What Israel Wants

AIPAC’s Moral Myopia

Peter Beinart on the short-sighted support of American pro-Israel groups for the Egyptian military.

I remember talking, years ago, to an official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) about Samantha Power. Everyone praises her activism against genocide, the official noted. But empowering international institutions to punish human rights offenders could make Israeli military action more difficult. His bottom line: “She’s not good on our issue.”

Our issue? I agreed back then (and still do) that given Israel’s democratic credentials, no international body should treat its leaders the way it treats Slobodan Milosevic or Omar al-Bashir. Still, in my naivete, I was surprised to hear a Jewish official suggest that protecting human rights—especially against genocide—is not a Jewish concern.

I’m not surprised anymore. Look at the way prominent American Jewish groups have whitewashed last week’s massacre of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by Egypt’s military. In its summary of events, AIPAC at times suggested that both sides were equally culpable for the violence. (“Despite rapidly escalating violence between military forces and Muslim Brotherhood Morsi-backers, neither side seems to be wavering in its quest for political control.”) At others, it actually suggested that the Brotherhood bears most of the blame. (“The call for renewed [Brotherhood] demonstrations threatens to bring more bloody confrontation in the streets. Meanwhile, reports Thursday suggested that up to 17 churches were burned by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood across Egypt.”)The Israel Project, a group “dedicated to informing the media…on issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people and America’s interests in the Middle East” (and run by AIPAC’s former press secretary), was even more misleading, titling a blog post: “Egyptian Govt Calls On Morsi Supporters to End Violence, as Islamists Burn Down Scores of Christian Churches and Homes.” While noting that the military has imposed a state of emergency, the Israel Project notes that this is “not particularly uncommon in Egypt.”Read the rest of this column here.