Mondoweiss / February 22, 2022
The lead Israel lobby group AIPAC brought 40 members of Congress to Israel, including Democrats who met with Yair Lapid, even as he trashed the Iran deal. Some Democrats reportedly met with disgraced rightwing former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
I keep writing the obit for AIPAC as the sputtering warhorse of the Israel lobby– not so fast. Today the leading pro-Israel organization is boasting that it brought more than 40 Congress-people to Israel, a reported 27 Republicans and 14 Democrats, to celebrate the importance of the special relationship between the countries. “One of the largest delegations ever to visit Israel,” says one congressman. “The land of milk and honey,” says leading Democrat Hakeem Jeffries.
Some of the Democrats even met with disgraced rightwing leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Netanyahu boasts. So all our liberal political values go out the window when Israel comes in the door. It appears that almost all the Republicans met separately with Netanyahu and were thrilled to do so.
The two delegations had separate gatherings with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. The Democrats look joyful– on the same day that Lapid is trashing the Iran deal our country is trying to reenter and warning that Israel will take action, using its army and intelligence service. Some friend…
The Republican and Democratic trips got together in bipartisan harmony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, minority leader Kevin McCarthy side by side with majority leader Steny Hoyer. The trips were sponsored by AIPAC’s American Israel Education Foundation.
This is not to mention the eight Dems who went to Israel last week on a Nancy Pelosi junket.
The lobby has expressed concern about the Squad, young progressive urban members of color, who are critical of Israel. Here it answers with a video by Jeffries of Brooklyn, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, with fellow New York congressmen Ritchie Torres and Adriano Espaillat. “We got Brooklyn, uptown [Manhattan] and the Boogie Down [the Bronx], here in the land of milk and honey,” Jeffries gushed. “It’s so wonderful to express our support for the special relationship between the United States and Israel, which we will continue to dedicate our service to making sure is as strong as ever. ” (Recall that Jeffries said during an Israeli onslaught on Gaza in 2014 that killed more than 500 children — “Israel today, Israel tomorrow, Israel forever.”)
Ritchie Torres offered AIPAC his own video promotion for tourism to Israel and said he’d been to an illegal Israeli settlement, the “City of David,” in East Jerusalem (continuing the legacy of Trump’s religious-Zionist ambassador to Israel, David Friedman). Torres seems to savor his role as lead advocate for Israel among Democrats:
Look, there’s no country that is the target of more disinformation than Israel. And so it’s more urgent than ever for people to come to the state of Israel, see the reality on the ground with your own eyes, and come to your own conclusions
Torres said he had “walked on the pilgrimage road leading up to the Temple Mount,” and that was a “blessing.” He did not mention the fact that the Temple Mount is the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, the site of sacred events in their tradition.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida also tweeted a spiritual/political message to AIPAC: about praying at the Western Wall, visiting a Christian holy place, and meeting with the rightwing Defense Minister Benny Gantz:
Gantz is also working against the Iran deal. He lately moved to ban six leading Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as “terrorist”– a fascistic move that has met with no meaningful protest from Democrats. Gantz yesterday bragged about his meeting with Democrats at the King David Hotel.
Among them were Dem leaders Steny Hoyer and Hakeem Jeffries, as well as Florida Israel lobby stalwarts Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch (AIPAC reports). That meeting surely included reference to the supposed threats posed by Palestinian human rights groups– or as Gantz put it, “the strategic and operational challenges that Israel must be prepared to face” including “the importance of ensuring that Israel has the means to defend its citizens.”
Deutch, by the way, accused fellow Dem Rashida Tlaib of antisemitism on the House floor last September when Tlaib dared to quote from Human Rights Watch report labeling Israel an “apartheid” state.
Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Manning of North Carolina also gave a video to AIPAC celebrating Israel’s “incredible new government.” Though that government is just as rightwing as Netanyahu’s, albeit with a rightwing Arab party in its coalition, Manning was all praise:
Israel has an extraordinary broad coalition government unlike any it’s ever had before. It’s important for us to be here to understand… the complexity of this incredible new government and also to demonstrate the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
(Manning is a former chair of the Jewish Federations, a Zionist organization.)
P.S. Florida’s Ted Deutch double-dipped, he was on Nancy Pelosi’s trip last week and the AIPAC one too.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006