The Best Congress AIPAC Can Buy
by Philip Giraldi
September 3, 2009
Many Americans who thought that the health
care debate was important must have wondered where their congressmen
were in early August during the first two weeks of the House of
Representatives recess. It turns out they were not hosting town
hall meetings or listening to constituents because many of them
were in Israel together with their spouses on a trip paid for
by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Fully
13% of the entire US House of Representatives, 56 members, traveled
to Israel in the largest AIPAC-sponsored fact-finding visit by
American politicians ever conducted. And the leaders of the two
congressional groups, 25 Republicans for a week starting on August
2nd followed by 31 Democrats beginning on August 13th, were drawn
from the top ranks of their respective parties. House Minority
whip Eric Cantor headed the Republican group and House Majority
leader Steny Hoyer led the Democrats.
Cantor and Hoyer are longtime enthusiasts
for Israel and all its works. In January, when Israel was pounding
Gaza to rubble and killing over a thousand civilians, Hoyer and
Cantor wrote an op-ed entitled "A Defensive War," which
began with "During this difficult war in the Gaza Strip,
we stand with Israel." Why? Because "Instead of building
roads, bridges, schools and industry, Hamas and other terrorists
wasted millions turning Gaza into an armory." Hoyer and Cantor,
clearly noticing a militarization of the Gaza Strip that no else
quite picked up on, also affirmed that Israel occupied the moral
high ground in the conflict, "While Israel targets military
combatants, Hamas aims to kill as many civilians as possible."
That Hoyer and Cantor were completely wrong on this vital point
as well as others, in fact reversing the truth, has never resulted
in an apology or a correction of the record from either lawmaker.
And there's more. In May 2009, Cantor
and Hoyer teamed up again in a congressional letter sent to their
colleagues in congress. The message described how Washington
must be "both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to
Israel" because "Israel will be taking the greatest
risks in any peace agreement." AIPAC couldn't have put it
better. In fact, AIPAC wrote the missive since Cantor and Hoyer
apparently needed a little help to get the message just right.
The actual source of the letter was revealed when the document
was circulated with the file name "AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor
May 2009.pdf," which the intrepid congressional duo had failed
to change before sending out.
The August congressional junkets were
paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is
a non-profit foundation that is part of AIPAC. The non-profit
foundation part means that the trip to convince already acquiescent
congressmen that Israel needs more aid and special treatment was
more-or-less subsidized by the US taxpayer. Taking congressmen
to Israel to make sure they understand the issues properly is
not exactly new, but the scale and seniority of the recent visits
sent a clear message to President Barack Obama that he should
not pressure Israel in any way or he will face bipartisan opposition,
opposition that he will not be able to overcome. It appears that
Obama might have already received the message loud and clear if
the rumors that he will harden his line on Iran and soften his
approach to Tel Aviv to permit Israeli settlement expansion are
The current Israeli government line as
regurgitated by AIPAC is an attempt, aided and abetted by the
congressional visitors, to shift the narrative. According to
AIPAC and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, the settlements
have nothing to do with the issue of negotiating peace so Israel
should be able to continue to expand its occupation of Arab East
Jerusalem without any restraint while permitting "natural
growth" in the other West Bank settlements. Israel claims
to be willing to talk peace with the Palestinians while decrying
that there is no one to talk to. Tel Aviv and its cheerleaders
in Washington insist that the real threat to peace in the Middle
East is Iran, which is seeking a nuclear weapon and will use it
to bomb Israel and arm terrorists to attack the United States.
Eric Cantor was fully on-message, prepping
his group by writing an op-ed for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz
on August 3rd. He wrote that "Israel is not only a democratic
ally and our only true friend in the Middle East; it is also a
vital pillar of US national security strategyIsrael has a right
to accommodate the natural growth of its populationexcessive handwringing
over natural growth is a diversion from the main threat in the
Middle East: Iran." If the line sounds familiar, it should
as it is straight out of Israel and AIPAC's playbook garnished
with its ridiculous pretense that Israel is some kind of strategic
asset and an eternal friend.
Cantor and Hoyer's lawmaker colleagues
apparently benefited greatly from their travels, which included
a visit to the illegal West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe to
express solidarity with the heroic and widely misunderstood Israeli
settlers. According to Cantor there should not be any confusion
about who is doing what to whom in the Middle East. In describing
the purpose of the trip, he noted that his Republican colleagues
were eager to learn about "the challenges on the ground in
the Middle East, especially those challenges faced by Israel."
He then returned to his script, describing the situation in more
detail and expressing his concern about the "focus being
placed on settlements and settlement growth when the real threat
is the existential threat that Israel faces from Iran and the
impending nuclearization of Iran."
During the trip itself, Cantor could hardly
shut up about how much he loves Israel and its policies, no matter
what those policies are. When two Arab families were evicted
from their homes in Jerusalem, resulting in a worldwide protest
that included criticism from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
Cantor discovered another way to look at the situation. He complained
about Clinton, "I'm very troubled by that, because I don't
think we in America would want another country telling us how
to implement and execute our laws."
Cantor's travelmates evidently agreed
with his rosy view of all things Israeli. Steve Scalise marveled
at "all the things that the people of Israel have been through,"
while Louie Gohmert pressed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
for a commitment to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, apparently
oblivious to the fact that the status of a Muslim or a Christian
in a Jewish state would be somewhat precarious. Leonard Lance
called for working together against Iran while Mike Coffman noted
that the Obama Administration failed to comprehend "the magnitude
of this threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons." Perhaps
Coffman and Lance should read some of the intelligence that the
US government produces at great expense which reveals that Iran
has no nuclear weapons program.
Congressman Pete Olson reported that he
had known in "his head" how important the relationship
with Israel was and, after three days, knew it also in his heart.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been to Israel seven times and is
the author of numerous pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian resolutions
in the House, called Israel "our US ally against the violent
extremists" and twittered to her constituents a gushing account
of her "amazing dinner with soldiers of the Israeli Defense
Forces. Courageous young men"
Hoyer, who has been to Israel a dozen
times, led the cheerleading for the Democrats. The House Majority
leader contradicted his own party's president in finding that
the settlements were not a "big issue" hindering a peace
agreement, noting that they should be a "subject of negotiations."
The real problem for Hoyer was completely predictably the Palestinians,
specifically the "unwillingness of Abbas to sit down now."
Hoyer also declared Jerusalem to be a "unified city"
under Israeli control and reiterated Congressman's Gohmert's demand
that the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish State, neither
of which is US policy. Shelly Berkley, who has never met an Israeli
she didn't like, put it more bluntly, "The goals of this
trip are to express Congress's solidarity with the State of Israel
and to find out what Israel's needs are." Representative
Kendrick Meek welcomed his opportunity to visit Israel to help
him "make better decisions as a member of congress."
President George Washington counseled
explicitly against getting involved in the quarrels of foreign
nations. What would he think of Hoyer and Cantor and the drones
that followed them to Israel on a "fact finding" trip
paid for by the Israel Lobby? Words like "disloyalty"
come to mind immediately, but the AIPAC trips targeting congress
are signs of a deeper problem. Many congressmen undoubtedly display
knee-jerk support for Israel either because it is career enhancing
or because they are afraid not to. Those who truly believe that
Israel's interests are of paramount importance and that the United
States ought to go to war on its behalf should perhaps find another
line of work. If they retain even a shred of decency and love
of country, it is time for Cantor, Hoyer and others like them
to go away. They should leave quietly but do so quickly. The
well-being of the United States and its citizens demands it.