The Israeli lobby is certainly one of the most important and powerful lobbies in America. Some have argued that it is too powerful and has a disproportionate amount of sway while other disregard that thought as anti-semitic. According to Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, a congressional staffer once told Michael Massing, “We can count on well over half the house – 250 to 300 members – to do reflexively whatever AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee – the largest group in the Israeli lobby] wants.” Furthermore, Steven Rosen, a former AIPAC official once told the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg that he “could have the signatures of seventy senators” if he wanted.
So do Israeli interest groups control Congress? That is unknown, but there is some evidence of strong Israeli interests. Last year Chas Freeman was forced to pull his name from consideration for a post in the Obama Administration after intense efforts by AIPAC. [tweetmeme] Brian Baird, a Congressman who supports Palestinian rights is retiring from public service and has faced numerous attacks from the Lobby. Finally the Head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism got blasted by the Israeli lobby for questioning the Israeli ambassador’s decision not to speak at a more liberal Jewish lobby.
So the power of the lobby is there and that is unquestioned. But politicians do speak out against the lobby. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN, 4th district) banned AIPAC from her office in 2006 after the lobby said that she supported terrorists. She wrote a strongly worded letter to AIPAC and a long article was published in the New York Review of Books about the power of the lobby. More recently, Rep. Howard Berman (D- CA, 28th district) has shown great support for the liberal organization Americans for Peace Now. While he did not say anything negative about the Israeli lobby, AIPAC and Americans for Peace Now do not agree on much.
Finally, and by far the most amusing, is former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH) who spoke with Current Issues TV about how AIPAC controlled Congress. I’ll let you watch the video, but it must be taken with a grain of salt. Traficant is certainly knowledgeable – he had an 18 year career in Congress, but was also kicked out because he was convicted of bribery, racketeering and fraud. After being kicked out of the House and being sentenced to time in jail (he was released last year), Traficant said “I will take with me a file, chisel and a knife. I’ll try to get some major explosives to fight my way out. Then when I get out, I’ll grab a sword like Maximus Meridius and as a gladiator, I’ll stab people in the crotch.”
That quote is irrelevant, of course, but pretty classy. Anyway here is the video. The host, Hessham Tillawi rants for a bit to begin the video and Traficant comes on at about 3:15 into the first part. While Traficant is a bit nutty and the host of the show looks like an extra in Ghost Busters, it is a good video to watch:
Photo from The Enquirer