By Susan Abulhawa
He eclipsed the democratic convention buzz, gained women voters, simultaneously reassured middle to far right conservatives and may have positioned a female presidential candidate for the Republican ticket for future elections. It makes sense. On the other hand, the best explanations for Barack Obama’s choice of Joseph Biden still don’t jibe.
It’s true that Mr. Biden brings some political experience to Mr. Obama’s ticket, but so could many of Mr. Obama’s other choices. Mr. Biden also narrows the race gap, which unfortunately still exists in America. But again, so could any of the other choices.
So, what then? Mr. Biden, the self-proclaimed Zionist, assuages Israeli and Jewish American fears that Mr. Obama might not be so accommodating to Israel.
I know it’s hard for the average American to believe that Israeli interests could have such influence on a presidential election. Israeli propaganda does an outstandingly good job of diffusing any meaningful debate on the Middle East or Israel’s role in shaping our foreign policies. Whether by defaming Jimmy Carter for daring to speak out or by censoring or ignoring important scholastic books such as "The Israel Lobby" by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer, Americans are kept ignorant of just how important it is to please Israel in order to have a real chance at occupying an elected post in Washington. Every politician, newsman, and pundit knows that you cannot be elected in Washington without the blessing of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), known simply as "The Lobby" in Washington.
Under the Clinton administration, the head of AIPAC had to resign after someone leaked a tape of him discussing how AIPAC was negotiating with the president about whom he should select for Secretary of State. It is undeniably the most powerful foreign interest group in Washington, and arguably the most powerful lobby in general.
Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations admitted that "When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the terms of debate are so influenced by organized Jewish groups, like AIPAC, that to be critical of Israel is to deny oneself the ability to succeed in American politics." A noteworthy example of the great influence Israel wields on American foreign policy came in the summer of 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon. As the world over condemned the attack, we stood alone in support of Israel. On July 18, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution "condemning Hamas and Hezbollah and their state sponsors and supporting Israel’s exercise of its right to self-defense." After language was removed from the bill urging "all sides to protect innocent civilian life and infrastructure," the House version passed by a landslide, 410-to-8.
Thus, in response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers (which followed the killing of a Lebanese man inside Lebanon), Israel killed and maimed thousands of civilians, decimated civilian infrastructure, and littered Southern Lebanon with over 100,000 of the world-banned unexploded cluster bombs. Congress unequivocally approved and supported Israel’s actions with this resolution, which AIPAC actually wrote! Even when a post-war analysis by the State Department was delivered to Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Biden, asserting that Israel may have violated the Arms Export Control Act with its use of American-made cluster munitions in Lebanon, bipartisan support of Israel remained unwavering.
This potentially explosive report detailing how Israel may have used American supplied weapons to commit war crimes was ignored by Mr. Biden and Mrs. Pelosi, both of whom have traveled to Israel repeatedly, along with scores of other politicians, genuflecting as they always do to extol the virtues of the Jewish State and profess undying and uncompromising support for a country that is currently in violation of at least 200 UN Resolutions and has been condemned in the harshest terms by human rights organizations worldwide. It is a country that has been repeatedly caught spying on America (most recently, two top AIPAC officials were indicted based on evidence that they accepted and passed on to Israel confidential national security secrets from a Defense Department analyst working with AIPAC) and which continues to defy U.S. demands to stop annexing and colonizing private Palestinian property with illegal Jewish-only settlements. One would think such behavior would at least draw some criticism from candidates. But rarely does any politician dare.
Mr. Biden has proved himself an acolyte of Israel. In an interview with Shalom TV, Mr. Biden proclaimed: "I am a Zionist." Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council said that "Biden is a great friend … with a solid pro-Israel record." Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Biden brings "The Lobby" to Mr. Obama’s corner and that’s why he was picked. Let us at least open up the discussion to include the influence of this foreign interest lobby. Americans deserve to understand the forces behind decisions that affect us all individually and collectively as a nation.
– Susan Abulhawa is founder of Playgrounds for Palestine. (Originally published in the Washington Times – September 18, 2008)