Do you remember the Monty Python skit, “News for Parrots“?
No parrots were involved in an accident on the M-1 today when a lorry carrying high-octane fuel was in collision with a bollard…A spokesman for parrots said he was glad no parrots were involved.
So, here’s the trade policy news for peace advocates. On Friday, the pro-war lobbying organization AIPAC was defeated on the floor of the US House of Representatives by a vote of 126 to 302. Among Democrats, 40 supported the pro-AIPAC position and 144 opposed it. Among Republicans, 86 supported the pro-AIPAC position and 158 opposed it.
The pro-AIPAC position in the House vote was to support the Senate’s language on Trade Adjustment Assistance. Under the voting procedures passed by the House Republican leadership, a yes vote in the House on the Senate’s TAA language was necessary in order for the House to pass the Senate’s version of fast track trade negotiating authority to pre-approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership. When TAA was defeated in the House, fast track was defeated in the House.
The Senate’s version of fast track trade negotiating authority contained an AIPAC-sponsored provision making it US policy to oppose European restrictions on trade with illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.
So when fast track was defeated in the House, AIPAC was defeated in the House.
Of course, AIPAC and its principal champion, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, lied about their motivations for sponsoring this provision, pretending that the provision was about opposition to “boycotting Israel,” dodging any discussion of that fact that the AIPAC legislation defined “Israeli-controlled territories” in the Palestinian West Bank as equivalent to “Israel.”
The AIPAC provision was intended to make it US policy that illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are an intrinsic part of “Israel.” Of course, if illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank were an intrinsic part of Israel, then the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem would be impossible. And of course, that is AIPAC’s goal: preventing the emergence of an independent Palestinian state by any means necessary. AIPAC’s support of the illegal settlements is a means to a goal; AIPAC’s goal is preventing Palestinian independence.
When Oxfam severed its ties with the actress Scarlett Johansson after she contracted to be a spokesperson for an Israeli company that operated in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, here’s what Oxfam wrote:
Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.
Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.
Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
Less than a year later, SodaStream announced that it was ending its operations in the West Bank.
Now Ahava Cosmetics, under similar pressure to SodaStream, is reportedly considering pulling out of the West Bank.
This is the successful activism that AIPAC was trying use its power in Congress to shut down. This was the motivation behind the AIPAC provision that was defeated in the House on Friday.
I am frequently asked: How powerful is AIPAC in Washington really?
My answer: not so powerful that it cannot be beaten – if we choose our battles correctly.