Opinion | Opinion

Et tu AIPAC? Delegitimizing American Jews in the Name of Supporting Israel

I recently wrote an article outlining how and why the new well-funded Adelson/Netanyahu/Republican/Evangelical coalition has emerged as the new pro-Israel voice in the U.S. — supplanting the traditional majority of American Jews who are increasingly demonized for expressing honest and heartfelt concerns about the policies and statements of the current Israeli government.

That new pro-Israel coalition has predictably come out swinging against President Obama and most American Jews again — united in their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal that most American Jews have been hoping for that was been negotiated by an American President who most Jews voted for and still support.

Just to put the bizarre chain of events into perspective, the recently signed deal would appear to be exactly what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had requested several years ago when he came to the U.S. and warned both our Congress and the United Nations that Iran was just a few months away from having a nuclear weapon. President Obama responded by committing that he would never allow Iran to get such a weapon and was thanked by Netanyahu for his support.

Now, just a few years later, a coalition led by President Obama has negotiated and signed a deal that assures that Iran will not have a chance to get such a weapon for more than a decade in exchange for giving the Iranians access to some of their own money that had been frozen and the right to again sell their own products in the open market.

On its face, this would seem like a cause for celebration and gratitude from Israel and expressions of thanks to Obama for his incredible work on Israel’s behalf.

But, as we all know,, the exact opposite has taken place. And now, the chorus of detractors has been joined by many people and groups who claim to be non-partisan and mainly focused on what is good for Israel and the Jewish people.

The Republican leaders — who seven years ago pledged to oppose Obama at every turn and smear him relentlessly have responded predictably.as did Netanyahu and his government leaders who are now joined at the hip with the Obama haters in the U.S.

Haaretz reporter Chemi Shalev documented the predictable over-the- top reactions:

“In the fierce transcontinental contest over who depicts the Iran nuclear deal in more cataclysmic terms, the Republican Party seems to be winning. True, Israel had some formidable contenders, including Miri Regev’s “Iran got a license to kill,” Naftali Bennett’s “one of the darkest days in world history” and of course BenjaminNetanyahu on Iran’s wish to “take over the world.” But these ominous warnings are no match for Lindsey Graham’s “death sentence for Israel,” Dick Cheney’s “nukes just got closer” and Glenn Beck’s prediction that the deal would cause another Holocaust “perhaps bigger than the last.” Munich, it seems, was child’s play.”

But those long-standing opponents of Obama are now being joined by traditionally less partisan Israeli and Jewish voices. In the Jerusalem Post alone — a newspaper in which my own articles appear — are new columns by Stewart Weiss (“This duplicitous deal is a completely betrayal of Israel and…a complete betrayal of American values”), Ruthie Blum (“Israel is all too familiar with the ‘untrustworthy’ nature of Obama and his partners in the crime against humanity”), Martin Sherman (“Barack Hussein Obama is the first U.S. president who is explicitly and overtly unmoored, both cognitively and emotionally, from the moorings of America’s founding Judeo-Christian cultural heritage”), Caroline Glick (“The centerpiece of Obama’s foreign policy is his desire to transform Iran’s illicit nuclear program… into a legal Iranian-American nuclear program that endangers Israel’s existence”) and Rabbi Daniel Gordis (“Barack Obama wanted a deal no matter what compromises he had to make, no matter how much danger the deal represented for Israel”).

But most telling and significant is the decision of AIPAC — an organization that spent decades building virtually unanimous bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and the White House — to declare war on President Obama and the Democrats who support him — and to help fund a $40 million effort to blow up the deal that Obama undertook at Israel’s request and which has accomplished its goal.

AIPAC (I served on its Tucson board for several years before shifting my energies and efforts to J Street) had the rug pulled from under its bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill when Netanyahu and his ambassador worked secretly with Republicans leaders to arrange a speech to our Congress — which was strongly urged to cancel by the White House and many Israeli an U.S. government an Jewish leaders — where Bibi blasted Obama’s game plan and the deal he was negotiating with Iran. In just a few weeks, Netanyahu and the Republicans — both heavily funded by Sheldon Adelson — destroyed almost half a century of hard work by AIPAC to build bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.

And now AIPAC has pulled the rug on itself and has cast its lot with the Obama haters who will no doubt be major funders of the $40 million newly minted Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran which will be working hand-in-hand with the Republican Jewish Coalition to defeat the Iran nuclear deal that has just been unanimously approved by the United Nations.

There is nothing wrong with AIPAC or anyone else taking a position and working toward a stated goal.

What is very wrong or at least unwise is for them to abandon everything they have worked for to wage a battle they have no chance of winning and which essentially declares war on the President of the United States, the Democrats and large majority of American Jews who support him and his policies.

As Chemi Shalev accurately points out:

“Carefully worded as it was, however, the bottom line of AIPAC’s clarion call to its members was just as over-the-top as the unbridled rhetoric of the politicians. It amounts to a declaration of all-out war against President Obama that is virtually unwinnable, for an objective that is most certainly unattainable.

“Congress should reject this agreement, and urge the administration to work with our allies to maintain economic pressure on Iran while offering to negotiate a better deal that will truly close off all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon,” AIPAC writes. Perhaps, but only in another universe. Even if one assumes that Israel, its’ lobby, and the GOP could emerge victorious from the kind of confrontations it has always lost before, is it in any way realistic to assume that a defeated administration would then lobby the world to re-ratchet economic sanctions on Iran? Is it conceivable that Russia, China and other world powers would simply jump to attention and do Congress’ bidding? Is there any reasonable doubt that Congressional rejection of the deal concluded by the administration would deal a harsh blow to America’s international standing? Or that it would paint Iran as the injured victim and give it free rein to pursue its nuclear goals to its hearts content?

And can any right-thinking person persuasively deny that under such circumstances, Israel and the Jews would be blamed? Or that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer would be owed a retroactive official apology?

Generals always prepare for the last war, as the saying goes, but the pro-Israel masterminds are doing so in an environment that no longer exists. “We strongly believe that the alternative to this bad deal is a better deal,”AIPAC asserts, but only if they can enlist Arnold Schwarzenegger to travel back in time to terminate the Vienna deal before it is signed. On earth, on the other hand, the die is cast, the train has left the station and this is the only deal in town. If there was ever a “better deal” to be had, it is long gone by now. The choice is between making the best of the Vienna agreement or assuming responsibility for the mayhem that will inevitably ensue from its rejection by Congress, including the possibility of armed conflict. Perhaps this is what Israel and AIPAC have in mind, but then they should come out and say so.”

I hate sounding like a broken record and again talking about the self-inflicted damage that is being done to the American Jewish community by those who claim to be acting out of love for Israel.

But the more obvious the damage becomes it seems the more determined the billionaire donors here and leaders of theNetanyahu government and their Republican allies become to press on with their campaign of BDS and delegitimizationagainst the millions of American Jews who are called “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semites for supporting the pro-Israel President of the United States.

As long as that keeps going on, I guess the broken record will keep playing the same sad song.

(Larry Gellman is managing director of a private worldwide investment firm. He has spent 30 years as a Jewish philanthropist and a volunteer leader of organizations such as Israel Bonds, several Jewish federations, AIPAC, CLAL, and J Street. He lives in Tucson and Aspen, CO. This article first appeared in the Times of Israel.)