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Muslim American Group Criticizes AIPAC’s influence over Congress

By Muslim New Magazine

LOS ANGELES,CA, ( 2/13/19) — On Monday, Rep. Ilhan Omar issued an apology statement after Democratic Leadership condemned a recent tweet in which Rep. Omar criticized the influence of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over Congress.

In a sharp response, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) issued a strong statement addressing what it calls a double-standard in U.S. foreign policy. The group claims that when human rights are at stake, a healthy democracy must have difficult conversations.

"The challenge with addressing the United States’ relationship with Israel is that, once a critical lens is turned on Israeli policies that violate international human rights norms and laws, one becomes a target of being labeled an anti-Semite. On the flip side, when Muslims and Muslim-majority countries are placed under the same rubric, little sensitivity is offered to how they are represented or whether criticism is playing on tropes about Islam. Being critical of a foreign government should not necessitate a condemnation from the Speaker of the House. Additionally, a debate on our system of politics and PAC money is healthy. Such debate includes that over the influence of gun, oil and gas, and defense lobbyists over our policymakers, and it ought to include one over AIPAC’s influence.

Any conflation of anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel becomes a major obstacle to having healthy debate which would craft policy solutions for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Harvard University and University of Chicago political scientists, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, took up this complex and politically fraught topic in their 2007 book, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.” In it, they engaged in an academic study of the lobby’s influence on American foreign policy and its negative effect on American and Israeli interests.

The conflation and confusion around this of an already nuanced and complex issue demonstrates how ill-prepared Congress is to engage substantively in such debate. Case in point, the statement issued by Democratic Leadership directly involves the Palestinian people but nevertheless makes no explicit mention of Palestine or Palestinians, nor their stake in the peace process. Having a close political relationship with a country should not mean that the country gets let off the hook when it comes to criticism over policy, like when Israel builds settlements which are illegal under international law. Not only have these violations been normalized over the years, but so too has been the silence over these violations and the erasure of the Palestinian people who suffer as a result.

In the past, people like Michelle Alexander, Noam Chomsky, Dan Kurtzer and Jimmy Carter have experienced pushback for criticizing the priority enjoyed by Israel over the American people. In fact, in 2006, then-Senator Chuck Hagel said “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator,” and was condemned by his fellow colleagues. Nuance has been replaced by emotion, and substantive policy conversations have taken a backseat as a result. At the end of the day, there is still the occupation and a series of violations which won’t be resolved over Twitter, but need to be addressed through policy."

Muslim News Magazine (MNM) is a multi-media news organization serving America's mainstream Islamic community. Our web-based platform offers news, movies and TV series designed for, and about today's Muslim American.