This weekend, 18,000 Americans from all over the country are coming to Washington to participate in the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference.
AIPAC is one of the leading forces behind the Israel lobby, joined in recent years by the ascending Christians United for Israel. Other Jewish “pro-Israel” organizations are niche affairs, representing particular constituencies on the left or right. But it’s AIPAC that is the registered lobby on Capitol Hill, and it is AIPAC whose clout on matters relating to Israel exceeds the clout of the National Rifle Association on matters related to guns; while the NRA’s sway is almost entirely over Republicans, AIPAC has historically drawn its support from both parties. Is there any place but AIPAC that not only gets Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in the same room, but also gets to hear them in near total agreement?
But there’s something strange, too, about AIPAC. Consider Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks at last year’s conference: “Every freedom-loving American stands with Israel — because her cause is our cause, her values are our values and her fight is our fight.”
How can America’s representatives declare that any other country’s fight — even one as close to us as Israel is — is our fight, its cause our cause, its values our values?
It’s precisely this kind of overidentification that George Washington warned against in his 1796 farewell address. “A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils,” Washington said. “Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists… betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”
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