The United States is a sovereign country. That is sometimes hard to remember.
Illinois Senator Mark Kirk had a stroke in January. The serious neurological event sent him into surgery, where doctors excised two, tiny, damaged pieces of his brain. By all accounts, the senator is now in great recovery, his office releasing a video in May, which showed him walking on a treadmill and describing his eagerness to “get back to work”. Yet it appears that he has already got back to it.
At the end of last month, Kirk sponsored an amendment to a Senate appropriations bill, seemingly intent on stripping the United Nations Relief and Works Agency of some of its funding. His attempt to re-determine the definition of Palestinian refugees was met by stiff opposition from the State Department, but the senator prevailed – a considerable feat for a recovering patient.
The amendment requires the State Department to distinguish between and report on how many of those Palestinians who receive assistance from UNRWA were personally displaced from their homes as a result of the 1948 war, and those who are their descendants – which the UN agency continues to count as refugees, unable to return to their ancestral homes.
Ha’aretz reported that the senator had some help with his legislative burden, and not only from his deputy chief of staff, Richard Goldberg. It turns out that the amendment to the bill was first written by an Israeli politician. Einat Wilf, a member of the Israeli parliament, reportedly spent months working with current and former AIPAC employees, including Steve Rosen – who was once suspected by FBI agents of obtaining classified US government information and passing it on to Israeli officials – to deliver the language on Palestinian refugees to the US legislature.
In summary: a senator who suffered crippling neurological damage received legislation from an Israeli politician by way of AIPAC before he slipped it into a US bill that eventually became law. In other words, an Israeli politician helped write a US law. Then she boasted about it.
“I have nothing against the descendents of refugees and I’m not asking them to give up of their dream of returning,” Haaretz quoted Wilf as saying. “But if we want a two-state solution, UNWRA can’t continue to aid an inflation of refugees … It ends up harming peace.”
But that’s probably not worth getting overly excited about. Foreign politicians have always written laws for their US counterparts (not really). What they haven’t always done is finance US presidential races.
Sheldon Adelson is an American casino billionaire and owner of conservative Israeli daily newspaper Israel HaYom. He is famous for spending $10m on Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid. A veteran, he is also famous for saying, “the uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform”. In fairness, Adelson is not the only person in the US who thinks that wearing an Israeli uniform is terrific. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach – running for New Jersey’s ninth US Congressional district – recently gushed about his own relationship with the Israeli army.
Anyway, Adelson’s generous contribution to the Gingrich effort came after the then-candidate proclaimed that the Palestinians were an “invented” people. The campaign failed to convince Republicans that scandal and profligacy are good for the party, and when Gingrich failed, Adelson found a new champion. The New York Times reported that he offered an additional $10m to the Romney campaign. The money came after a suggestion that the billionaire may be willing to spend up to $100m to defeat Barack Obama.
To be sure, $100m is only 0.4 per cent of $25bn, Adelson’s estimated net worth. So this is also not a big deal, unless foreign money is what’s buying US democracy. In an interview condemning Adelson’s contributions, Senator John McCain said that “obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign”.
All the big money and Israeli interference is coming at a time when US neoconservatives are pushing hard for a new war. And they can only push as hard as they do because they have successfully purged the Republican Party of whatever sanity it possessed – a phenomenon Pat Buchanan recently highlighted.
The administration is reportedly fighting against a war with Iran. And to the president’s mind, the best way to do that is by embedding the Israelis in the US national security apparatus. For example, the head of the US delegation to the P5+1 non-proliferation talks recently flew from Baghdad to Tel Aviv. According to an unnamed US source, “we updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government”.
So, to summarise again: Israelis are helping write US laws, funding US campaigns, and helping craft US war-making policy.
What is left for Americans to do? Well, to fight the wars, of course.
Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American graduate student of Public Policy at Harvard University and co-editor of After Zionism (Saqi Books, July 2012).