Soros on AIPAC

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has written an article denouncing AIPAC's grip on American politics.

On Israel, America and AIPAC - The New York Review of Books:

The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism. Politicians challenge it at their peril because of the lobby's ability to influence political contributions. When Howard Dean called for an evenhanded policy toward Israel in 2004, his chances of getting the nomination were badly damaged (although it was his attempt, after his defeat in Iowa, to shout above the crowd that sealed his fate). Academics had their advancement blocked and think-tank experts their funding withdrawn when they stepped too far out of line. Following his criticism of repressive Israeli policy on the West Bank, former president Jimmy Carter has suffered the loss of some of the financial backers of his center.

Anybody who dares to dissent may be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification. I speak from personal experience. Ever since I participated in a meeting discussing the need for voicing alternative views, a torrent of slanders has been released including the false accusation in The New Republic that I was a "young cog in the Hitlerite wheel" at the age of thirteen when my father arranged a false identity to save my life and I accompanied an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, posing as his godson, when he was taking the inventory of a Jewish estate.

AIPAC is protected not only by the fear of personal retaliation but also by a genuine concern for the security and survival of Israel. Both considerations have a solid foundation in reality. The same two factors were at play in the United States after September 11 when President Bush declared war on terror. For eighteen months thereafter it was considered unpatriotic to criticize his policies. That is what allowed him to commit one of the greatest blunders in American history, the invasion of Iraq. But at that time the threat to our national security was greatly exaggerated by the Bush administration. Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney went so far as to warn that the threat would manifest itself in the form of a mushroom cloud. In the case of Israel today the threat to national security, even national survival, is much more real. Israel needs the support of the United States more than ever. Is this the right time to expose AIPAC's heavy influence in American politics? I believe this consideration holds back many people who are critical of the way AIPAC conducts its business. While the other architects of the Bush administration's failed policies have been relentlessly exposed, AIPAC continues to be surrounded by a wall of silence.
His central argument is that US policy in the Middle East must stop being subservient to AIPAC and its allies and make an aggressive push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. This means talking to Hamas on the foreign front and countering AIPAC's negative influence on the home front, starting with countering what he terms as AIPAC's "success in suppressing divergent views" among American Jews. Timed as Saudi King Abdullah's peace initiative is once again on the table, let's hope this can have some influence and that Soros will put his considerable amount of money where his mouth is.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.