In a Peaceful Middle East, Will Israel Lobby "Normalize"?

By Bird, Eugene | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1994 | Go to article overview

In a Peaceful Middle East, Will Israel Lobby "Normalize"?


Bird, Eugene, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


In a Peaceful Middle East, Will Israel Lobby "Normalize"?

By Eugene Bird

Each of the 50 national Jewish organizations represented in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which have been united principally by a commitment to provide Israel with political and diplomatic support and military aid, now faces a major challenge. Middle East peace, of a sort, may be at hand. If so, what future role remains for so many and such dedicated supporters of a foreign state founded upon a principle of racial and religious discrimination that condemns it to remain a pariah within its region, if not throughout the modern world?

If such a state, with its discriminatory categories of first-class citizenship for Jews and second-class citizenship for non-Jews, remains unable to support itself economically, how much longer will average American voters tolerate the continued financial pressure tactics on its behalf that are corrupting American politics as well as the politics of Israel?

Each of the 50 national Jewish organizations has adopted, or is in the process of trying on, a new face in the mirror, to borrow a concept popularized by Yael Dayan, daughter of the late Moshe Dayan, one of Israel's political-military leaders. The new faces are required because thoughtful American Jewish leaders recognize the gathering taxpayer revolt against granting billions annually to an endlessly dependent, and increasingly corrupt, Israel, when the U.S. no longer has the resources to solve its own problems.

"New Face in the Mirror"

The new face being adopted is different for each organization, or would like to be. But from outside all seem to be seeking a rationale for accelerating the outpouring of U.S. taxpayer funds for an Israel no longer even remotely threatened by its neighbors, but still not making even a pretense of being self-supporting.

While the American Jewish organizations advance their variations on why an Israel at peace needs more U.S. taxpayer capital in the coming years than ever before, their dilemma is increased by such members of Israel's present government as Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin, who told American Jewish supporters that Israel no longer needs their money at all--but instead needs their children as immigrants.

This sat very badly with Israel's U.S. fund-raisers. Like Pavlov's dog, leaders of American pro-Israel organizations know only how to campaign for more aid for Israel, and against closer relations between the United States and even moderate Arab countries. The leaders of Israel's U.S. support organizations realize that things are changing, but they have not yet found a role for themselves in a possible future of Palestinian independence and an Israel at peace.

"Accelerating Transition" to What?

From the left, the American Jewish Congress and its new president, David Kahn of Chicago, has described an "accelerating transition" for the 75-year-old organization. "As Israel diminishes as an object of unrestricted charity," he said when he took over in mid-April, the AJC will adjust and adopt new projects. The organization, like many of the 50 major Jewish organizations, now is searching for a new executive director.

Reading between the lines of both Kahn's speech and others made at the annual convention of the AJC, the organization will be doing much more here in the U.S. than ever before. The troubled Black/Jewish agenda will be part of that effort.

Despite all the oratory, it is hard to divine what the AJC may do about the real issues of U.S. relations with the Jewish state and its Middle Eastern neighbors. Traditional Jewish concerns with fairness, providing economic opportunity and combatting bigotry may make the AJC's transition from hard-ball domestic politics to good works in general more credible with American Jews of liberal persuasion.

But AIPAC is Different

Not so for Israel's principal Washington lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. …

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