Friday, September 02, 2005

Why AIPAC Must Go

We now have a better idea of what the FBI was doing prior to 9/11 while it was doing little to protect the United States against terrorist attacks despite information in its possession that attacks were being prepared. Our G-Men were trailing, wiretapping, investigating and entrapping staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who constituted a clear and present danger to U.S. security. We good Americans can breathe easier because Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman have been apprehended and charged, as well as cashiered by the organization that they faithfully served. Perhaps never before in American history have individuals been indicted for the high crime of being yentas.

We don't know whether other American Jewish advocates for Israel have had their phones tapped as the FBI protected this country against the Zionist entity because the Feds aren't telling and we aren’t asking. Malcolm Hoenlein stands virtually alone in questioning the indictment, although Tommy Lapid made salient points in the Jerusalem Post. From the Anti-Defamation League, ever vigilant against ephemeral threats to Jewish rights, there is silence, I speculate because challenging the bogus charges might be bad for fundraising. Jewish newspapers that report whenever an Orthodox Jew hiccups at the wrong time in shul have not done their job. They have not asked questions that need to be asked.

Rosen and Weissman are to fend for themselves. Let's not ask, as Lapid did, whether apparently credible reports about terrorists planning to murder Israelis are to be ignored. Let's not ask how it’s possible to indict those who verbally receive allegedly classified information without indicting those who provided it. Let's not be vulnerable to charges of dual loyalty.

I have read the indictment and it is a lot of hot air emitted by an ambitious Federal prosecutor who like too many others cares too little about fairness or justice. Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman say that they are confident that their clients will beat the rap. I am betting on the prosecutor because these days judges are loathe to curb prosecutorial abuse.

What Rosen and Weissman are accused of doing is routine in Washington and in every capital. Our media print and broadcast far more sensitive and top-secret information. Has anyone been charged for leaking to Sy Hirsch? What do we think U.S. military attaches, intelligence operatives and other officials do every day in Israel and wherever they are stationed? But we Jews aren't supposed to ask inconvenient questions. As AIPAC has decided, Rosen and Weissman are a small price to pay to have the Bush Administration make nice to AIPAC, even as it intensively squeezes Israel to make additional concessions.

It's astonishing how AIPAC's ranks have held, how it has weathered the storm by publicly declaring - and this is especially shameful - that Rosen and Weissman acted wrongfully. This is another illustration of how lemming-like members make their organizations into idols which they worship with full faith. Maybe we should not be surprised. AIPAC is predicated on self-importance and self-delusion, on the mirage that what it does makes a difference for Israel. In fact, it has no impact on Israeli diplomacy or on relations with Arabs and Palestinians or on Israeli security. It raises nearly $50 million, funds that could be better spent directly in Israel. The organization serves as a surrogate for American Jews who cannot figure out a better way to help the Jewish state except through photo-ops. If AIPAC disappeared, Israel would not suffer one bit. Maybe some of its members would find more useful things to do.

This is not likely to happen. Internal loyalty is high, as was evident shortly after Rosen and Weissman were sent packing. AIPAC had its annual expensive extravaganza and a huge chunk of Congress came, much the same way that a huge chunk of Congress goes routinely to sterile events. So did Miss Congeniality and America's Acting Viceroy in Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who to the applause of the self-important cooed about how the U.S. would never let Israel down even as she was telling Mr. Sharon in direct language that the Gaza withdrawal is no more than a first step. AIPAC showed its true colors, yellow and not blue and white, when it excised Hatikvah from the program, perhaps to appease the Neturei Kartaniks in its ranks.

Under marching orders from Israel, AIPAC is now gearing up to pressure the White House and Congress to give Israel an additional $3 billion to pay for the withdrawal and consequent rebuilding. This exercise in dollar diplomacy is reckless on several counts. There are clear indications that American public opinion leans strongly against taxpayers giving additional money to Israel. A CNN poll, admittedly framed in anti-Israel language, yielded shocking results. Congressmen and Senators favorable to Israel are cautioning that it's folly to ask for new grants. But AIPAC marches on because it has nothing else to do.

The most serious defect in the new initiative is that it leaves Israel extremely vulnerable because in exchange for any U.S. help, including in the attenuated form of loan guarantees which mean that Israel will get no funds from the U.S. and have to pay interest, Israel will be compelled to agree to strong U.S. conditions requiring far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians. As in the past, U.S. aid or loan guarantees will be in stages and at each stage Israel will be instructed as to what it must do.

Inadvertently or not, AIPAC does not strengthen Israel but serves as an agent in the scary loss of Israeli sovereignty. It sends the message that we American Jews are all-powerful. If its leaders want to help Israel, they should declare victory and their organization should go out of business.