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AIPAC has Obama's back, if not vice versa

For weeks the political heavyweight, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, sat on the sidelines.  AIPAC refrained from taking a position on whether or not the United States should undertake a military strike against Syria.  Its silence continued, even following confirmation of Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.  Then, suddenly, without warning, AIPAC announced it would come out swinging with both fists. And now we know why.

It was not a big surprise to watchers of major pro-Israel organizations that AIPAC remained silent on the question of whether the U.S. should use its force against a Middle Eastern dictator who – at the moment – was not directly threatening Israel.


At least one good reason why many pro-Israel organizations were reluctant to wade into this thicket is the inevitability that the story will then become that oh-so-popular refrain: the Jews are forcing American boys to die for them. Call that the Big Blame Theory.  We’ll get back to it in a moment.

But after weeks of silence and nearly silent no-committals from the AIPAC behemoth, the word came several days ago that AIPAC had entered the hard-core lobbying front on behalf of President Obama’s “limited, tailored” strikes on Syria.

So what happened?

What happened is politics.  No, not the Jews pushing the U.S. to fight Israel’s battles.  This one was Team Obama calling in its own chits, and asking, nah, insisting that AIPAC wind-up its many operatives and get them to start pushing hard on their congressional contacts to throw in their yes vote for the Obama strikes.

At least, that’s what 23-plus year AIPAC veteran Steven J. Rosen wrote in the article, “Pushed on the Bandwagon,” appearing in the September 4th edition of the Middle East Quarterly.

Rosen’s article was long on specifics but short on sources.

Nevertheless, it is hard to believe he would write those specifics without having very sound reasons to believe them to be true.  Rosen wrote about AIPAC’s desperate effort to ensure that no one would blame “the Jews” for pushing the U.S. into a war with Iraq: AIPAC never openly endorsed the authorization; AIPAC organized a letter from 16 members of congress swearing that AIPAC did not take an official position on the war and never lobbied them on the war; former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned George W. Bush that attacking Iraq was a mistake.

Of course, none of those efforts to prove non-participation bore any fruit.  The Jews, by whatever name people chose to use – the Israel Lobby, the Jews, or the Neocons – were and still are blamed for pushing the U.S. into a massively unpopular war with Iraq. That’s the Big Blame Theory.

And so AIPAC was going to definitely, positively, absolutely stay out of this fight.  As with Iraq, Syria is not the threat to Israel that Iran is.  And AIPAC has always (at least until now) refrained from using its mighty political strength for any fight in which Israel is not directly threatened.  But now all that has changed.

As Rosen put it,

Responding to a full-court press by the Obama administration — a call to Netanyahu, a direct message to AIPAC, and messages via congressional leaders — AIPAC has weighed in fully in support of the president’s call for intervention.

There are a myriad of responses to AIPAC’s appearance in the front line of the congressional battle on behalf of  Obama’s Syrian Strike. Many analysts see only bad results for AIPAC and the pro-Israel world, no matter what happens.

It’s a classic example of heads you win, tails I lose.  If congress authorizes Obama’s plan, and things go badly – who is going to be blamed?  The Jews.  If congress votes against Obama’s plan, AIPAC looks feeble, and loses credibility as well as having wasted political chits it would have preferred to save for when Israel is directly threatened.

Something Rosen doesn’t mention, but others do, is the awkward realization that although team Obama has apparently pushed hard on AIPAC to help bring in the votes for the president’s plan, other, more logical organizations have been immune from the importuning.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. What I want to know, is why Israel wants to support the Muslim brotherhood and Alqaida? The first thing they started doing in Egypt when those people took over was to call for “A million martyrs to Jerusalem”.

  2. They also supported attacking Iraq.wrong both times.both wars would hurt Israel! And now the Shia iraqis we freed are now threatening to attack us if we attack the Syrian shia muslims! And Iran is threatening to attack Israel if USA attacks the Shia, while Israel has never taken sides in Islamic civil war! AIPAC is very very wrong here! Israel will suffer greatly if USA attacks Syria and do will USA. Could start a world war! Praying for peace! For a negotiated ceasefire, now!

  3. They also supported attacking Iraq.wrong both times.both wars would hurt Israel! And now the Shia iraqis we freed are now threatening to attack us if we attack the Syrian shia muslims! And Iran is threatening to attack Israel if USA attacks the Shia, while Israel has never taken sides in Islamic civil war! AIPAC is very very wrong here! Israel will suffer greatly if USA attacks Syria and do will USA. Could start a world war! Praying for peace! For a negotiated ceasefire, now!

  4. . Senator Harry Reid has just compared the situation in Syria with that of the Holocaust. There is no comparison since this is a civil war and no one can definitely state which side is using chemical warfare, if not both. Syria is a quagmire. We will get into it and not have an exit strategy. If we are going to war it should be against Iran; declaring war on Syria is basically fighting Iran. I predict this war will end up like Iraq, which I was also against, with boots on the ground and many young American lives lost. I do not know President Obama personally nor have I ever met him. My position regarding his leadership abilities and policies has never changed. He does not have the ability to be a commander in chief and has lost credibility throughout the world. The TV pictures showing the massacre of women and children have not been verified as originating from one side of this civil war. The only way out of this is the position that Secretary of State made at a press conference, whether he meant it or not, that there should be an international committee to verify the source of chemical warfare. Putin immediately came up with the same suggestion and offered it to Syria. This is the way out for our president, and if it can be worked out, a way to resolve this crisis. Hillary Clinton had also suggested this solution.

    Before we have the beginnings of what could lead to WORLD WAR 3 , can you assure me that the other side does not have chemical weapons also. Please guarantee there will be no boots on the ground and that Israel will not be attacked immediately. Please tell me we are ready to send our children or grandchildren to war and have more American men and women die.

    It’s pretty obvious that if the opposition gets into power and has nerve gas, they’d use it, too. It is naïve to think that there are major differences between the Syrian sides. Remember what has been going on in Egypt. The world, especially President Obama, enthusiastically praised the change of regime and “democratic elections” in which Mohammed Morsi was elected president. He didn’t last very long, because the Egyptian public is volatile and the same is true in Syria. We should stay out of this conflict. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

  5. It's very simple.. 72% of the eligible Jewish voters in 2008 and 2012 voted for the anti semitic Obama and the Democratic Party. Who else would the anti seimite ask, but the people he hates so much to help him in this Sitzkreig of his, but AIPAC? The Jews are their own worst enemy. In Israel we see this every day unfold, so why not in the USA?

  6. AIPAC is a whole lot like the state of Israel, they suck up to Obama whenever possible. Their original stance was totally correct but they have no faith in their own supposed power – not unlike the Israelis who have made themselves into a Banana Republic and sooner or later will have to shed that mentality no matter how much it may hurt initially.

  7. here come the anti semites out of their holes and woodwork…do you really believe that little israel has the power to influence the u.s.a, u.k., e.u. u.n., and the rest of the world to do anything? these creeps willcome out with anything…as long as it is ant israel or ant semitic…but remember….we all have our day of judgement…and you vicious jerks can not and will not escape it.

  8. I strenuously object to Jewish organizations lobbying for US military action that does not concern Israel directly.

    Now, we will all be tarred-and-feathered for trying to push Congress to pass an action that most Americans do not want.

    Now, that a deal is likely in place to turn over Syria's chemical weaponry, AIPAC and the Jews are left to twist in the wind.

    Thank you for wasting goodwill that may be necessary if Israel is in real danger.

    Sucking up to the President when the possibility looms of the military fighting a war that could, if things go badly awry, cause our soldiers, sailors, and marines to take casualties, was a very stupid idea.

    For the love of God, do not be used in such a fashion again!

  9. No easy decisions in DC these days. Definitely, this is the hardest Obama has had to work in the last five years! I guess all we can hope for is that a AUMF is unnecessary in Syria, and that AIPAC's willingness to support Obama today is repaid when we get down to brass tacks on Iran.

  10. Again Netanyahu has not the balls to say "no" to the AIPAC and Obama, is better for Israel to be in the same side with Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and shiites than Obama, Al Qaeda ans sunnies, that is that the US should not get involved any way in Syria's civil war, let them resolve their problems killing each other, for Israel is the best opportunity not get involved saying "yes" to Obama at the same time to Al Qaeda and Sunnies.

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