March 11, 2010

NOT A TINY JEWISH CABAL, BUT A HUGE CHRISTIAN ONE:

The Israel Lobby and Gentile Power (Walter Russell Mead, 3/11/10, American Interest)

From where I sit, AIPAC isn’t powerful because of the Jewish votes it can sway. Most Jews have views on Israel that are closer to the J-Street lobby vision than to the AIPAC line, and if a vote among America’s Jews decided our Israel policy the policy would be significantly to the left of where it is now. It’s not even because of the money; ‘pro-Israel’ PAC money is a drop in the vast and ever-expanding river of American campaign.

A group like AIPAC enjoys power and recognition not because it controls or even represents the votes of Jews. AIPAC’s power rests on gentile ideas and support; if a politician gets loudly and publicly labeled anti-Israel by AIPAC and its allies that politician will get hammered in the next election because so many American gentiles want their politicians to support the Jewish state. AIPAC works like the NRA; it is the publicly accepted voice on an issue about which the public has strong views.

Politicians don’t fear the loss of National Rifle Association PAC money nearly as much as they fear the loss of millions of pro-gun votes at the next election. This, I think is why AIPAC is so powerful. To be convincingly labeled an anti-Israel politician is the kiss of death almost everywhere in the United States — just as to be anti-gun is the kiss of death. American gentiles consider AIPAC and those affiliated with and endorsed by it to be reliable guardians of pro-Israel policy; politicians don’t want to cross a force with this kind of hold on the public.

AIPAC has the power that it does because it has been in effect deputized by American pro-Israel gentiles to guard the frontiers of our Israel policy. Like the NRA and like the fabled Tobacco lobby of old, it is strong because the public accepts it as the watchdog on an issue it cares about. Lose that bond with the public, as the Tobacco lobby finally did, and the clout bleeds away — even if the lobby has all the money, all the organizers and all the connections that it previously had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 11, 2010 7:22 AM
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