Originally published in Tikkun Daily
While the fate of the Senate's Iran sanctions bill remains uncertain, one thing appears clear: AIPAC is alienating allies on Capitol Hill with its intense and self-destructive lobbying efforts.
That alienation has reached peak volume as a result of AIPAC's bitter, partisan attack against DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of the lobbying outfit's most reliable allies in the House.
Why is she being attacked? Wasserman Schultz has yet to make a public pronouncement as to which way she leans with regard to the sanctions bill. And behind the scenes, it has been reported that she's trying to dissuade Democrats from supporting the bill, which, given her appointment by President Obama to head the DNC, seems more than expected.
But it's not so much that Wasserman Schultz has become an AIPAC target. It's how ugly and partisan AIPAC's attack against her has become for an organization which takes great pains to appear non-partisan. So what did AIPAC do? It sent out an action letter to her constituents in Florida which used, in its attack, a denigrating and speculative article by the right-wing Washington Free Beacon.
Even though AIPAC declined to comment for a Foreign Policy story on the matter, current and former AIPAC operatives and activists – alarmed by what's transpiring – are speaking out:
"In the 40 years I've been involved with AIPAC, this is the first time I've seen such a blatant departure from bipartisanship," said Doug Bloomfield, AIPAC's former chief lobbyist.And there are those on Capitol Hill who are speaking out as well, albeit anonymously, about how AIPAC is self-destructing over the sanctions bill:
Michael Adler, an AIPAC activist and prominent Democratic donor, said targeting Wasserman Schultz for not supporting new sanctions legislation is misguided given her value to the pro-Israel community. "The bill is only a litmus test for the unsophisticated in the pro-Israel community," he said. "People can disagree on tactics, but Debbie is in a unique position as DNC chair and has the pro-Israel agenda deeply-rooted in her."
AIPAC's campaign in South Florida has also triggered rare anger towards the group on Capitol Hill, where some feel it has gone way too far.In reality, AIPAC is fanning partisan flames upon itself by using all its political might to oppose what the American public favors by a 2-1 margin: the Obama administration's diplomatic inroads with Iran.
"AIPAC has really over-reached on this one and alienated key allies on the Hill over what really boils down to a small tactical difference over sanctions timing," said a congressional aide who has worked closely with AIPAC. "It's hard to come to any other conclusion that they aren't deliberately flaming the partisan flames for their own political benefit."
There is no indication that AIPAC plans to ease up on its unrelenting, full-court press to derail America's diplomatic agreement with Iran. And the more it presses, the more it will fray long-standing relationships on Capitol Hill.
Will those fraying ties ever snap? That depends upon whether this latest sanctions bill fight is an aberration, or an indication of a new normal in an environment where boycotts and sanctions are beginning to squeeze Israel and the international community is moving more and more towards isolation as the settlements grow and the occupation wears on.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.