.S. lobby that works on its behalf. Until and unless there is significant political change in Israel, the combination of religious rationalization, economic greed, and government-stoked fear that has powered the tenacious clinging to conquered territory will still be a major barrier to a peaceful path.

But a change in U.S. direction — if speeches and resolutions are backed up with corresponding use of material U.S. leverage — might at least lead Israeli voters and true friends of Israel elsewhere to see that the days of U.S. abetting of the self-destructive behavior are over, and to acknowledge that the conflict with the Palestinians over land and sovereignty cannot indefinitely be wished or bludgeoned away. And that would mean the new U.S. president, whoever he or she is, would be facing a new situation and new possibilities, different from the one that persists today.

To return in the end to the United States’ own interests — as we always should — the slogan that the Trump campaign uses, about making America great again, has some relevance. A really great nation does not display the obsequiousness toward another government that was on display in the arena where AIPAC met, and people who want to lead a great nation should not display it either.

We should ask, as President Bill Clinton did after his first meeting with a bullying Benjamin Netanyahu, “Who’s the [expletive deleted] superpower here?”

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

15 comments for “Groveling Before AIPAC

  1. Brad Benson
    March 30, 2016 at 04:19

    Hillary Clinton’s Speech was by far the most pandering speech and Mr. Pillar barely mentioned her. She’s the only war criminal on the stage and promised numerous new weapons systems and her unwavering support. Trump said a few things about Iran, but gave them no red meat whatsoever. Apparently Mr. Pillar didn’t see the same speeches that I saw.

    I normally buy into his arguments. This one is flawed for obvious reasons.

  2. hjs3
    March 29, 2016 at 11:30

    I’m surprised that AIPAC’s own hawk, Sen Tom Cotton of Arkansas didn’t find his way on to the platform….Perhaps he’s being saved for the next election cycle…

    Clinton’s closing remarks earlier are the stuff of “classic.”

  3. veritas
    March 28, 2016 at 12:54

    Good grief, “Munich” again. The issue decided at Munich was the peaceful return of Sudeten Germans to their homeland, from which they had been exiled by the Versailles treaty in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson’s promise to Europe of self-determination for all her peoples. The Czechoslovakia to which they had been assigned was created by the victors of World War I out of parts of Germany, Hungary, Austria and Romania. It had no historical existence until 1919 and was brought into being, like Poland, specifically to surround a territorially reduced Germany within a ring of hostile militarized states. 3.5 million Germans were forcibly placed under the harsh rule of the newly created nationalist Czech regime, which was dominated by ethnic Czechs, although they constituted barely a quarter of the new nation’s population. Despite initial promises to the contrary, the new Czech rulers endorsed a constitution in 1920 which specifically repudiated guarantees of equal civil rights for all ethnic groups.

    By the way, in October 1938, Polish troops invaded and annexed the iron-rich eastern part of Czechoslovakia, Tesín Silesia (including Ostrava, the third largest city in today’s Czech Republic), to which Poland had no historical claim. There was no word of protest from the western democracies over this outrage.

    The truly horrifying appeasement of World War II took place not at Munich in 1938 but at Yalta in 1945. A feeble, dying FDR approached the conference with no clear agenda save apparently to give Stalin everything he demanded – in return for promises the Soviet dictator never kept. These offerings included keeping the eastern half of Poland that the Soviet Union invaded in 1940, abandoning the Polish government-in-exile and Poles fighting in Allied armies, and the ethnic cleansing of nine million German civilians living on land claimed by Stalin in eastern Europe. (More than two million of them would die on their trail of tears to their shattered ancestral homeland in 1945-46). Also conceded was the victorious allies’ right to “reparations by forced labor” by which over four million German POWs would be exploited as slave laborers by Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The tiny handful of survivors of this grievous violation of international law was not repatriated until 1955. In the Far East, Stalin demanded, and got, Manchuria, the most developed region of China (due to Japanese investment during the occupation), and the beachhead from which the Soviets would direct and supply the Chinese Communist revolution.

    The lies of World War II are the foundation of today’s total war state and must be exposed if we are ever to regain our freedom.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 28, 2016 at 20:03

      The issue decided at Munich was the peaceful return of Sudeten Germans to their homeland, from which they had been exiled by the Versailles treaty in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson’s promise to Europe of self-determination for all her peoples

      It’s my opinion this is historico-babble. Wilson had about as much right (and authority) to “promise” this as Obama has to fiddle around in Ukraine, Syria, or Libya.

    • Brad Benson
      March 30, 2016 at 04:29

      Interesting. I am also a student of that period, but had never heard about the Poles taking Ostrava. My son’s wife’s grandparents were part of the great evacuation of Germans from the East that began prior to the end of the war and ended when the Sudeten Germans were completely expelled after the fact.

      As the war was coming to a devastating end in the East, her family was put on a train with thousands of other Germans and brought to the Western Part of the country. At every little stop, the Nazi Authorities would put a few families off of the train. Today my son lives in the town in which his wife’s grandmother was pushed off the train.

      It is rare to see the other side of this story told in the US. Stammst du vielleicht aus Deutschland?

      • Zachary Smith
        March 30, 2016 at 19:41

        I am also a student of that period, but had never heard about the Poles taking Ostrava.

        My search wasn’t exactly an easy one, but I verified that the Poles did annex and occupy that area before their own invasion by Germany. I’m still uncertain whether it was a naked land grab or had a fig leaf of legality from the Munich treaty with Hitler.

        The enormous expulsions of (mostly) Germans after WW2 is a topic I’m trying to learn about. These weren’t covered in any of my previous history classes, and were barely mentioned in the books I’d read till now. The suffering of the refugees was horrific, but at the time all the victorious Allies seem to have agreed the ethnic cleansings were necessary. The Germans themselves had acted like unwashed barbarians in other nations, and perhaps it seemed fitting they get a small dose of their own medicine, especially if a “strategic” explanation was tacked on. The whole episode was exceedingly ugly, and I’m still trying to assemble a few of the “facts” before making my own judgements.

  4. Zachary Smith
    March 27, 2016 at 19:06

    On the subject of AIPAC, here is an interesting story which tells a lot about those who go to watch the groveling.

    It was the perfect opportunity to engage with Israel’s most politically active supporters, so I pulled out my camera phone and began asking what they thought of Trump.

    Most respondents expressed extremely negative views about the candidate, slamming his racism, xenophobia and incitement to violence.

    So I decided to conduct an experiment to test for consistency by attributing racist statements made by Israeli leaders to Trump and asking respondents what they thought of such language.

    Most people I spoke with energetically condemned racist statements attributed to Trump. However, when I revealed the statements had actually been made by Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, respondents immediately excused, justified or supported the rhetoric they had just condemned.

    Basically, anything Holy Israel does is OK for these people.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 27, 2016 at 20:42

      And that is the danger to supporting such an organization as AIPAC.

  5. J'hon Doe II
    March 27, 2016 at 12:31

    ““Groveling Before AIPAC””

    Question: —– might there be slightly less ‘groveling’ if Americans elected the First United States JEWISH President???

    Or is this constantly ignored Jewish candidate a bit too ‘Christian’ orientated.?

    I’d categorize Sanders as The Candidate who’d lead the American REVOLUTION OF VALUES.

    how ’bout that !?!

  6. JohnWV
    March 27, 2016 at 10:36

    A UN designated committee of four chaired by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African jurist, investigated Israel’s “Cast Lead” assault on Gaza. Their report concluded Israel had committed numerous specifically described war crimes. Judge Goldstone had chosen integrity over loyalty to his Jewish ethnicity. For this, he was unmercifully ostracized and threatened with both death and exclusion from his granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah. The Judge caved, but lacked authority to rescind the report. The three other UN Committee members unanimously reaffirmed their findings. The UN Report and its verdict condemning Israel stand. (Ref: Peoples Daily of Dec.12, 2011) However qualified, Merrick Garland would be the fourth Jew of the nine Supreme Court Justices and by choice or threat, certain to further Israel’s occupation of our United States of America.

  7. JohnWV
    March 27, 2016 at 07:05

    A UN designated committee of four chaired by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African jurist, investigated Israel’s “ Cast Lead” assault of Palestinian Gaza. Their report concluded that Israel had committed numerous specifically described war crimes. Judge Gladstone had chosen integrity over loyalty to his Jewish to his Jewish ethnicity. For this, he was unmercifully ostracized and threatened with both death and exclusion from his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah. Four of the nine Supreme Court Justices being Jewish is profoundly scary. Our news media is mostly Jewish owned and blatantly Israel/Jew biased. Our electoral process has been corrupted by AIPAC, the Jewish Conference of Presidents and more enormous amounts of Jewish money. Israel has occupied not just Palestine, but America too. The Wall Street felons remaining unpunished, AIPAC actually writing congressional legislation, and lack of treason indictments attest to the depth of the occupation. The Jewish state instigated 9/11, all our Mideast wars, and benefited from all. None were in American interests, yet we did the dying and suffered the Great Recession. Our diminished America is now being quietly occupied from within and transformed into an envisioned world dominating apartheid ultrapower, the JEWISH STATE OF AMERICA.

    • dahoit
      March 27, 2016 at 10:09

      Goldstone recanted somewhat later that report,after the Zionists put pressure on him.Another corrupt Zionist,that corruption being in its DNA.
      Trump gave the Zionists a wet smooch,but it seems like it didn’t work,as they are still totally hostile to him.
      Yeah,it will be tough for American Jews if Sanders is the nominee.But I think they will mostly reject him,as he is not as rabid hater as they are.

    • JWalters
      March 27, 2016 at 19:34

      While the picture you paint is extreme, it is also true. The historical facts leading to this situation are given succinctly at

      The campaign to keep these facts hidden is described at

  8. Joe Tedesky
    March 26, 2016 at 22:57

    Wouldn’t it be funny if the average American Jewish voter would overwhelmingly end up voting for Bernie Sanders?

    • J'hon Doe II
      March 27, 2016 at 09:18

      Easter Sunday Morning Musings —

      “Barabbas, in the New Testament, a prisoner or criminal mentioned in all four gospels who was chosen by the Jewish crowd, over Jesus Christ, to be released by Pontius Pilate in a customary pardon before the feast of Passover.

      In Matthew 27:16, Barabbas was called a “notorious prisoner.” In Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19, and John 18:40, Barabbas was “among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection,” a revolutionary against the occupying Roman forces.

      The name may be an Aramaic patronymic meaning “son of the father” (bar abba) or “son of the teacher” (bar rabban), indicating perhaps that his father was a Jewish leader. According to the early biblical scholar Origen and other commentators, the full name of Barabbas may have been Jesus Barabbas, since Jesus was a common first name. Therefore the crowd was presented with a choice between two persons with the same name.”


      The crowd essentially ‘voted’ for a man similar to the Netanyahu of today.
      Bernie Sanders would be the hated/crucified, rejected man of that day.

      We live in a time of outright hostility, clearly on display in our election campaigns.
      The bombings, terrorism, Cast Lead Operations, regime changes, massive deaths in climate change catastrophes, strangling economic inequality politically enforced, etc. etc, etc.are demeaning to human life.

      Sanders is the one person speaking out Loudly against these horrors yet is essentially ignored by media and the ignoring public.

      The presidential choice we make this year is tantamount to the choice between Jesus Christ or Jesus Barabbas.

      Clinton, Trump, or any republican means the escalation of bad times, it’s as simple as that… .


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