Gandhi is revered because his policy of peaceful resistance brought down the British Empire’s century’s old rule over India. It’s true. It did. But what few are willing to acknowledge is that this tactic worked only because he was using it against a moral nation, one that had been financially and emotionally depleted by two world wars in quick succession and that was increasingly removed ideologically from the concept of Empire. Had he been dealing with an aggressive, hungry imperial nation — England in the 18th century, Stalin, Hitler, etc. — the outcome would have been very different.
My point is that we achieve our victories, not just because of our own efforts, but because of our opponents’ make-up. And this is where AIPAC comes it, for it has suddenly discovered that it has no say in Washington. As Lee Smith pointed out, AIPAC hasn’t gotten much done lately:
This weekend, more than 10,000 pro-Israel activists, Jews and non-Jews alike, will gather at the Washington convention center for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference. These friends and supporters of the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship will hear from members of Congress and the executive branch who will all testify to the singular influence that AIPAC, as the pillar of the pro-Israel community, wields in the capital of the free world.
But just how powerful is AIPAC if a man who refers to it as the “Jewish lobby” and has defiantly claimed that he is not an “Israeli senator” is slated to be our next secretary of Defense? And, most significantly, how much influence does the lobbying organization actually exercise if it can’t carry the day on the single issue that’s been at the very top of its agenda for over a decade: stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
Despite an operating budget of more than $60 million, on the most crucial issue facing Israel’s security, AIPAC has lost the policy debate. The winners include those who believe you can’t stop a nation from getting the bomb if it’s determined to do so, those who think the Iranians have a right to nuclear weapons, and those who argue the Iranians can be contained—among them, our new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
(Read the rest here.)
Smith blames AIPAC’s deafening silence regarding both the Hagel and the Brennan nominations. He considers this a tactical failure. I believe, though, that AIPAC’s inability to have a say in the debate about Hagel goes beyond tactics and represents a much deeper problem for Israel and her friends in America.
Up until 2008, AIPAC was accustomed to dealing with a very specific government model: bipartisan support for Israel. AIPAC never took sides in a debate because its sole role was to be a non-partisan voice for Israel. Whether it was dealing with Democrats or Republicans, it simply had to offer these politicians information about Israel.
AIPAC assiduously avoided partisan or controversial stands because its moral weight rested upon the fact that it was not a party organ but, instead, was always a conduit for information and good-will to flow between Israel and Congress as a whole. In other words, AIPAC could be Gandhi, because it was dealing with an “opponent” (if you consider the government as a whole as being in a slightly adversarial stance to lobbyists) that wasn’t actively hostile. Indeed, it was often quite friendly to and supportive of AIPAC’s goals.
Things are very different in Washington now, and AIPAC hasn’t caught up to that fact. The party that holds power in Washington is openly anti-Israel and increasingly antisemitic. This puts AIPAC in a bind. It’s one thing, after all, to advocate for Israel. It’s another thing to take a stand against the Democrat President’s cabinet choices — something that smacks of the partisanship AIPAC has always avoided.
Until AIPAC acknowledges that the old world is gone and that it’s dealing with a very different one (Dems will continue to be anti-Israel long after Obama has left the building), her voice will remain muted and ineffectual. What Hagel mistook for a nefarious “Jewish lobby” was, in fact, an organization that worked with politicians who already supported Israel, either for moral reasons or for Cold War reasons.
AIPAC didn’t control those politicians. It was their servant, not their master, since it enabled the politicians to carry out their own goals. With the Cold War over and the morality leeched out of public life, Washington, D.C., no longer has any use for AIPAC and the so-called “Israel lobby” is being kicked to the curb.