First of all, let me repeat that I agree with many of the Jewish groups that objected to Tom Friedman’s column asserting that Congressional support for Israel is ”bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
But is it really in the self-interest of a pro-Israel PAC to join the chorus of disapproval? You are not in a great position to criticize a critic of money’s role in the shaping of foreign policy if your whole reason for being is to raise money for the campaigns of friendly politicians.
I got this from Norpac, the pro-Israel PAC in Northern New Jersey:
Mr Friedman attributes the Congressional standing ovations for PM Netanyahu, to the money of the pro-Israel lobby of America. It is true that Americans who believe in Israel support members of Congress who also believe in strong US-Israel relations. What Friedman misses is that it is an easy sell. The oil industry and its lobby generate more money in one hour than all the friends of Israel in a year. They would get nowhere with an anti-Israel agenda, because no one will listen. Support for the Jewish homeland speaks to the heart of the American people and their representatives. It’s not the money stupid, it’s the issue.
But it’s a little bit about the money, isn’t it? Why else would we need pro-Israel PACs?
Here’s how Norpac describes itself on its web page (the emphases are mine):
NORPAC is a non-partisan political action committee whose primary purpose is to support candidates and sitting members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the strength, security, and survival of Israel. With the constant turnover in Congress, we cannot take a strong U.S.-Israel relationship for granted. It is only through our continued active involvement that we can help assure that the issues of importance to our community get the attention and support they deserve.
Funding is often of critical importance to the ultimate success of a candidate’s campaign. Perhaps of equal, or even greater, importance is the moral support as well as the personal relationships that NORPAC and its members provide. Examples of this kind of support include: educating candidates on important issues, connecting like-minded Members of Congress on a particular project, and simply assuring that a public position taken is appreciated within our community.
These efforts have resulted in a strong U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress and, in particular, the shaping of important and concrete pro-Israel policies emanating from Washington.
Friedman’s column shades into hostile territory by asserting that the politicians who support Israel (and welcome donations from groups like Norpac) would be tougher on Israel if not for that money. I don’t know if that is true, and neither does Friedman. The truth is, as Norpac says, “support for the Jewish homeland speaks to the heart of the American people and their representatives.” Although they more than undercut their message when they write,
It is only [emphasis added] through our continued active involvement that we can help assure that the issues of importance to our community get the attention and support they deserve.
P.S. Norpac makes a pretty dumb claim in response to Friedman’s complaints about women being forced to sit in the back of Israeli buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. According to Norpac:
Mr. Friedman assumes that this is disrespect. Mr. Friedman, the rear of the bus is safer in the event of an accident or terror attack. I guess Mr. Friedman also prefers child car seats in the front, so the kids will have better self esteem, provided they survive an accident.
Oh, please. Perhaps it’s not quite the same as the Jim Crow south, but does anyone really believe the haredim send women to the back as a safety measure? Perhaps they spit on women carrying Torah scrolls to warn them about hurting their backs.