A flood of propaganda has flowed as the ugly, undemocratic policies of Israel and advocates for the Jewish state come under scrutiny alongside calls for debate and accountability.
The latest major target was Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a freshman Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She has challenged one-sided American foreign policy aligned with Israel and a growing demand that Americans sacrifice their rights in a show of loyalty to the Jewish state.
Proposed federal legislation and local laws would almost make it illegal to criticize Israel and back the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement. The BDS movement is modeled after economic sanctions employed against the old South African apartheid regime. It tries to apply economic pressure to force the Zionist state to treat Palestinians like human beings.
At the federal level, the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019” combined four bills that confirmed $38 billion in assistance to Israel over 10 years. A “Combating BDS Act of 2019” section could criminalize anyone participating in boycotts, divestment and anti-Israel sanctions. It would have imposed criminal penalties, including up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines against those who back the international call to boycott Israel and products from its illegal settlements.
But even Jewish senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders of Vermont saw through the bill: “While I do not support the BDS movement, we must defend every American’s constitutional right to engage in political activity. It is clear to me that this bill would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill infringes on First Amendment rights and was a throwback to “McCarthy era” America when the federal government engaged in witch hunts and pushed anti-Communist loyalty tests on U.S. citizens.
“First Amendment rights belong to the people, not the government. The government cannot impose its views on people or punish them for expressing views that the government disagrees with,” the ACLU said.
The Council on American Islamic Affairs filed a lawsuit last December on behalf of a Texas speech pathologist fired for refusing to sign a statement certifying that she does not, and will not, boycott Israel or Israeli settlements. CAIR says some 26 states and localities have laws similar to Texas, where one locality made pledging not to boycott Israel a condition for American citizens to receive disaster aid.
Such legislation reflects the power of pro-Israel lobbies in this country.
Yet Rep. Omar was castigated when she pointed out the power the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) wields in Congress. An article by Alex Kotch, a writer for Sludge, confirmed the truth of what the congresswoman said and truth contained in a statement by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan during his Saviours’ Day 2019 address in Chicago.
AIPAC may not be the biggest money donor directly, but its role in influencing U.S. policy is certainly tied to the Benjamins, big money linked to campaign donations, trips to Israel and shilling for defense funding and military support for Israel.
“Does AIPAC directly pay members of Congress to vote for ‘pro-Israel’ policies … The short answer is ‘no,’ but the nuanced answer is far more complicated. … AIPAC is not a political action committee and does not donate directly to political candidates, but it requires its members to donate to the campaigns of certain members of Congress in order to receive exclusive membership benefits,” Mr. Kotch wrote.
“On its website, AIPAC details its ‘Congressional Club,’ a group of members who commit to donate at least $5,000 per election cycle ‘in a clearly pro-Israel context’ to ‘pro-Israel politics.’ ‘The Congressional Club is designed to recognize politically active members of AIPAC who support pro-Israel candidates for the House and Senate,’ the group says. Progressive activist Ady Barkin wrote a Twitter thread … describing an instance in which AIPAC’s political spending ‘was definitely about the Benjamins.’ ”
The “prominent AIPAC booster Haim Saban is one of the United States’ biggest political donors … Saban, who funds AIPAC’s semi-annual Saban Leadership Seminar, donated $3.3 million to Democratic outside political spending groups during the 2018 election cycle. In the 2016 cycle, Saban and his wife, Cheryl Saban, donated $13.8 million to outside political spending groups.
“Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson split with AIPAC in 2007 after the lobbying group supported an increase in aid to Palestine, but as recently as 2014, AIPAC’s fundraising arm was in business with an Adelson-controlled company. AIPAC now supports ending aid to Palestine. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, spent $123 million on the 2018 midterm elections, all of it benefiting Republicans … .”
“As the Center for Responsive Politics points out, other pro-Israel groups put more money directly into elections than AIPAC, but federal lobbying is where the group spends the bulk of its money in politics. AIPAC leads all pro-Israel groups in lobbying spending by a long shot. Each year since 2014, AIPAC has spent north of $3 million to lobby the federal government.
“AIPAC has logged several victories under Trump, including the relocation of the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran Deal, and cuts in U.S. aid to Palestinians.”
He added, “The influence of AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations impacts one of Washington’s biggest special-interest groups: the defense industry. As Sludge previously reported, both defense and pro-Israel interests have donated significant amounts of money to the campaign of Engel, whose committee has jurisdiction of arms exports. The top U.S. weapons manufacturers benefit from Israeli weapons purchases, made possible in part by American financial assistance.”
Democrat Eliot Engel is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and savagely attacked Rep. Omar for her words about the power of the Jewish lobby.
Speaking a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C., Rep. Omar said, “And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?”
Why, indeed, isn’t Jewish lobbying and influence on Congress a topic of discussion? American tax dollars are at stake. If America goes to war in the Middle East, in particular against Iran as Israel desires, it will be American lives that are lost.
No other “ally,” wields the almost unchecked power that Israel does. It results in more money going to the Jewish state than all of sub-Saharan Africa and a lopsided policy that will never bring Middle East peace. As such, policies toward Israel must be critiqued and false charges of anti-Semitism should not be used to avoid a truthful discussion–unless the defenders of Israel fear the truth.