America's new Christian Zionists
Transcript of a BBC program
This is a transcript of the BBC News audio titled "A LOBBY TO RECKON WITH."
From this, we see that the engine driving the U.S. and Israel into an all out world conflagration is -- along with the money from the Jewish political action committees which control the U.S. Congress -- the Christian Zionists, as they are now calling themselves. Judeo-Christian wasn't quite 'Jewish' enough. Now they are Christian Zionists or Zionist Christians. What an oxymoron, and what a spit-in-the-face of Jesus.
As you read or listen to this BBC broadcast NOTICE:
1) The political pressure wielded by the 'religious right'.
2) The admission that AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee), with links to many heavily-funded Jewish Political Action Committees (PACs), literally controls the U.S. Congress.
3) The incident when Bush demanded that Israel stop its incursions against the Palestinians and withdraw from areas they had taken, immediately! Sharon ignored the demand and Bush backed down. It was a not-so-subtle message to any who have ears to hear and eyes to see --- who REALLY controls the U.S. Government.
(Another not-so-subtle message to the whole world, of Israeli power, was the announcement by the UN that it was going to 'investigate' the massacre at Jenin. Ariel Sharon told them to back off... stay out! And they did.
The announcer on the BBC production is Stephen Sackur (indicated by the letter 'A'), BBC's Washington Correspondent. Some of the names may be mis-spelled; however they will be close enough to identify the person.
July 16, 2002
Analysis: America's new Christian Zionists
Christian Americans Lobbying for Israel
The Jewish lobby has long been perceived as a powerful influence on US foreign policy but, as BBC Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur reveals, Israel has found new support from American Christians.
Since 11 September, support among Americans for Israel has grown massively as many now see the Middle East conflict as the frontline in the US "War on Terror".
Joining well-established Jewish lobby groups in America is a new and powerful phenomenon - Christian Zionism.
There are an estimated 40 million Christian Conservatives in America and they may be in a position to wield unprecedented influence in support of Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu: "We will stand with Israel we will stand for freedom. God bless all of you! God bless America! And Israel!!"
A: Thousands of miles away Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a deadly embrace. Here in Washington, D.C. in the shadow of the U.S. Congress tens of thousands of American Jews have gathered to show solidarity with Israel.
And the scene here is a testament to their organization and their commitment. They come from California, from Brooklyn and Boston, from Indiana and Florida by bus and by plane with their T-shirts, banners and their placards.
And from all of the people here there seems to be one simple message: "America and Israel United Against Terrorism".
Benjamin Netanyahu: "We will win this war! We will secure our states! And we'll preserve our liberty! A cause that has once again made America, Israel and the defenders of freedom the last, best, hope on earth. WE SHALL WIN! Thank you very much! All of you!!!" (wild cheering)
A: Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dispatched to America by his great political rival, Ariel Sharon. His mission: to tighten the ties that bind the United States to Israel. This pro-Israel rally on Capitol Hill was the biggest ever seen in America.
Speaker to A: "This is how powerful our voice is, because we want people to listen and to hear what we have to say about this issue. It's important to show and make a statement: that we stand together; that we support the state of Israel; that Israel is necessary for our country -- our country's survival and for my survival."
A: Significantly it was by no means an exclusively Jewish crowd. Some of the most outspoken support for Israel today is coming from Christian Conservatives. From the podium, Janet Parschall, a leading voice on the Religious Right, made one thing clear -- support for Israel is now a litmus test for those who claim to be America's Moral Majority:
Parschall: "We represent millions of Christian broadcasters in this country. We stand with you NOW, and for EVER!!!"
A: It's time to revise one of the oldest stereotypes in American politics -- the power of the Jewish lobby. Today it's not the Jewish lobby which counts. It's the pro-Israel lobby. And the difference is crucial. Two of the most formidable organizational networks in America - the Jewish Establishment and the Christian Right -- have joined forces. Together, they can penetrate deep into the body politic.
Parschall: "We stand together with our Jewish brothers and sisters and as God said to Joshua: 'Stand firm. Be courageous'. That is our message from God today. We will stand firm; we will be courageous; and next year ..... in Jerusalem!!! God bless us!!!!" (wild cheering)
A: In Washington, it's the age of absolutes: 'Good against Evil. Us against them.' In the post-September 11th world, American Jews and Evangelical Christians made common cause.
Investigating the pro-Israel lobby is a sensitive enterprise, especially at a time when many Jews are convinced the world -- that is, the non-American world -- is against them. Nonetheless, understanding the lobby matters -- enormously -- because U.S. policy in the Middle East could well make the difference between WAR and PEACE.
(church choir singing)
To appreciate the scale and reach of America's affinity for the Jewish state, I went to Church. The Cornerstone Church. A stadium-sized arena in San Antonio Texas, where ten thousand born-again believers answer God's call every Sunday morning. Had Cecil B. DeMill been a preacher, THIS would have been his kind of church. A mass choir, a deafening band and every theatrical moment captured by six television cameras beaming the experience direct to millions of homes across America.
The stars and stripes hangs on one side of the Cornerstone's stage. On the other side -- a star of david. For the pastor here, John Hagee, loyalty to Israel is an article of faith.
"God entered into an eternal covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that the nation of Israel would belong to the Jewish people forever; and forever means two thousand and two, three thousand and two, four thousand and two --- because forever is forever. Jerusalem is the eternal capitol of the Jewish state -- not since Camp David but since King David. That's three thousand years ago. (cheering)
"Let us send a signal to the Arab states who are now threatening America with the oil factor. Let me say this loud and clear to OPEC: CHOKE!!! on your oil!! (cheering from Zionist Christians).
"We will ride the bus or bicycles -- but when push comes to shove, we're NOT for sale and we're going to stand with Israel through thick and thin until terrorists and terrorism are crushed.!!" (wild cheering)
Church attendee to A: "My name's Terry Thompson. Now that I've come to know the Lord I understand that the nation of Israel and its borders were... the parameters were set up by God, and so I'm an impassioned - if you will - a Zionist for Israel."
A: Now, do you feel strongly enough on this issue to make it something you'll be active on; where you'll actually have input into the political system?
Thompson: "Yes. Strongly enough to do that with my vote of course, but also with my dollars. We are Christian Zionists, and we'll voice that 'til our death."
A: Pastor Hagee, you're a... Christian evangelist. You wanna bring people -- to Christ, and... in the end Israel is the Jewish state. People are gonna say, "Why does the pastor care for, and have so much sympathy for, the Jewish state?"
Hagee: "Yes. We understand that the Jewish state was something that's borned in the mind of God, and we are a people who believe the scripture and the scripture says very clearly that God created Israel; that God is the protector and the defender of Israel. If God created Israel; if God defends Israel, is it not logical to say that those who fight with Israel are fighting with God?
"We are seeing, in my judgment, the birth pangs that will be called in the future, the beginning of the end. I believe, in my mind, that the Third World War has begun.
"I believe that it began on 9-11. I believe that we are going to see an escalation of the Islamic influence all over the earth. And at that point in time, God, in his sovereign grace, is going to stand up and to defend Israel and the enemies of Israel are going to be decimated."
A: Some people listening will be concerned that such is the... black-and-white, good-against-evil view... of the global confrontation that you're talking about... that it's inflammatory; it's dangerous.
Hagee: "Well, it's not dangerous. When you know the future there's no reason to consider it inflammatory. It's going to happen."
A: In your office, and in the library beyond there are so many pictures of you greeting Israeli prime ministers from the past and of course the present prime minister of Israel. Tell me, how close are your contacts? With the Israeli government?
Hagee: "Well, if I phone Israel I can get in contact with most anyone that I want to talk to."
A: Pretty much straight away?
Hagee: "Straight away".
(choir singing: "I will cling to the old rugged cross....)
A: Christian Conservative leaders across America are singing from the same pro-Israel hymn sheet, and the Israeli government appreciates their loyalty. Benjamin Netanyahu recently went down to Texas to visit the Cornerstone Church. These links matter, not only because forty-million Americans describe themselves as 'Christian Conservatives', but also because the Religious Right is HIGHLY organized with a POWERFUL influence inside the Republican party, all the way up to the White House.
Back in Washington, I went to see Gary Bauer, once a Republican presidential candidate, now one of the conservative movement's most influential activists.
Gary Bauer: "The growth in America in churches has been among evangelicals. Those denominations tend to lean much more toward the idea that we must stand with other free democratic nations around the world in conflicts like this one."
A: And right now, would you say that there is a national network of evangelical-based groups who are truly radicalized, engaged, energized by what's going on?
Bauer: "Yeah. I would use the word 'energized' rather than radicalized. I have an e-mail that I send to about a hundred thousand people around the country at the end of each day. When I started criticising the administration on its policy toward the Middle East in the last three weeks...."
A: For not being..... strongly supportive enough...
Bauer: "Exactly. I was inundated with hundreds and hundreds of e-mails back saying, 'You're absolutely right. Keep the pressure on the White House', and so forth."
A: Would you say that you view this within the prism... of... the next.... major.... clash of civilizations?
Bauer: "I do personally believe that there IS a clash of civilizations. The war that the United States is involved in post 9-ll. That same war in its own way is also being fought between Israel and the surrounding countries that I think not only hate Jews, but hate Western civilization and Western values generally."
A: The past eighteen months have produced an extraordinary confluence of events which has changed the complexion of the pro-Israel lobby. Israel has a right-wing prime minister and is engaged in a war - of sorts - with the Palestinians. The United States has a conservative president who's declared a global war on terror.
Jim Zogby is head of the Arab-American Institute. He spends much of his time pitching the Arab perspective on Capitol Hill. But he says the ideological hawks, so-called neo-conservatives -- Christian and Jewish -- are in the ascendant as never before.
Zogby: "It's a remarkable coming together of ideological currents, two of which -- the religious right and the neo-cons -- share both the Manacheaistic view of the world - good and evil - absolute in their structure of thought, and also because of this absolutism, believe in a kind of apocalyptical end, final battle that must take place between good and evil. It's dangerous. But it is driving the debate right now in the Republican party, and in some ways driving the debate in the Hill."
M.C. at Washington gathering: "Ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to present a founder of the state of Israel and a relentless pursuer of peace: Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon."
A: The scene: The ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel. Out of the gloom the not inconsiderable bulk of the Israeli prime minister is projected onto a video screen. Live. From Jerusalem. His audience, clapping 'til their hands hurt, hard-core pro-Israeli activists. Since the second Palestinian Intifada began in the autumn of 2000, but particularly since the wave of suicide bomb attacks this year, the Jewish-American establishment has mobilized in defense of Israel. For the first time in a generation, there's widespread talk of a threat to the very survival of the Jewish State.
Ariel Sharon - to attendees: "We need you more than ever. You have strengthened the friendship between Israel and the United States; a friendship based on the shared values of freedom, democracy and the sanctity of life."
A: Ever since the six-day war of 1967, the U.S. committed has itself to maintaining Israel's military edge. Around three-billion dollars of American tax-payer's money goes to the Jewish state every year, making it far and away Washington's biggest aid recipient.
Israel could get by without the civilian aid, but NOT without American military hardware. The obvious question is "WHY? Why does America so consistently and generously support Israel?"
Strangely, it's a question that rarely gets asked in Washington. So when I asked it of Congressman Robert Wexler, Democrat and vociferous champion of Israel he had the air of a teacher addressing a particularly dense student.
Congressman Robert Wexler: "The United States appreciates the history from which Israel was created. They realize that the Jewish people were granted a homeland; and that that homeland is the only spot on earth where Jewish people, as they've been thrown out of other nations since 1948, are able to go; and it's a democratic nation. And it's a freedom-loving people. And they're very decent people. And they deserve to have a free and secure state."
A: Congressman, you know there are some people who look at the building just to our left -- the U.S. Capitol -- and describe it as "Israeli occupied territory". They believe that there's no fairness, there's no balance in the position taken by U.S. Congressmen-- that you are bought and paid for by Israel. How do you respond to that?
Wexler: "It's somewhat laughable that a nation as great and as big as the United States could even arguably be controlled by a nation of five million people, with relatively little resources, in the context of the world. Americans identify, empathize, and are just solid - rock solid - with the people of Israel. And the more Israel is threatened, the more America gets engaged."
A: We're entering dangerous territory. The place where, for generations, Israel's enemies have spread wild accusations of Jewish plots and conspiracies; the charge is based less on fact, more on virulent anti-Semitism. It's not that the Jewish lobby doesn't exist. It does. But you have to understand the context in which it works.
Malcolm Honlein: "The fact is that the American people support the issues we represent, and the stance that we take. Not because we say so, but because they believe so."
Malcolm Honlein was recently described as the most influential private citizen in U.S. foreign policymaking. He actually runs an umbrella organization called the "Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations". In effect, he wields the clout of the American-Jewish establishment. When he calls, the White House listens, and the same goes for the Israeli prime minister.
Honlein: "We can speak to leaders of the United States, associates of the present people in the White House, or the State Department, because they know that what we have to say is usually of value."
A: The question is whether you have disproportionate influence in this system because of the way the system works.
Honlein: "People look for sinister motivations and all sorts of conspiratorial approaches which are non-existent. The reason that Americans support the policies the U.S. has, and that why Congress by overwhelming majorities, support Israel, is because they believe in it. It's because they agree with it because the cause resonates with them. They understand what Israel has gone through. And especially since 9-11, even more so the American people identify with Israel's plight; and they understand that ISRAEL'S war is the forefront of OUR battle."
A: Malcolm Honlein's got a point. Opinion polls show that Americans consistently express more basic sympathy for the Israelis than the Palestinians. But it's the kind of broad, relatively shallow support that doesn't necessarily have much political significance. After all, for most Americans, the middle East issue isn't going to decide their vote. And while it might for the six-million American Jews, they make up just two percent (2%) of the U.S. population.
The truth is, American politics isn't driven by generalized, mild sentiment, but by activism. And that is where the greatest power of the American-Jewish Community lies. M. J. Rosenberg, of the left-of-center Israel Policy Forum:
Rosenberg: "Bedrock support of anything doesn't produce anything in Washington. It's activists who produce things. It's lobbyists. It's CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS. I mean, you all know how Washington WORKS! Unorganized sentiment means NOTHING in Washington. Only organized sentiment, only intelligently utilized sentiment. You gonna compare that to: 'Oh, well, seventy-two percent of Americans, if given a choice between Israel and the Arabs say, We like Israel. We saw the movie, Exodus, with Paul Neuman'. That doesn't do anything. It's organization. "
Nachum Segal: "We are celebrating Yom Ha-Atzmut, Israel Independence Day!! Fifty-four years!! Where? The best place for any celebration having to do with Israel -- J.M. in the A.M."
A: This is Israeli Independence Day. And THAT is a big deal on America's most popular Jewish radio program: 'J.M. in the A.M.' -- Jewish moments in the morning. Broadcasting from New Jersey and reaching much of New York City, presenter, Nachum Segal, taps into the energy that courses through the nation's biggest, most diverse Jewish Community.
Segal: "Let's keep the momentum going after the big Washington rally on Monday. Also, today, at 12 noon, the Israeli consulate are holding a Yom Ha-Atzmut celebration on the street! Get out there and celebrate."
A: But it's the violence in Israel that dominates much of the free-flowing conversation on JM in the AM.
Segal: "You're live on the air." (inaudible Jewish phrase)
Caller: (same phrase) "I wanna wish the state of Israel a very happy Yom Ha-Atzmut situation, and I wanna say to those who may be listening, who are in the cabinet: 'You've got the football on the one-yard line. Please don't fumble it. Okay?' "
Segal: "I love the sports reference, Dave. Thank you very, very much."
Caller: "Maybe George Bush will get more into it with that sports reference".
A: Presenter, Nachum Segal, is a six-foot, four-inch bear of a man. A committed religious Zionist. He intersperses political commentary with references to the Torah and Jewish history. But his basic message to listeners is simple: "Get involved".
Segal: "We try as best as possible to energize our people to participate in this. I think.... that for many years, many of the people in our community around this country have NOT been involved in this process. But NOW, because of the situation, and because we've been able -- with avenues like this radio show -- we've been able to energize them. I think we see a lot more are getting involved."
Speaker to a group (background): "... of seven hundred people." (clapping)
A: The most loyal foot-soldiers of Jewish-American activism are in Washington, for the annual conference of the key pro-Israel lobby group: AIPAC -- the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. Out of a national membership of sixty-thousand, four thousand are here. A record turnout. And most are heading to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress on Israel 's behalf.
David Meltzer: "My name is David Meltzer. I'm from Tucson, Arizona. We're gonna meet with all the legislators from our state and we're going to brief them on the issues and do our very best to get them to agree with our viewpoint."
A: AIPAC's power has become the stuff of Washington legend. Fortune Magazine consistently puts it in the top five special interest groups. No other foreign-policy-based lobby group gets into the top twenty-five.
Cynics describe America as the 'best democracy money can buy', and that's not the falt of AIPAC. But there is no doubt that AIPAC - just like the gun lobby or the oil industry -- uses its resources and political muscle with maximum efficiency.
J.J. Goldberg, author of the book, Jewish Power :
Goldberg: "AIPAC has a lot of influence on foreign policy. They work hard to make sure that America endorses, pretty much, Israel's view of the world and of the middle East. They do it partly by convincing, partly by implied threats. AIPAC does not raise money for candidates, but there are Jewish PACs that raise money for...."
A: Political Action Committees...
"... Political Action Committees that raise campaign funds for candidates. Four or five times over the last twenty years these PACs have gone after members of Congress who voted in ways that AIPAC didn't like. They flooded their opponents with money and enabled them to beat the incumbents. Sent a message that: 'If you really go against AIPAC you'd better know where your next dollar's coming from.'
"So that - as I've been told by a number of congressional aids over the last few years -- 'If the Congressman doesn't vote against Arafat they'll pay a price. If they DO vote against Arafat, there's no price to be paid. There's no percentage for the member of Congress to stand up for peace for compromise. Nobody's going to reward them. They'll be punished'."
A: The bottom line is this: AIPAC has an ENORMOUS impact on Capitol Hill. When it comes to Israel, one congressional staffer told me in private, "You'll find a greater plurality of views, and more freedom of thought in the Israeli Knesset than you will in Congress".
Darrell Issa, a young representative from California, a Lebanese Christian American was one of the few congressmen prepared to talk to me, on the record. First, he pointed to the steady stream of staunchly pro-Israel resolutions passed by Congress; purely symbolic, maybe. But still telling:
Congressman Issa: "When you have these resolutions, there's been a tradition of: 'Why cross the Israeli lobby for something that isn't going anywhere other than inside the House, and maybe on to some newspapers in the middle East', and that has been historically very much that way. I, myself, voted along with the vast majority of the members of Congress to congratulate Sharon on being elected prime minister."
A: Do you * support Sharon?
Issa: "I think Sharon has gone over the top in his entire career. I think he represents the worst of Israeli politics, not the best."
A: Then why did you... do that?
Issa: "It really wasn't worth being one of the few that was going to not congratulate a head of state."
A: AIPAC, for all its political clout is media shy. I was allowed to visit their heavily secured offices, close to the U.S. Congress, but I wasn't allowed to interview any of their top executives. Instead, I had a conversation with AIPAC's spokeswoman, Rebeca Needler.
Does AIPAC, in effect, intimidate members of Congress?
Needler: "We do not... like some lobbying groups, put out cards with standards about members of Congress. We don't rate their performance."
A: You do. I mean, internally you do.
Needler: "We don't put out cards about their performance; we don't..."
A: But internally, you have a very clear knowledge of who votes how on middle Eastern issues...
Needler: "CLEARLY, we have our issues we're advocating for. We believe, on the Hill, we have friends and we have potential friends; and that's the way we look at it."
A: What about enemies?
Needler: "We have friends, and we have potential friends; and that's the way we look at it."
A: There are no enemies?
Needler: "We have friends, and we have potential friends; and that's the way we look at it."
A: Throughout the day, the suited delegations march up and down the Capitol Hill corridors, where members of Congress keep their sprawling offices. They are lobbyists. Slick professionals, cajoling, persuading, and sometimes -- very politely -- trying to intimidate the nation's politicians.
For symbolic effect, most members keep their outer-office doors open; but when it comes to the middle East issue, some lobbyists find the doors here more open than others. Now, with me is Khalid Turaani, director of the pressure group, American Muslims for Jerusalem. What kind of access... what kind of open doors do you find on Capitol Hill? Is it easy for you to get your message to the people that matter?
Khalid Turaani: "Yes, the doors are always open; but the minds that (laugh) rarely are... it is really an uphill battle, especially with the effort on the other side that is very well financed, very well organized."
A: A lot of people here would say that, in the end, the strong support for Israel in this place, on Capitol Hill, is a reflection of shared values... that basically most Americans, like most American politicians... (being interrupted) sympathize with Israel...
Turaani: "They sympathize with Israel, but about the shared values: I'm not sure Americans share the values of oppressing people; share the values of the atrocities that are being committed against the Palestinians. However, the Israelis and the pro-Israel groups here that have disproportionate power and influence try to convince Americans that 'we share these values with you', and 'our fight is your fight'... and I think not only are they wrong, but they are also dishonest about it."
A: That kind of language finds few echos on Capitol Hill, or indeed, anywhere else that matters, in Washington, D.C. It's not that the officials in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon are entirely united behind Ariel Sharon. It's simply that the pro-Israel lobby, with all its resources can apply heavy, sustained, political pressure whenever it needs to.
George W. Bush: "The world finds itself at a critical moment. This is a conflict that can widen, or an opportunity we can seize." [or cease. the word was pronounced 'cease' although it doesn't seem to fit with the context of the sentence. Transcriber note]
A: Cast your mind back to April the 4th, this year (2002). A key moment in the recent history of America's engagement in the middle East. President Bush reversed course. After a year and a half of studied nonintervention, he placed himself squarely at the center of efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian violence. The president condemned Yasser Arafat's failed leadership, but THEN... he turned to the Israelis:
Bush: "I ask Israel to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, and begin the withdrawal from those cities it has recently occupied."
A: Five days later. Major embarrassment for the president. Ariel Sharon ignored his request, which prompted growing signs of frustration in the oval office.
Bush: "First of all I meant what I said... to the prime minister of Israel. I expect there to be withdrawal without delay".
A: A potentially crucial test of the U.S.-Israel relationship was unfolding, so consider carefully what happened next.
Israel's loudest boosters in the U.S. Congress began to FUME about what they saw as a double standard on terrorism. The president's decision to send Colin Powell to talk to Yasser Arafat was seen as a betrayal. Elliot Engel, is a New York Congressman and a fierce Israel loyalist:
Congressman Elliot Engel: "I think it was a grave mistake to meet with Yasser Arafat."
A: Are you saying that the Bush team had lost the plot in their 'clear message against terrorism'?
Engel: "Yes. I think when you sit down with an unrepentant terrorist, you lose the clarity. And I'll tell you what else I think. I think if you took a poll of members of Congress you will find that most people would agree with me."
John Hagee: "I was very disappointed with Mr. Powell going to see Yasser Arafat. Yasser Arafat has to go. Terrorism is a malignant cancer. You either get the cancer or the cancer gets you."
A: Pastor John Hagee, in Texas, and a host of other religious conservatives weighed in. The coup d'grace was delivered by a phalanx of Republican senators who invited that most articulate of Israeli hawks, Benyamin Netanyahu, to put into words what they were feeling:
Netanyahu: "Until last week I was absolutely certain that the United States would adhere to its principles and lead the free world to a decisive victory. Today, I too, have my concerns. I'm concerned that the state of Israel is being pressed to back down just when it is on the verge of uprooting Palestinian terror."
A: The White House was caught in a politically embarrassing pincer movement: the Congress, the Religious Right and the Jewish establishment 'encouraged' the president to modify his language toward Israel. A fortnight after his first dramatic intervention, he did:
Unknown person questioning Bush: "Do you believe that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace? And are you satisfied with his and his government's assurances that there was no massacre? In Jenin?"
Bush: "I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace."
A: Ariel Sharon a man of peace. That phrase sent an unmistakable sign to both Israel and the Palestinians. After days of high-stakes diplomatic maneuvering, George Bush backed away -- from a confrontation with the Israel government.
There are American Jews who would like to see the United States impose its will on Ariel Sharon. A hundred or so self-proclaimed 'peaceniks' gathered outside the State Department last month for a symbolic act of civil disobedience -- an illegal sitdown on the road. Their aim: to condemn the Israeli incursions in the West Bank and demand more active U.S. intervention.
In more optimistic times, a clear majority of American Jews favored the Oslo Peace Process. They rejoiced at the sight of the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn. But this event is a forlorn affair. Few people seem to be listening to the words of maverick, liberal Rabbi Michael Learned.
Rabbi Learned: "We hold to the deepest treatment of spiritual truth of the Jewish tradition: that every human being is created in the image of God, and that our commitment is that the blood of the Palestinian people is equally precious to the blood of the Jewish people and the blood of the Jewish people is equally precious to the blood of the Palestinian people."
A: The American Jewish community is far from monolithic. But, at a time when Israel is perceived to be under threat its clear where the momentum lies. The mainstream Jewish organizations, unswerving in their loyalty to the Israeli government, are fired up. Dissidents, like Jo Margolis, are simply --- fed up.
Jo Margolis: "It's always the loud people that you notice. You don't notice those who aren't. There are plenty of us, but we're in the woodwork because I think a lot of Jews when they get very frustrated and disgusted with what's happening in Israel, they physically... you don't hear from them. They drop off the scene."
A: So here we have a bazaar scene: Rabbi Michael Learned, three and a half hours after he began this act of civil disobedience is about to be put into a D.C. Metropolitan Police van. Behind him, the State Department business carries on as usual. Rabbi Learned is in handcuffs now, his pockets are being searched by the police. There he goes up the steps into the van. And this one small act of defiance is... effectively over.
Speaker to crowd at AIPAC Jamboree: "And now.... from the United States Senate... this evening we would have half of the United States Senate with us this evening (crowd cheering, clapping) from Colorado! Wayne Allard!! From Montana! Max Baucus!"
A: Back at the AIPAC lobby's Jamboree there is no room for subtlety. When it comes to political muscle-flexing, AIPAC is the Arnold Schwartzneger of the lobbying world. What other foreign-policy pressure group could parade HALF the U.S. Senate and ninety members of the lower House?
Speaker: "From Kansas... Sam Brownback!"
A: There's a key point here about substance as well as style, and it lies in the words addressed to delegates by Tom DeLay [Texas], Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, arguably the most powerful Republican in Congress. Delay believes America should abandon all notions of being * broker in the middle East.
Congressman Tom DeLay: "Given recent events in the historic record, we should reject the idea that the United States should serve in the middle East as a disinterested negotiator, charged with mediating between two good-natured nations, earnestly striving for peace. We cannot, we will not, we should not, act as a mere broker. We can't ask Israel to do less than we are now doing!" (clapping).
A: These, remember, the words of one of America's most powerful politicians. A Texas Republican. A key ally of the president. But on Israel, this born-again Christian has abandoned the center ground. He's line up with the Israeli hawks. He doesn't talk of the occupied west bank. He uses the language of the Jewish settlers: Judea and Sumeria.
DeLay: "I've toured Judea, Sumeria. I've walked the streets of Jerusalem. (clapping). I've stood on the Golan Heights. I didn't SEE any occupied territory. I saw ISRAEL!" (clapping, whistling)
A: The AIPAC activists lapped that up. And THAT says something important about the pro-Israel lobby. A great many American Jews have no sympathy with the DeLay world view. But the point is, ideological conservatives - Jewish and Christian - are dictating the agenda. Leading Jewish Liberals, like M. J. Rosenberg of the Israeli Policy Forum sound helpless.
M.J. Rosenberg: "It's more than damaging, as far as I'm concerned. It's frightening. Their alliance is really coming into play which is the radical Christian Right and those Jews who traditionally have been Democrats have been so pushed to the right -- or have been moved to the right -- that they're giving five standing ovations to Tom DeLay.
"If, in fact, this is indicative of a major shift, America will lose its ability to be an honest broker in the region. Completely. Because what you're gonna have is speeches like the Tom DeLay speech will become essentially, not just a speech that a majority leader of the House gives at AIPAC, but it could get to the point that... that's a speech a president will give."
A: The president. In the end it all comes back to him. A month ago George Bush committed himself to the tireless pursuit of middle East peace. But already his initiative seems short of breath. Perhaps he hadn't reckoned with the newly invigorated pro-Israel lobby. Or, perhaps his sympathies lie not a million miles from theirs. Either way, when it comes to America's role in the middle East, there is still - clearly - a lobby to reckon with.
Female voice: "A Lobby To Reckon With was presented by Stephen Sackur. The producer was Hugh Levinson."