Is Israel’s Right Wing in Eric Cantor’s District?

eric cantorIn May 2009, Congressmen Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) wrote to President Barack Obama about U.S. policy toward Israel. Their staff sent the letter as a PDF but forgot to change the name of the file to something other than “AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor May 2009.pdf.”

AIPAC stands for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a group widely recognized as one of the most effective at lobbying Congress, and a group that consistently promotes the positions of the rightwing party of the Israeli government. AIPAC also has the distinction of having lobbied against accountability for an Israeli attack on a U.S. ship and in favor of leniency for a man convicted of selling U.S. secrets to Israel. In a separate case, six years ago, two AIPAC employees were indicted for obtaining U.S. secrets from a U.S. military employee who pled guilty. After powerful Congress members like Jane Harman (D., Calif.) lobbied on their behalf, the charges were dropped.

That’s what it means to be an effective lobby group: having your way. Need sanctions on Iran? You got em. Support at the United Nations for illegal settlements in Palestine or a blockade and bombing of Gaza? Not a problem. In fact, it would be our pleasure to provide the weapons needed, whether it’s for bombing Gaza, bombing Lebanon, or killing Turkish and American peace activists on an aid ship as happened last year. We’d be honored, and don’t let cost be a consideration! That would be an insult in these times of huge budget surpluses in Washington! (Warning, this paragraph contained sarcasm.)

We give $3 billion in “military aid” to Israel every year, more than we give to any other country. This is justified by the need to protect Israel from all the other countries in its region, most of which we also give or sell arms to. Last fall, when pressure was building in Washington to cut off foreign aid spending, Congressman Cantor proposed making an exception for Israel that would help guarantee it $30 billion over the next decade by hiding that funding in the U.S. “defense” budget. That proposal didn’t fly, but neither has any funding of Israeli weapons been cut.

Is there any spending here in Virginia that Congressman Cantor has defended this tenaciously? Would there be if we could afford it?

Cantor is listed on Maplight.org as the top recipient of campaign money from “pro-Israel” groups in the U.S. House of Representatives, having taken in over $200,000. These groups, most of them affiliated with AIPAC, dump tens of millions of dollars into U.S. elections each cycle. And they certainly appear to get what they pay for. In February, continuing a decades-long pattern that has made the United States the leader in U.N. vetoes, President Obama instructed U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to veto and overrule the other 14 Security Council members’ backing of a resolution condemning as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The problem here is more specific than the wild-west financing of U.S. elections. The problem is that the interests of the Israeli government, far from always representing the Israeli people, in no way represent those of the American people or the people of Virginia. Our views may align or diverge. But the Israeli government’s hostility toward Iraq or Iran, Lebanon or Palestine, or to independent democratic rule in Egypt and the rest of the region, need not be our own. That should be for us to decide, open to foreign input, but free of foreign financial pressure. AIPAC raises its money in the United States but advances the agenda of a foreign nation, diverging often from the majority views of both Americans at large and Jewish Americans in particular.

LDavid Swansonater this month, Congressman Cantor will be a featured speaker at AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington DC, but over 100 peace and justice organizations will be holding a counter-conference called “Move Over AIPAC.” I wonder if Eric Cantor will get the message.

David Swanson
David Swanson is an author and blogger in Charlottesville, VA.

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Comments

  1. mosche says

    Hey Joe Weinstein- more people are getting wise to the Israel first crowd. How many Jewish men in the military today? 1/10 of 1%. Its OK for the goy to die for Israel’s interests isn’t it?

  2. Jay Levenberg,Esq. says

    Well, if we start to take politicians to task for supporting Israel, there would be few politicians left in this country. I have friends who are Democrats that live in Cantor’s district who always split their ticket for him because Cantor is always a lot smarter than the person running against him and is always there in the district helping out. Cantor is probably more middle of the road than the garden variety Republican in the House but represents his district well according to those that know. It’s about all you can ask of a Congressman these days. Finally, support of Israel is bi-partisan and I can give you a list of Democrats that would go to the mat for Israel as much or more than Cantor.

  3. says

    Swanson’s title question is an ill-considered diversion from the true and terrible policy deficiencies of leading Republicans like Eric Cantor.

    Contra Swanson’s main message, there’s nothing inherently wrong with an American interest group whose focus is to help the people of a friendly foreign democratic nation. Yes, foreign governments are not allowed to finance USA campaigns, but laws reasonably permit all genuinely domestic interest groups to do so, including this kind of interest group.

    Contra another Swanson message, many people in the USA do make it a point to support Israel, precisely because that nation especially needs friends and support. After all, besides Israel, how many other countries find their very existence – not merely current policies or regime – continually denounced and threatened by other states and regimes?

    Also contra Swanson, support for Israel among Jewish and other Americans, including organized groups like AIPAC, largely transcends whether the current regime is ‘right’ or ‘left’ – terms which reflect historic labeling but tell us little about current relevant policy differences. (Ironically, Swanson takes AIPAC et al to task for supporting the ‘agenda of a foreign nation’, but doesn’t explain what that agenda might be if, as hinted, Israelis divide sharply into ‘left’ and ‘right’. Actually, given Israel’s situation, we may infer sheer survival as the principal item on her national agenda, one that unites ‘left’ and ‘right’.)

    Contra Swanson’s implication, hostility between Israel and other regimes (rarely democratic) in the region was and is not her choice but theirs. Their hostility came first, and largely has remained. Recall that a Palestine Arab state was authorized by the UN in 1947, but none was created either by Palestinians or later by occupying Arab states. However, from the minute Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948 to the present, Arab states warred repeatedly against Israel in the name of ‘the Palestine cause’. Of the seven original warmaking states – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen – only the first two do not claim still to be at war with Israel.

    We may look at each of Swanson’s five noted specific cases of hostility: Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine and ‘independent democratic rule in Egypt and the rest of the region’. Iraq, having no common border in 1948 with Israel-Palestine, nonetheless in 1948 declared war and sent troops to crush the newly declared Israel, and – despite all the ‘democratization’ – has YET to evince any interest in ending hostility. Iran’s regime now is headed by a guy who in the name of Islam repeatedly and vocally (despite UN rules) looks forward to seeing Israel wiped out. His ‘defense’ minister won promotion for masterminding the bombing of the Jewish community buildings in Buenos Aires. The Lebanese president who signed a peace treaty with Israel was assassinated. Today’s Palestine Arab regimes both are committed in their charters to the immediate or eventual undoing of Israel. Israelis would be all for ‘independent democratic rule in Egypt’ which maintains the peace treaty; but now leading new ‘democratic’ voices in Egypt – including their leading cleric who draws huge crowds – call instead for eventual war with Israel and already now endorse aid and contact with Hamas.

    As Swanson admits, Israel can use military support in great part because the USA arms other states in the region – including massively Saudi Arabia – which still elect to be at war with Israel. By the way, the approx $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel is mostly matched by similar aid to Egypt – a consequence of the USA stepping in to ensure the Egypt-Israel peace agreement.

    It’s sad that Swanson is so keen to fault a Republican leader for readiness to support a friendly foreign democratic nation, but can’t manage to attack what is really wrong with the Republicans: their aggressively anti-progressive domestic agenda and their craven go-along with the OBushma warmongering foreign policy: when in doubt, suck the country into yet another elective war.

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