Videos detail lobby's pervasive influence

A Washington-based research group has posted clips online that underscore how the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee endangers the US and its people

The Washington DC-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (Irmep) last week released the full set of video presentations from a workshop organised March 3 to expose the workings of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and its covert/overt efforts to influence US government policy since 1948.

By posting the entire set of presentations on the internet, Irmep was seeking to show the influence of the Israeli/Jewish lobby and its links with money politics in this election year.

The announcement was headlined: ''How does Aipac endanger America?'' The use of the words ''endanger America'' was evocative, clearly demonstrating that both American interests and American people are being endangered by these policies.

This places America in the cross-hairs of both sides: Those who believe that terrorism is the primary threat to US security, and those who believe that terrorism has its root causes, specifically the long-standing Israeli occupation of Palestine and the role played by Aipac in ensuring that the US government and political leadership continues to favour Israel even while publicly claiming to be an ''honest broker''.

The videos can be found by doing a Google search for Irmep and ''How does Aipac endanger America?'' They should be must-viewing in Thailand and Asia, where many countries are also being endangered by the emergence of mini-Aipacs, all striving to penetrate local governments, businesses, political establishments and the media.

The videos send a far wider and more important message, one that has been repeatedly reinforced in this column.

Slowly but steadily, global tolerance for the lies, double standards, hypocrisy and neocolonialism that dominate international relations is falling apart. Just as the Arab Spring is changing the face of global geopolitics by giving vent to the people's desire for freedom and independence, so too is the pursuit of truth becoming a tsunami in its own right.

There was more evidence of this last week when, according to the activist California-based NGO Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), ''something rare happened: A major US media outlet actually showed the effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinians.''

The use of the word ''rare'' was enlightening. Apparently, US media outlets rarely show the effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinians. For those wondering why, the Irmep videos provide the answer.

This rare broadcast was made by CBS News, whose 60 Minutes investigative-journalism programme aired a segment entitled ''Christians of the Holy Land'' last Sunday.

According to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the documentary ''offered American viewers an unprecedented look into the lives and circumstances of Palestinian Christians and warned about the potential effects of, among other things, Israel's occupation, wall and policies toward Palestinians on the continued presence of Christians in the holy land.

''The 60 Minutes story took yet another unprecedented step by reporting that the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, had called the chairman of CBS News and the executive producer of 60 Minutes to protest the reporting of the piece, before it was even aired. Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon, mentioned this in his report and confronted Mr Oren on air, saying that he had never received such a call in his many years as a journalist.

Said ADC, ''The disclosure of the Israeli ambassador's attempt to prevent the segment from even airing offered Americans a revealing look into the kind of censorship and behind-the-scenes efforts to stifle public discourse about Israeli occupation and discrimination that the Israeli government and its American supporters have practised for many decades.''

Not surprisingly, according to JVP, the ''candid reporting by 60 Minutes, America's most respected news programme, has unleashed a furious response from major Jewish and right-wing Christian groups. They've generated over 29,000 letters of complaint _ many before the episode even aired.''

JVP called on supporters to ''push back now'' and sign an internet petition to thank 60 Minutes. Unless they do so, JVP warned, ''real journalism like this will become even more rare''. It added, ''Don't let 60 Minutes back down. We need more fair and truthful reporting, not less.''

JVP built a strong case for a counter-attack. It said, ''Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians have endured decades of unlawful home demolitions, checkpoints, land confiscation, detentions without charges, and much more. That's primarily why Palestinians are leaving [the holy land], and why Palestinian Christians issued a call to Christians in other lands to help create pressure on the Israeli government through divestment campaigns.

''In response to this call, this week the United Methodist Church is considering a historic vote to begin phased divestment from companies that profit from the occupation. The 60 Minutes segment explains clearly why church divestment is the right thing to do. The occupation dehumanises Christians, Muslims and Jews.''

The Israeli government itself proved the criticism correct.

Last Tuesday, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon issued a statement saying he was ''deeply troubled'' by Israel's decision earlier this month to formally approve three outposts in the West Bank.

According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr Ban reiterated that ''all settlement activity is illegal under international law'' and it ''runs contrary to Israel's obligations under the road map and repeated Quartet [on the Middle East, comprising the UN, the US, the EU, and Russia) calls for the parties to refrain from provocations.

''The approved outposts by Israeli authorities are Bruchin and Rechelim in the northern part of the West Bank, and Sansana in the south. The secretary-general is disappointed that such a decision comes at a time of renewed efforts to restart dialogue,'' the UN statement said.

According to the UN, ''The Israelis and the Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.''

The UN and the powerful countries which sit on the Quartet all agree that settlement expansion is illegal but cannot do anything to stop it. Israel faces no sanctions or any other punitive measures. Clearly, the ability to violate international law and get away scot-free has to be backed by formidable financial and political power.

To better understand that power and how it endangers not just America but the entire world, see, study, analyse and debate the Irmep videos.

All forms of power must face a process of checks and balances. Israel faces none. The longer that power goes unchecked, the worse things will get.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Imtiaz Muqbil
Position: Executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire