All Powerful AIPAC, or Just U.S. Imperialism?

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is welcomed to the stage by AIPAC President Michael Tuchin during the committee's annual policy summit last June. Image source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images via Truthout

It has recently made the news that AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has put a political hit out on a few members of Congress who have been outspoken critics of the state of Israel and of U.S. government support for Israel’s decades-long occupation and oppression of Palestine and its people. AIPAC spent $50 million to influence the elections of 2022, but is now expected to spend far more on the 2024 presidential election cycle – $100 million. This money pays for a variety of pro-Zionist activities, from huge donations to politicians and political action committees that donate to and then lobby those same politicians (both Democrats and Republicans), to a variety of pro-Israel propaganda events and campaigns aiming to convince the public that the state of Israel is somehow the victim of Arabs or Palestinians. AIPAC and a handful of other pro-Zionist organizations (United Democracy Project, Democratic Majority for Israel and others) are extremely influential.

No one should minimize the threat that this kind of lobbying poses. But to chalk up the long history of diehard U.S. support for Israel to effective lobbying and lots of campaign money misses the point of what Israel does for the United States government and its capitalist imperatives.

The U.S. government supports Israel not because of AIPAC or any conspiracy-like lobbying, but because of what the Israeli state does to advance the needs of U.S. imperialism in the region and even worldwide. On this point, the words of one scholar, Joseph Massad, are worth quoting at length:

Israel has indeed been very effective in rendering services to its U.S. master for a good price, whether in channeling illegal arms to Central American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, helping pariah regimes like Taiwan and apartheid South Africa in the same period, supporting pro-US, including Fascist, groups inside the Arab world to undermine nationalist Arab regimes, from Lebanon to Iraq to Sudan, coming to the aid of conservative pro-US Arab regimes when threatened as it did in Jordan in 1970, and attacking Arab nationalist regimes outright as it did in 1967 with Egypt and Syria and in 1981 with Iraq when it destroyed that country’s nuclear reactor.

While the US had been able to overthrow Sukarno and Nkrumah in bloody coups, Nasser remained entrenched until Israel effectively neutralised him in the 1967 War. It is thanks to this major service that the United States increased its support to Israel exponentially. Moreover, Israel neutralised the PLO in 1982, no small service to many Arab regimes and their US patron who could not fully control the organisation until then. None of the American military bases on which many more billions are spent can claim such a stellar record.

United States imperialism needs Israel, and that is why Israel gets nearly $4 billion in annual aid from the United States and its unflinching support for even genocidal atrocities committed against Palestinian people, including children. Israel acts as the U.S. military base and attack dog in the Middle East, and has done that dirty work for U.S. capitalism’s interests in the region for decades.

But don’t trust us. Look at what then Senator Joe Biden said in 1986, in what must be one of the clearest statements of U.S. imperial interests ever uttered. He said that annual U.S. aid to Israel was…

…the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the U.S. would have to invent an Israel to protect our interests in the region.