It’s an understatement that the Iran nuclear deal has proven to be a highly charged ordeal, both politically and emotionally for many policymakers, thinkers, and the general public.
However, an unacceptable reaction should not be expected from the president of the United States of America.
After his Aug. 5 speech where he stressed the virtues of the Iran deal, President Barack Obama claimed that the only alternative to the deal is war. Those who felt this view was incorrect reacted and clarified why they don’t believe that the only alternative is war or why they aren’t warmongers.
However, there was something particularly hurtful in the president’s speech that may cause long-term damage.
He pointed out: “Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should; for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.”
It is the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that is at the forefront of the battle aimed at defeating the Iran deal in Congress.
Such opposition was also expressed by a number of other Jewish organizations, as well as by members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and other bodies not related to the organized Jewish community.
AIPAC strongly believes that the deal with Iran is not a good deal. Therefore, the organization is applying its constitutional right to oppose the deal and also spend money to defeat it. By the same token, those organizations that support the deal, such as J-Street or MoveOn.org, also have the right to do so, and they are indeed doing it.
However, to set the record straight, AIPAC never supported the war in Iraq. To say such thing or insinuate it is unbecoming for a president in office, not just because the argument is inaccurate but also because it targets the Jewish community and supporters of Israel in a rather polarizing way.
Ideas blaming the pro-Israel lobby for the Iraq war were planted first more than a decade ago by Pat Buchanan. Buchanan called the U.S. Congress Israel’s “Amen corner,” tried to validate some of the arguments brought by Holocaust deniers, and downplayed the extent of the Nazi threat to the U.S.
It was followed by a number of extreme left and pro-Arab publications, for whom any anti-Zionist propaganda, regardless of its dishonesty, is welcome.
But a few years later two scholars, Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer, tried to provide a scholarly dimension to this argument by claiming that it was the pro-Israel lobby that pushed for the war in Iraq in 2003.
These two authors in their book, “The Israeli Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy,” do not quote any single email, action alert or any other document that proves that AIPAC or any other mainstream Jewish organization supported the war in Iraq.
Instead, Walt and Mearsheimer decided to redefine and enlarge the boundaries of the Israeli lobby by claiming that the lobby includes not only Jews, but also Christians Zionists and neoconservatives.
The authors implied that if individuals who belong to anyone of these groups supported the war in Iraq, it should be assumed that such support is motivated by their pro- Israel position.
So, by enlarging the scope and definition of “the pro-Israeli lobby,” these authors avoided the responsibility of looking into the archives of U.S. Congress, AIPAC or any other Jewish organization.
When an idea is planted and repeated, its lack of evidence does not prevent it from becoming true. It is, in this sense, that the president’s words could have a very damaging effect.
It is important to point out that AIPAC’s role, has been crucial in securing a healthy debate about an issue that has national security implications. The various failed nuclear agreements with North Korea did not have the public debate the Iran deal has had.
The agreements with North Korea were reached in negotiations between the U.S. administration and North Korea with very little public debate. AIPAC represents precisely democracy and government accountability on issues that otherwise would have remained concealed from the public eye.
Therefore, we owe a lot to organizations such as AIPAC.