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AIPAC’s Shifting Message

By Alan Skorski Jewish Press October 3, 2005

As a pro-Israel activist going back to my days as at Wayne State University in Detroit, a hotbed of pro-PLO/anti-Israel activism, a good portion of the materials and resources I used to combat pro-Palestinian advocates came from the Israeli Embassy, the book From Time Immemorial (a must read for any serious pro-Israel activist) and, of course, AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee).

AIPAC is the leading and one of the most respected advocates on behalf of Israel in Washington. Politicians from both major parties kneel before the altar of AIPAC. The group’s annual dinners are attended by just about every politician this side of Basra.

So what`s my problem with AIPAC? Why do I believe that, in spite of its accomplishments and record of success, it poses a serious threat to the survival of Israel as we know it?

I recently attended an event in my community of West Hempstead in Long Island. The speaker was Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and one of the most brilliant men I`ve ever had the pleasure of listening to — a man who years ago predicted the rise of radical Islam while others dismissed his warnings.

At this event he spoke of meeting with foreign leaders when they gathered at the United Nations the second week of September. He told us he simply could not believe the utterances of these leaders; whether they were from Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France — their attitudes toward (and proposed solutions for) the radical Islamist threat were, in a word, alarming.

One issue about which Mr. Hoenlein spoke with particular passion was the future of Jerusalem. He warned that Jerusalem was the single focus of the Arab world and their enablers in Europe. Since Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, the Palestinians see the West Bank as a given and are now plotting how to capture Jerusalem. It is up to the Jewish community to make sure that every politician understands that Jerusalem is Jewish and is non-negotiable.

Here is where AIPAC comes into the picture. As I wrote above, AIPAC is viewed as the leading authority and voice when it comes to support for Israel. That, however, is a mistake based on a myth. AIPAC is not, nor has it ever been, an advocate for the state of Israel. Rather, it is group of lobbyists whose client is the Israeli government — more specifically, whatever parties and ideology run that government at any given moment in time.

What does this mean? Well, if the prime minister is Ariel Sharon or Benjamin Netanyahu, AIPAC takes a tough line on negotiations or compromise on Jerusalem, and will do its best to influence lawmakers and officials in Washington accordingly.

But what happens when the prime minister is an Ehud Barak or a Shimon Peres and the future status of Jerusalem is on the table? This same AIPAC swings into action and lobbies hard in support of the idea of quite possibly dividing Jerusalem.

Many supporters of Israel wrongly blamed President Bush for pressuring Israel to withdraw from Gaza, but as Mr. Hoenlein stated, the president had nothing to do with it. This was all Sharon`s idea — it was his plan from start to finish. As a Jew — and a hawkish supporter of Israel — there is not much I can do from New York when the prime minister of Israel makes up his mind to do something. As an American, I can remind my elected officials that my vote counts when they stray from support for Israel. But, given its power and influence, who will tell AIPAC when it crosses the line?

Who will remind the movers and shakers in the nation’s capital that AIPAC represents neither the State of Israel nor the people of Israel, but rather a usually tenuous coalition Israeli government, here today and gone tomorrow and likely to be replaced by its ideological opposite?

Alan Skorski a former congressional candidate, is an Internet political consultant with Political Media Inc. in Washington and is the author of the forthcoming book “Pants on Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears, and Deceives.”

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