From March 4 -6, as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convenes its annual conference in Washington, DC, Occupy AIPAC has organized a concurrent summit to discuss AIPAC's heavy influence in determining US foreign policy. It hopes to show a there is a new way forward for a just Middle East policy.
Occupy AIPAC, coordinated by CODEPINK Women for Peace in partnership with the Institute for Policy Studies, Just Foreign Policy, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), Interfaith Peace-builders, Jewish Voice for Peace, and with the endorsement of over 100 organizations from around the country, states:
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has a dangerous stranglehold over U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. AIPAC’s unrelenting support for the illegal policies of the Israeli government—separation walls, settlements, the siege of Gaza—in addition to its bellicose policies across the region, especially Iran, has been devastating for Palestinians and the Middle East, including Israel. It also harms our reputation around the world and squanders $3 billion a year subsidizing the powerful Israeli military when we need that money to rebuild the United States. It’s time to wean U.S. policy away from AIPAC’s grip towards an even-handed position that respects international law and the human rights of all people in the region.
As Roane Carey writes in The Nation, this year's AIPAC conference may have increased significance since many U.S. and Israeli politicians have been urging military action against Iran:
Never have the stakes been higher. It’s well known that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to go to war with Iran. He would like the United States to do the job or join Israel in an attack, or, at the very least, not stand in Israel’s way. On the eve of this year’s conference, Netanyahu gave new meaning to the word chutzpah by letting it be known he’ll demand Obama’s guarantee that Washington will go to war if Iran’s nuclear program advances beyond specific “red lines”; see these reports by Haaretz’s Barak Ravid and the Guardian’s Chris McGreal.
Bibi is playing a high-stakes intimidation game: he knows he can count on Congress to follow the AIPAC line, as it has for many years. Legislators from both parties are already demanding White House cooperation with Israeli war aims. And he may be betting that he can make Obama pay a price this November if the president doesn’t cooperate. The fact that former Mossad director Meir Dagan and other Israeli security experts, as well as US military officials like Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Martin Dempsey, are worried about the catastrophic consequences of such a war seems not to have swayed Bibi in the least.
Why is Netanyahu so certain he can sway an American president? Partly because of the power of AIPAC (in league with a broad circle of AIPAC affiliates, including the Christian Zionist lobby), which has for decades worked assiduously to keep Congress closely aligned with the most belligerent Israeli policies...
Explaining why AIPAC is so dangerous, CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin writes:
AIPAC is lobbying Congress to promote a military confrontation with Iran. AIPAC – like the Israeli government – is demanding that the U.S. attack Iran militarily to prevent Iran from having the technological capacity to produce nuclear weapons, even though U.S. officials say Iran isn’t trying to build a weapon (and even though Israel has hundreds of undeclared nuclear weapons). AIPAC has successfully lobbied the U.S. government to adopt crippling economic sanctions on Iran, including trying to cut off Iran’s oil exports, despite the fact that these sanctions raise the price of gas and threaten the U.S. economy.
Further explaining AIPAC's influence, Benjamin adds:
AIPAC attacks politicians who question unconditional support of Israel. AIPAC demands that Congress to rubber stamp legislation drafted by AIPAC staff. It keeps a record of how members of Congress vote and this record is used by donors to make contributions to the politicians who score well. Members of Congress who fail to support AIPAC legislation have been targeted for defeat in re-election bids. These include Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, and Representatives Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, and Earl F. Hilliard. AIPAC’s overwhelmingly disproportionate influence on Congress subverts our democratic system.
AIPAC feeds U.S. government officials a distorted view of the Israel/Palestine conflict. AIPAC takes U.S. representatives on sugar-coated trips to Israel. In 2011, AIPAC took one out of very five members of Congress—and many of their spouses—on a free junket to Israel to see precisely what the Israeli government wanted them to see. It is illegal for lobby groups to take Congresspeople on trips, but AIPAC gets around the law by creating a bogus educational group, AIEF, to “organize” the trips for them. AIEF has the same office address as AIPAC and the same staff. These trips help cement the ties between AIPAC and Congress, furthering their undue influence.
AIPAC lobbies for billions of U.S. taxdollars to go to Israel instead of rebuilding America. While our country is reeling from a prolonged financial crisis, AIPAC is pushing for no cuts in military funds for Israel, a wealthy nation. With communities across the nation slashing budgets for teachers, firefighters and police, AIPAC pushes for over $3 billion a year to Israel.