Lemmings do as lemmings are destined to do and so a fortnight ago six-thousand mini-macher Jewish lemmings flew to Washington for AIPAC's annual extravaganza, an event that with the exception of the President's State of the Union Address may attract more members of Congress than are found at any one time on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives. The media reminded us who care about Israel and also those who are hostile to the Jewish State that the organization is the most important lobby on the face of the earth. Score one more for the Jews. We have long controlled the media and much of the world's wealth and now we have the U.S. government in our hip pocket.
In fact, the event is no more than an exercise in role-playing and therefore in self-delusion. Congresspeople and VIPs show up because it is the path of least resistance, the easiest way to show solidarity with Israel without saying or doing anything of consequence. Heavy hitters, such as Senators Clinton and Obama, mouth familiar platitudes. The delegates - or whatever they are called - do their part by attending, scurrying around to congressional offices and indulging in the charade that their exertions affect American policy.
If AIPAC was guilty of nothing more than excessive bragging we could perhaps forgive it for the meaningless hoopla that serves its avaricious fundraising and public relations goals. We would not overly worry about the verbal pollution. Unfortunately, AIPAC's wrongs have consequences, some of them serious, as when it purposefully promotes the mirage of being super-influential, even as its activity has no bearing on the Middle East which is where Israel was located when I last looked. Unfortunately some people point to the mirage and the rhetoric that accompanies it as evidence that the Jewish lobby is all powerful. When academics, journalists and others with a pen make that point, we charge that they are inaccurate and unreliable, hostile to Israel and probably anti-Semitic.
Why are we surprised or upset when those who think ill of Israel trumpet what AIPAC wants us to accept? Why do we give ammunition to Israel's enemies?
AIPAC inverts the lobbying process which ordinarily consists of those outside of government striving to get government to accede to its demands. It coddles up to whomever is in power, never more so than during the past six years. In exchange for the appearance of influence and superficial access, it does the Administration's bidding. When it received marching orders to sack Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman and leave them to hang and dry while the Justice Department went about railroading these two former staff members, AIPAC was obedient. It apparently is a trifling to stab your own in the back when the reward for the perfidy is the Administration sending top officials to the convention. And this is why AIPAC is powerful?
This year's heavyweight was Vice President Dick Cheney who was anything but subtle when he insisted on American Jewish subservience on Iraq in exchange for Washington' toughness toward Iran. There was a double dose of mischief in this, firstly because the war in Iraq has resulted in a clear and present danger to Israel arising from the breakdown of the Sunni-Shia equilibrium and the resulting civil war. Worse yet, the Vice President was saying in effect that U.S. policy toward Iran is designed to accommodate American Jews and Israel.
I believe that AIPAC was set up by the White House which determined that Mr. Cheney would speak and that he would deliver his threatening message. Do we American Jews want to be identified with Mr. Bush's policy toward Iraq? If it helps any, AIPAC can claim that since it is supposed to echo the views of the Israeli government, its subservience mirrors that of Prime Minister Olmert who sent a message strongly supporting U.S. military action in Iraq. We do know, of course, that foreign policy and security matters are not Mr. Olmert's strong points.
His strange interpretation of what is happening in his neighborhood, as well as AIPAC's toadying, will not help Israel's cause on college campuses where Israel is being clobbered unjustly, with Jewish students overwhelmingly on the sidelines and more than a few participating in anti-Israel activity. The triangulation of Israel, Iran and Iraq - a new and unwelcome version on the three I's theme in American politics - will not abet Israel advocacy.
This newspaper headlined last week, "Apocalypse Now: Iran Threat Dominates AIPAC Confab." Instead of Iran being presented in the United States as a major concern for the American government, it is being marketed by us as an Israeli/Jewish concern that should be embraced by the American government because we Jews insist that it be embraced. Once upon a time, Jews were said to be smart. I wonder. Is there anyone inside AIPAC who understands the efficacy of quiet contacts, who understands that public screaming is invariably the antithesis of influence?
There is no prospect that AIPAC will pull back, that it will turn away from the hoopla that aims to call attention to itself, even if this hoopla both exaggerates Jewish influence and gives aid and comfort to our enemies. AIPAC's formula works well for AIPAC and that is what counts. Fundraising is going like gangbusters, the media lap it all up, more lemmings come each year, more members of Congress come each year. In short, AIPAC is enveloped in hubris and hubris is never an inducement for restraint. It apparently matters not at all that two former top staffers will soon be put on trial by an administration that it cozies up to.
AIPAC is smugly satisfied with what it has wrought and its legions of members are obedient and do what they are told to do. It is the destiny of lemmings to self-destruct, but that is no consolation.