Posted on: June 15, 2010 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 0

MJ Rosenberg reprints dozens of Democrats’ statements on the Gaza flotilla fiasco today in his Media Matters piece.

He doesn’t bother with the Republicans, which are worse, but also to be expected. And the Democrats he quotes include some supported by J Street. This points to a pretty wide consensus of opinion.

I found MJ’s closing line interesting. He writes, pithily, that “Our United States Congress hard at work, doing what it’s told.”

But I’ll say I have no doubt they heard from AIPAC and other, similar advocacy groups. And some, I’m sure, did indeed parrot the party line, wanting to curry favor during this election year.

But I also think that many of them didn’t need to be told what to say and didn’t say what they did because they heard it from AIPAC.

Then-Senator Obama addressing AIPAC on the campaign trail

Let’s face it, there’s more than just political pressure behind the fact that ostensible liberals turn into hawks when it comes to Israel.

Israel’s general approach to terrorism is not much different from our own American version—it’s just the context that makes the biggest difference. We are not anxious to indict Israeli behavior when it comes to real security given the methods we employ in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re not exactly the same, but they all fall under the new rubric of fighting terror.

There’s also the fact that I do not believe many of our elected officials really know that much about the Israel-Palestine conflict and give little real thought to what Israel’s best interests are. They also can’t really understand what America’s interests in the region are, beyond political expediency.

Members of Congress track many issues, even those who focus more on foreign policy. When I’ve listened to Gary Ackerman or Howard Berman speak, I perceive a big gulf between their knowledge of the Middle East and that of their staffers. That’s a reflection, too, of the fact that Israel is a domestic political issue for them.

And there’s the other aspect of the influence of AIPAC and other lobby groups, one which, I believe, is of at least as great significance as potential campaign financing—they make their case efficiently and relentlessly.

J Street has made damn near miraculous strides in their brief existence. But AIPAC and leading Jewish groups like the AJC, ADL, Conference of Presidents and others have been shaping the narrative on Israel that Americans hear for many years. It takes time to counter that with a more realistic one, and there have been great strides in that regard in the past couple of years, mostly due to Israel’s increasingly boorish behavior.

But the last place such a change will be seen in on Capitol Hill, where it isn’t about Israel’s best interests or even America’s, but about the next election. There’s a good reason the intent of the separation of powers was to leave foreign policy in the hands of the executive branch.