AIPAC Reels — And Other Seasonal News

December 17, 2010 12:09 pm ET — MJ Rosenberg

AIPAC's deepening problems are cause for some real seasonal cheer for those of us who believe that the lobby harms Israel as much as it harms Palestinians and U.S. interests. So its declining fortune is bad news for the organization but good news for the rest of us.

In fact, AIPAC is in even worse shape than I thought earlier in the week, when I incorrectly viewed its success at instant passage of the Berman "Bash Palestinians" bill as a sign of continued strength. In fact, as a new analysis points out, AIPAC — engulfed in scandal — stumbled badly in its latest outing.

Josh Ruebner, an Israeli-American, who runs the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, explains what actually happened.

As are most "pro-Israel" resolutions, H.Res.1765 was brought to a vote under a procedure known as "suspension of the rules." This procedure, which is supposed to be reserved for non-controversial resolutions such as the naming of a post office, prohibits the resolution from being amended and limits debate on it. In exchange for these restrictions, the resolution must get at least a 2/3 vote to pass rather than a simple majority.

However, unlike most "pro-Israel" resolutions, which often are not voted on for months after being introduced in order to give the Israel lobby time to marshal an overwhelming number of co-sponsors, H.Res.1765 was pushed through quickly with the co-sponsorship of only 53 Representatives.

Read the full piece for Ruebner's description of the House floor "debate" in which House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Howard Berman (D-CA), who shepherded the resolution to passage, was only able to muster seven of his colleagues to speak in favor of the resolution. And then Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) upset the whole AIPAC apple cart.

Rep. Lois Capps did a masterful job of deconstructing the intent of the resolution. After rising "in very reluctant support" of what she termed "yet another one-sided resolution," Capps decried the resolution for failing to mention "Israel's expansion of settlements." She noted that "Resolutions, like the one we are considering today, are clearly done for domestic political consumption much more than for having any positive impact on the conflict. We should not be ignorant of the fact that this Chamber's pattern of passing resolutions that are one-sided can, indeed, undermine our credibility to be serious brokers for peace."

Having been put in his place by Capps, Berman called for a voice vote rather than a recorded vote. Fewer than ten Representatives then on the floor voted by "unanimous consent" to adopt the resolution, giving the illusion that the entire House gave its imprimatur to it.

It is common for only a few Representatives to be on the floor when a unanimous consent vote is taken; however, it is highly unusual for the Israel lobby not to ask for a recorded vote so that its supporters can be rewarded and opponents can be punished. In the case of H.Res.1765, Berman clearly feared that a recorded vote would have led to an embarrassing outcome: more Representatives agreeing with Capps' assessment and voting to express their displeasure at the resolution.

So AIPAC ends the 111th Congress not with a bang but a whimper. And then hours later, Steve Rosen, AIPAC's Julian Assange, dropped some more documents designed to show that his shady operations were all authorized. He promises more Icky-leaks unless he gets his hush money. Negotiations continue. Drip drip.

Let These Kids Negotiate

Two weeks ago Israeli kids from Kibbutz Harel and Palestinian kids from the West Bank town of Umm al-Kheir played soccer against each other in the Palestinian town. Each team was mixed.

To put it mildly, this type of thing is not common — although the Israeli NGO Mifalot is working hard to change that. Mifalot describes its work as follows:

Mifalot has over three hundred programmes throughout Israel and the Palestinian Authorities that use football to teach life skills to children with special needs, promote the integration and inclusion of newly arrived immigrants, create bonds of friendship between Israelis and Palestinians, and provide assistance to children living in at-risk, disadvantaged or isolated communities....

This type of program seems especially critical now that the peace process has been suspended. The more Israelis and Palestinians actually know each other, the harder it is for extremists on either side to demonize the other group. Although the old adage has it that familiarity breeds contempt, the opposite is almost always true with children.

No, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't be resolved by kids playing ball. On the other hand, efforts like this (see the second part of this video) actually accomplish something, which is far more than can be said about the politicians and diplomats.

Neocon Pipes Now Says It's Turkey, Not Iran, That Is The Threat

Daniel Pipes, who dedicates his life to demonizing Muslims both in the United States and worldwide — and who is one of the leaders of the "Bomb Iran" crowd — has now gone soft on Ahmadinejad.

Speaking on Canadian TV on Monday, Pipes said he is not that worried about Iran anymore. It's Turkey that scares the living daylights out of him:

I believe that Turkey is the long-term greatest threat to the West in the Middle East.  Not Iran. Iran I see as being just fine, once we can get through the present problems of nuclear buildup and terrorism and so forth. The Iranians are ready to modernize. The Turks, to my astonishment, I never would have expected this a decade ago, have become the leaders of the Islamist movement; are even more dangerous to us. Turkey is no longer the bridge, it is now the problem.

Excuse me? Iran will be "just fine" after we get through "the present problems of nuclear buildup and terrorism and so forth." (The "and so forth" must refer to the "problems" created by the Pearl Harbor type attack on Iran that Pipes advocates.)

Why is Turkey suddenly the "greatest threat"? True, the current government is inspired by Islam, like the Christian Democrats in Germany or the Republicans in the United States are inspired by Christianity. But what has the current government done to earn Pipes' characterization of Turkey as even more dangerous than Iran?

It did try (unsuccessfully) to eliminate the ban on women wearing headscarves in public spaces like universities.

But why this sudden Pipesian interest in freedom of religious expression, or lack thereof, in Turkey? The "Islamist" government has been in power since 2002. The economy is booming, headscarves are still banned, and President Erdogan is the most popular Turkish figure since Ataturk. What's the problem?

The problem started when the Turkish government vocally opposed the war in Gaza and then supported the "Freedom Flotilla's" efforts to break the Gaza blockade. That was the point when Prime Minister Netanyahu turned on Turkey (he has since become eager to mend fences with Ankara) and Pipes quickly followed suit.

If Turkey reverted to the previous government's position of following the US lead and never criticizing anything the Israeli government does (that won't happen), Pipes would no longer see Turks as "even more dangerous" than Iran. But they would still scare him. They are, after all, Muslims.