Well, Barack Obama passed his AIPAC test. But, then again, we knew he would, didn't we?
The man who very sensibly refused to be intimidated into wearing an American flag pin on his lapel as a show of "patriotism," quickly scurried about finding a pin that combined Old Glory with the Star of David to sport in his lapel, before facing scrutiny at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. You must admit, the man knows whose intimidation really counts. (Could it be that, besides the political expediency, observations about his hypocrisy in wearing a foreign country's symbol on his suit influenced Obama's recent flip-flop decision to now wear an American flag pin, after all?)
In "It's a Mitzvah" (Washington Post, 6/5/08), Dana Milbank writes that the crowd loved Obama, giving him 13 standing ovations. In reassuring the audience that he is a "true friend of Israel" and proclaiming, "I understand the Zionist idea," Milbank claims that Obama "almost sounded as if he were Jewish." In fact, he states, "The winner of the nomination was sounding like Bibi Netanyahu as he spoke about preserving Israel's 'qualitative military advantage.' . . . As a pandering performance, it was the full Monty."
Uri Avnery, former member of the Israeli Knesset and founder
of Gush Shalom, chided Obama for what he calls "a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning." He reports that "7,000 Jewish functionaries from all over the United States came together to accept the obeisance of the entire Washington elite, which came to kowtow at their feet." And further, "The fear of AIPAC is so terrible, that even this candidate, who promises change in all matters, does not dare. In this matter he accepts the worst old-style Washington routine."
In "What should have been said to AIPAC" (Chicago Tribune, 6/11/08), Michael Desch argues that the candidates, including Obama, refuse to be truthful about Israel's situation in the Middle East. Friends tell friends the truth, he claims. "A real friend would tell Israel the hard truth that Arab intransigence is not the only obstacle to peace in the region. You would never know it from the candidates' remarks, but Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which continue to grow, make it impossible for the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own." And, "Someone who really cares about Israel would say to AIPAC, as James Baker once did, 'now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel.'"
Desch explains, "Seventy percent of Israelis are willing to trade land for peace, but they have been thwarted by an uncompromising minority. The majority does not need reflexive, unthinking support from their friends in America for everything Israel does; rather, it needs backing against the extremists on both sides of the conflict."
As the AIPAC conference ended, and the closing music played, which "could have been for a Superman movie soundtrack," writes Dana Milbank, ". . . the man with the Star of David on his lapel left the dais in a shower of hugs and kisses from the AIPAC officers."