Mar 14, 2019 09:34 UTC

Chris Hedges is a columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author. His feature titled, "Israel's stranglehold on American politics" deals with the magnitude of Israel's influence and dominance over the US structure.

The Israel lobby’s buying off of nearly every senior politician in the United States, facilitated by US system of legalized bribery, is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The lobby’s campaign of vicious character assassination, smearing and blacklisting against those who defend Palestinian rights—including the Jewish historian Norman Finkelstein and university students, many of them Jewish, in organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine—is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. 24 state governments’ passage of Israel lobby-backed legislation requiring their workers and contractors, under threat of dismissal, to sign a pro-Israel oath and promise not to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The shameless decision in 2014 by all 100 U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, to pass a Soviet-style plebiscite proposed by the Israel lobby to affirm Israel’s “right to defend itself” during the 51 days it bombed and shelled homes, water treatment plants, power stations, hospitals and U.N. schools in Gaza, killing 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children, is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The U.S. refusal, including in the UN and other international bodies, to criticize Israel’s apartheid regime and routine violation of international law is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The well-funded campaigns by the Israel lobby, which works closely with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, to discredit any American politician or academic who even slightly deviates from Israeli policy is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact. The massive interference in US internal affairs by the Zionist regime and the Israel lobby, far exceeding that of any other country, is not an anti-Semitic trope. It is a fact.

The illegal Zionist regime's lackeys in the political class, along with bankrupt courtiers in the U.S. press, including former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) employee Wolf Blitzer, are making a serious mistake, however, in refusing to acknowledge Israel’s outsized, transparent and illegal meddling in the American political system and Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians. It is too obvious and too egregious to hide. The longer the ruling elites ignore this reality and censor and attack those such as Rep. Ilhan Omar who have the temerity to name this interference and the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel, the more it gives credence to the racists, bigots, conspiracy theorists and white hate groups, many rooted in the Christian right, who are the real anti-Semites. The fabricated Zionist regime and its lobby are steadily nullifying their moral and ultimately political force.

Criticism of Israel and the ideology of Zionism is not anti-Semitic. Criticism of Israel’s influence and control over U.S. foreign policy, and of Israeli efforts to silence those who champion Palestinian rights, is not anti-Semitic. Criticism of the Zionist regime’s oppression of the Palestinians or its dangerous campaign to orchestrate a war with Iran is not anti-Semitic. The more the fake regime and the Israel lobby abuse the charge of anti-Semitism, a charge the lobby has leveled against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, among many others, the more they lose their effectiveness against the dangerous anti-Semites whose ranks are growing within the far right and across the Muslim world.

The sole criterion of the Zionist regime and the Israel lobby in determining who to support and who to demonize is identifying who backs the far-right agenda of the apartheid regime of Israel and who does not. Genuine anti-Semitism is irrelevant. For Israel, the world is divided along the fault line of Palestinian rights. Stand up for the Palestinians and you are an anti-Semite. Cheer their marginalization, oppression and murder and you are a friend of the Jews. Have Zionist leaders forgotten their own history? Anti-Semitism is wrong and dangerous not only because it is bad for Zionists, but because the dark forces of ethnic and religious hatred, used by Israel and the lobby against critics, are bad for everyone, including the Jews and the Palestinians. You open this Pandora’s box of evils at your peril.

The interference by the Zionist regime in the American political system is amply documented, including in the Al-Jazeera four-part series “The Lobby,” which the regime and its supporters managed to block from being broadcast. In the film, a pirated copy of which can be watched on the website Electronic Intifada, the leaders of the Israel lobby are repeatedly captured on a reporter’s hidden camera explaining how they, backed by the intelligence services within Israel, attack and silence American critics and use huge cash donations to control the American electoral process and political system. The Israel lobby, lacking any plausible deniability, has remained stunningly silent about the film. The corporate press, in the face of pressure by the lobby, has ignored the documentary. The series exposes the various machinations of the Israel lobby.

Craig Holman, who campaigns for lobbying reform with Public Citizen, is another participant in the film who denounced the Israel lobby’s fundraising practices.

Holman says of the Israel lobby, “What [the] group is doing to avoid that disclosure requirement is it isn’t taking money and putting it in its own account and then handing it over to the officeholder. It’s just collecting credit card information and turning that over directly to the candidate. Therefore, it’s not violating the earmarking law and they’re not reporting this. All we can see on the campaign finance reports are the individuals who contributed. But there are no records on those campaign finance reports that they weren’t together in a bundling group who are all at this event. All we’d know is Person A gave $2,700; Person B gave $2,700. And we’d have no idea they’re working in tandem with each other.”

The Israel lobby also flies hundreds of members of Congress, often with their families, to Israel every year for lavish junkets at expensive resorts. These Congress members run up individual bills that frequently exceed $20,000. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 attempted to restrict lobbyists from offering paid trips lasting more than one day to members of Congress. But AIPAC, which has never been forced to register as a foreign agent, used its clout to insert a clause in the act to exclude so-called educational trips organized by charities that do not hire lobbyists. AIPAC is affiliated with such a charity, called the American Israel Education Foundation.

The investment by Israel and is backers is worth it. The United States Congress in 2018 authorized a $38 billion defense aid package for Israel over the next decade and has spent over $5.6 trillion during the last 18 years fighting futile wars that Israel and its lobby pushed for in West Asia.

John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago says in the documentary, “If you wander off the reservation and become critical of Israel, you not only will not get money, AIPAC will go to great lengths to find someone who will run against you. And they support that person very generously. The end result is you’re likely to lose your seat in Congress.”

The film focuses in part on former Rep. Jim Moran, who was in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 2015 and who was an open critic of the Israel lobby.

Moran says about AIPAC in the film, “They have questionnaires. Anyone running for Congress is to fill out a questionnaire. And they evaluate the depth of your commitment to Israel on the basis of that questionnaire. And then you have an interview with local people. If you get AIPAC support, then more often than not you’re going to win. You are told that ‘Israel continues to be under siege from hundreds of millions of its neighbors who are Muslims and they hate Israel and Jewish people You’re told, ‘They have only survived because of the United States, because of American politicians like you who support us.’”

 “They threaten,” M.J. Rosenberg says of the Israel lobby leaders’ response to elected officials who become critical of Israel. “They immediately threaten. Even if [politicians] know AIPAC can’t defeat them, AIPAC can make their lives more difficult. They can make sure that their next town meeting or something, some members of the Jewish congregation jump up and say, ‘But you’re anti-Israel!’”

AIPAC vehemently opposed the Oslo Accord and the compromise process with the Palestinians engineered by former Crime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It poured money and resources into the 1992 Israeli election campaign to back Rabin’s political opponents in the Likud party. Rabin did not invite the leaders of the Israel lobby to his inauguration and, according to an aide in his office, referred to the leaders of the Israel lobby as “scumbags.” He repeatedly denounced the lobby as an impediment to Israel’s security and democracy.

The Zionist newspaper Haaretz characterized Rabin’s remarks to American Jewish leaders during a visit to the US as “brutal.” “You have hurt Israel,” the newspaper quoted Rabin as saying. “I will not allow you to conduct my dealings with the [U.S.] administration.”

Washington Jewish Week reported that Rabin told the AIPAC leadership, “You failed at everything. You waged lost battles. … You caused damage to Israel. … You’re too negative. … You create too much antagonism.”

The Israel lobby, after Rabin’s assassination in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish fanatic and the 1996 electoral victory by Likud under the leadership of Netanyahu, returned to the good graces of the Israeli regime. Israel’s apartheid regime, racism and murderous assaults on unarmed Palestinians increasingly alienate many of its traditional supporters, including young American Jews. Israel, unable to justify its human rights abuses and atrocities, has opted for harsher forms of control including censoring, spying on and attacking its critics. It has pressured the U.S. State Department to redefine anti-Semitism under a three-point test known as the Three Ds: the making of statements that “demonize” Israel; statements that apply “double standards” for Israel; statements that “delegitimize” the Israeli regime. This definition is being pushed by the Israel lobby in state legislatures and on college campuses. It spreads the hate talk of Islamophobia, including by sponsoring the showing of the racist film “Unmasked Judeophobia” on college campuses on the so-called Holocaust Remembrance Day. The film argues that Muslims embrace a Nazi-like anti-Semitism and are seeking to carry out another holocaust against Jews. Nearly all American Muslims targeted by law enforcement since 9/11 were singled out for their outspokenness about Palestinian rights. Most of those arrested had no connection to al-Qaida, Hatem Bazian, lecturer at UC Berkeley, says in the film— “no relationship whatsoever to what is called transnational terrorism.”

There are fractures in the Democratic Party, evidenced when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced a revolt by younger, more progressive members of the House over her proposal to pass an anti-Semitism resolution pushed by the Israel lobby and designed to shame Rep. Omar. A reworded resolution, one that did not please the lobby, was passed, condemning anti-Muslim bias and white supremacy and citing “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others” victimized by bigotry.

Israel’s dominance of the Democratic Party is eroding. It is losing legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Israel’s tactics, for this reason, will become more vicious and underhanded. Its interference in the democratic process will be characterized less by an attempt to persuade and more by the use of money to ensure fealty to its policies, censorship, the enforcement of legally binding oaths in favor of Israel to blunt the BDS movement, and the kind of racist hate talk it unleashed against Rep. Omar. The lobby, as Rabin understood, was never a true friend of Israel.