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Israeli Journalist Calls AIPAC an “Enemy” Rather Than a Friend of Israel

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2018

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups. Its activities, it proclaims, are to be “pro-Israel” and to defend Israel’s best interests.  
Here, respected Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, says AIPAC may be mistaken.  
Speaking in March at a conference in Washington on “The Israel Lobby and American Policy,” sponsored by American Education Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, Levy referred to AIPAC as the equivalent of “drug dealers.”  
He discussed the annual AIPAC conference taking place at that time: “I call it the annual drug dealer’s conference. They will discuss how many more drugs they will send to the Israeli occupation-addicted state … how much more money and weapons they will supply. I can tell you, as an Israeli, we don’t have a bigger enemy than the Jewish lobby. We don’t have a bigger enemy for justice, for peace, for equality than those who think that if you supply the drug addict with more drugs, you are his friend, and that if you support him blindly and automatically whatever he does, you are a friend. No, my friends, those are not friends, they are enemies.”  
While the Israeli government tells the world that the 50-year occupation is “temporary,” Levy argues, “It was never meant to be temporary and it will not be temporary if it depends on Israel… Israel has never stopped building settlements. Anyone who builds one house in the occupied territories has no intention whatsoever to put an end to the occupation. It’s time for us to change the discussion. It’s time for us to talk about equal rights: about one person, one vote. And let’s challenge Israel. Israel will say no. Then we can officially declare Israel an apartheid state, because there is no other way, if you deny equal rights, if you are not a democracy officially.”  
By embracing the occupation and Israel’s denial of political rights to Palestinians, AIPAC is embracing policies that are harmful to Israel’s long term best interests, in Levy’s view. A real friend would advance policies leading in a more hopeful direction. “But we should not give up hope,” declares Levy. “I truly believe that Palestinians and Israelis can live together.”  
At its policy conference, AIPAC lamented the decline in progressive support for Israel. In an article entitled “AIPAC Won’t Win Back Progressives until It Faces Hard Facts about Israel” (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 19, 2018), two prominent Jewish critics of Israel assess AIPAC’s role.  
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the human rights group Truah, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, note that, “as progressives who have dedicated our lives and careers to the future of the State of Israel, we agree that there is a compelling progressive narrative for Israel. The argument that ‘Israel’s security cannot be fully realized until she is at peace with her neighbors,’ which AIPAC’s CEO Howard Kohr shared with the crowd during his welcoming remarks, is one that we have each made time and again. Sadly, the current reality of Israeli government policy does not reflect or advance this vision … Instead, it imperils it. The Netanyahu government has dedicated itself to entrenching and justifying a military occupation that results in daily violations of human rights of Palestinians while undercutting the prospects for the two-state peace agreement that AIPAC claims to support.”  
The current government of Israel, Jacobs and Ben-Ami point out, “has endeavored to erase all distinctions between the democratic state of Israel and the territory it occupies in the West Bank, without any objection from AIPAC. The government is carrying out a steady assault on democracy … passing laws that restrict free speech and stepping up discrimination against non-Jewish minorities. Like previous Israeli governments and despite promises to the contrary, this one condones policies that restrict the religious freedom of non-Orthodox Jews, including the right of Reform and Conservative rabbis to perform marriages, conversions and divorces and arresting those who attempt to take part in egalitarian or women-led prayer at the Western Wall.”  
These developments, say Jacobs and Ben-Ami, “instill fear and frustration in so many American Jews over Israel’s present and future. It is the reality that drives growing numbers of progressives away from the pro-Israel cause. AIPAC steadfastly refuses to acknowledge or address this reality. Instead of acknowledging the real threat that occupation, settlement expansion and antidemocratic legislation pose to Israel’s security and fundamental character, AIPAC has made its mission to defend, or provide cover, for virtually every policy and action of the Netanyahu government. AIPAC ignores the fact that Israel’s current policies toward the Palestinians do not advance peace, but rather exacerbate conflict … AIPAC should also be willing to confront Israel’s critics with powerful arguments, not work to penalize legitimate forms of dissent … Real leadership involves telling one’s members hard truths … It requires working to ensure that the existential threats of occupation and conflict do not undermine their successes.” •  

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