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Some Congressional scholars, historians, and longtime observers of Congress are expressing dismay over what seems to have dramatically diminished the claimed, “World’s greatest deliberative body”.

by Franklin Lamb / My Catbird Seat

Millions of American voters were offended this week by the vulgar display on Capitol Hill which witnessed the annual rite of nearly 2/3?s of Members on Congress stumbling over one another at the annual AIPAC Conference in order to ingratiate themselves with their hosts and to protect their sinecures.

THE FLOOR LEADERS

Equally nauseating to many was what some on Capitol Hill are calling “Congressional Black Tuesday” when they assert Congress cheapened its status in American and foreign eyes and fouled itself by taking the role of undignified cheerleaders for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during his appearance before a joint session of Congress, an invitation normally reserved for august occasions and accomplished personages.

With 41 applause interruptions and 29 standing ovations, even with some appearing half-hearted and somewhat forced, Congress sent a message that the Legislative branch, increasinglyunder the control of a foreign power, and not the Executive branch, will continue to determine American policy toward Israel and the Middle East.

Some Congressional scholars, historians, and longtime observers of Congress are expressing dismay over what seems to have dramatically diminished the claimed, “World’s greatest deliberative body”.

Among those objecting to what they see as the corruption of Congress are an increasing number of the more than 18,000 Congressional staffers, many of whom work as many as 70 hours per week in their sometimes highly competitive jobs. Most Congressional staffers understand and respect the institution of Congress, know their Members politics, are aware of American interests in the Middle East and are fairly well informed on the Question of Palestine.

However, many are not happy and are beginning to rise up against what they are witnessing in their offices which is the increasing smothering of their erstwhile legislative aid roles by agents of Israel such as AIPAC. The latter are seen as increasingly preempting their roles and taking over some of their work by flooding their offices with position papers and then lobbying incessantly to see their ‘recommendations” implemented.

It is not always easy being a Congressional staffer and many have been and continue to be abused in various ways, some of which become public in an institution that values discretion and averting attention from their Members foibles. Yet working in Congress can be interesting and often rewarding work for those wanting to serve their constituents and help solve myriad problems on the local and federal level.

There is no shortage of access these days to friends and acquaintance who work on the Hill and whose work assignments include US Middle East policy.* *This longtime observer of Congress and former staffer has been somewhat pleasantly surprised by the strong reaction of some Congressional aides to last week’s events on the Hill and the rapid changes happening across the Middle East.

Congressional staff reactions to the Obama and Netanyahu AIPAC speeches and particularly the Israeli PM’s speech to Congress is strong and leads to the tentative conclusion that the effects the Arab Spring are being felt in both Houses of Congress as well as numerous support agencies such as the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress.

Many House and Senate staffers identify with those of similar age who have taken to the streets across the Middle East, who are thought of as courageous, smart and reasonable. They also understand that the Arab Awakening of 2011 is an historic game changer and they are often deeply sympathetic and supportive. Perhaps because of their knowledge of the issues, they express abhorrence to the Zionist falsehoods and disinformation that comes from AIPAC offices at the bottom of Capitol Hill and some of which were repeated by Netanyahu in their workplace.

Virtually all Congressional staffers who objected to Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress expressed rejection of his following assertions as ludicrously false:

  • “Of 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.”
  • “Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites, has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.”
  • “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.”
  • “In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six-Day War.”
  • “We have helped the Palestinian economic growth by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people, and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.”
  • “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
  • “They (Palestinians) continue to educate their children to hate.”
  • “A nuclear armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
  • *How Netanyahu received his “speech of a lifetime” ovations*

    Protester Rae Abileah

    Two staffers who work with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and who know the issue of Palestine very well and also how AIPAC operates on the Hill explained to this observer how Netanyahu’s “speech of a lifetime” was organized by AIPAC.

    Firstly, orders were issued that nothing was to be left to chance and they essentially succeeded, but for the protesting slogans shouted by Rae Abileah before AIPAC undercover security tackled her and she ended up in the hospital, groped, injured and under arrest.

    “Here is how Bibi got his “spontaneous” applause”, one and then the other explained. “AIPAC, as usual with visiting Israeli officials, edited his speech for most favorable local consumption. Marks were made at the end of intended applause lines for Bibi to highlight them verbally. Key Members such as Eric Cantor (R-VA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Harry Reid (D-NV) were designated as floor leaders and were seated in strategic locations in the Chamber. Once Bibi began his speech the floor leaders would leap up at the indicated cue phrases and begin to applaud enthusiastically. Quite naturally, others would follow either not wanting to appear impolite or to stand out and be noticed as not showing proper support for Israel and its Prime Minister.

    “In addition, AIPAC staffers who prowl congressional offices daily, let it be known that videos of the Members listening to Bibi would be kept on file and insinuated that how the Member’s performed during his speech to Congress would be taken into consideration when planning this summer’s Jewish fundraising events.

    One aide, who supports his boss’s “moderately pro-Palestinian positions”, defended his applause for Netanyahu with these words: “Look, my guy could not just sit there and be conspicuous. Of course he resents being forced to fake support for Israel’s insane policies that he believes harms our country. Believe me*,* many Members feel like him and many Hill staffers are disgusted by what we see. But the guy needs to keep his job to work on other issues like protecting Medicare and stopping home foreclosures. Plus not many of our constituents probably even watched him grovel on TV so it was kind of a freebie for us. What would you have done?”

    A surprising number of Congressional staffers explain that they feel they are stigmatized abroad and particularly in the Middle East as being part of the Israel lobby when they are not. One staffer explained: “This sounds arrogant but we who work in Congress know this subject much better than the general American public and when you understand the history of Palestine and its takeover by Europeans and the continuing ethnic cleansing of the rightful owners of the land, how do you think we feel? We feel the same as the Palestinians refugees spread all around the World feel. We* *are human beings too. Arab and foreign media often lump us with the Members of Congress, whereas in reality many of us are working for change.”

    One lady, whose job it is to summarize and update Arab-Israeli conflict developments for her boss who is a Senator from the Midwest explained that “sometimes AIPAC sees what I write and will contact and challenge me on my work that should be between me and my boss. Everyone knows that Members of Congress are regularly pressured and targeted by AIPAC. You should know that dozens of staffers have been fired from their jobs on the Hill during the 15 years I have been here. I may be next.” And then she added, “But until that day comes I will continue to support the Palestinian cause and work to change our foreign policy and see that it’s made in the USA and not in Tel Aviv.”

    Note:  Staffers could not be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    Image credits: All pictures taken from Uprooted Palestinian website.

    Franklin Lamb , a former Assistant Counsel of the US House Judiciary Committee at the US Congress and Professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon, earned his Law Degree at Boston University and his LLM, M.Phil, and PhD degrees at the London School of Economics. Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Lebanon. He is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon. He can be reached at: fplamb@gmail.com He is a regular contributor to My Catbird Seat, is doing research in Lebanon and can be contacted c/o fplamb@gmail.com. More from the author

11 Comments

  1. Solon on the 28. May, 2011 remarked #

    NPR White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro.

    NPR Congressional correspondent, Eli Shapiro

    NPR Supreme Court correspondent, Nina Tottenberg

    On the Media program producer and director, Brooke Gladstone (Jewish)

    C Span has nearly completely capitulated to Israelist domination or at least it’s apparent there are Israelist gatekeepers and enforcers. What slips through the Israel filters, ie calls to Washington Journal, are monitored by CAMERA and moderators are scolded, by name, for failure to sufficiently support the Israel line.

    A government by the people cannot work without a free flow of information. We don’t have that. Israelists control the information Americans receive. It’s hasbara, propaganda.

    “There is only one power which really counts. The power of political pressure. We Jews are the most powerful people on earth, because we have this power, and we know how to apply it.”
    –Vladimir Jabotinsky, Jewish Daily Bulletin, July 27, 1935

  2. Solon on the 28. May, 2011 remarked #

    How the Lobby Chills Middle East Debate

  3. Cold Wind on the 28. May, 2011 remarked #

    In the face of their obvious obeisance to all things Israel, the US Congress has become an obscenity. I repeat: the US Congress has become an obsenity.

    After people have repeated a phrase a great number of times, they begin to realize it has meaning and may even be true.
    H. G. Wells

  4. richard cardulla on the 29. May, 2011 remarked #

    Poor America, to be so poorly served by congress and when one thinks of America’s noble birth, brought about by such great men as our founding fathers, then kept alive by men like Lincoln durning the civil war, only to be fatally stabed in the back by this sicking bunch of weaklings who every week take their pay from Uncle Sam.
    America has made mistakes in the past, especially our involment in Vietnam, but does it really deserve this. A large, powerful country, full of natural resources, shedding its money and blood for a nation that treats it as a donkey, using to subjucate and rob its neighbors. And all with the help of its own elected officials.

  5. 9/11 researcher on the 29. May, 2011 remarked #

    They are ALL GUILTY of CRIMES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, by virtue of non-adherence to their Oath of Office they all took, swearing to Uphold and Defend the U.S. Constitution from all enemies, both FOREIGN and domestic (the only domestic enemies of the U.S. Constitution are those in that photograph).

    Fealty to Israel is a breach of that Oath they took. They should be indicted for TREASON, and once convicted, sentenced and punished accordingly. ALL OF THEM!

  6. Solon on the 29. May, 2011 remarked #

    C Span has capitulated to its zionist gatekeepers.
    CAMERA monitors C Span, among other media outlets, for correct and sufficient defense of the Israeli and Jewish narrative and no other. CAMERA publishes a list of comments made on C Span Washington Journal that do not meet CAMERA’s criteria of correct support for Jews and Israel, and scolds the
    C Span host for permitting the breach.

    So the appearance of this comment on CAMERA’s C Span monitor is instructive.

    The C Span guest was US Rep. Allen West of Florida’s (heavily Jewish) 22nd District; District 22 was the focal point for questionable voting in the 2000 presidential election in which George Bush was named victor by the Supreme Court. West is a retired military officer, having served in Iraq, among other postings.

    West’s 2010 candidacy for the office was a surprise, and the election contest very expensive — West raised and spent over $6.5 million. One of the three or four fundraising events was hosted by neocon Michael Ledeen and Barbara Ledeen.

    Within opening minutes of the C Span interview, the moderator mentioned a recent newsletter of West’s in which West called President Obama’s speech concerning Israel, “nefarious and malicious.” West strongly defended his use of those words about the President of the United States.

    Here’s the caller’s comment:

    Caller: Rene from King George, Virginia.
    Caller: “My husband is a retired Naval officer with 22 years of service.”

    Guest: “I thank you for this service, madam.”

    Caller: “We thank you. As a result we know about service and sacrifice. Sir, the 1968 or 1966 borders, whichever they are, have been the starting point in negotiations since the 1990′s. That starting point is nothing new. So, either you are ignorant of that fact or intellectually dishonest.

    In addition, it’s disgraceful for a military officer and Congressperson not to criticize a leader who comes on U.S. soil and talks to and about our President the way that Netanyahu did.

    Whichever side of the aisle you are on, and as a military figure, you should know that and using the term ‘nefarious’ when talking about our President is disrespectful, sir.”

    West responded to the Caller:

    Guest: “Well, I do not think it is disrespectful. I think it is a very careful assessment. Because when I look at the fact – why didn’t the President share the fact that he was going to say that with the Prime Minister? Why did he not show him that respect? We’re talking about our most valued and trusted ally. Look, let us understand something very simple. Every time that Israel has traded land, they have gotten more rockets, they have gotten more mortars, more attacks. You want to look at what happened with the Fogel family just recently. I tell you that’s some of the things that I do not want to see happen in the state of Israel.

    No president has ever talked about going to the 1967 border. That may have been a starting point, but no president has ever said we need to revert back to that point while we see this country nearly cut in half when people are saying right now that they continue to support terrorist activities.

    So, until we can negotiate from a position of power and position of strength, I do not think we should be supporting the peace process until we have a willful peace partner.

    I understand that maybe you are upset, but the thing I will always do is criticize policy. Once again, why do we allow a person such as President Ahmadinejad to come to our country when we know that this gentleman is doing the things that are promoting the death of our soldiers? So, I would like to see you being just as upset with Ahmadinejad as you seem to be upset about Netanyahu.”

    West’s response to the wife of a US Navy officer is loaded with zionist talking points, lies, ignorance, and deflections.

    Let’s talk about just one little deviation from reality, the requirement that Israel return to its 1967 borders.

    Jewish Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg spoke to Jewish groups in several US cities about two months ago, about his recent book, “The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977.” I attended one of those talks.

    The two major points that Gorenberg emphasized were these: One, the earliest Jewish settlers in Israel held the attitude that the rule of law did not apply to them; the important thing was to create the Jewish state, and the rule of law was regarded as secondary. Not only has that attitude of disdain for the rule of law persisted among Israeli Jewish people throughout Israel’s history, Gorenberg said, it has become a policy of the Israeli government: laws that apply to everybody else do not apply to Israeli Jews.
    To demonstrate that that policy prevails in Israel’s government, Gorenburg displayed on a 15 foot screen a Powerpoint image of the top secret legal memo that T. Meron presented to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, on September 14, 1967:

    “Jerusalem 13 Elul, 5727
    September 18, 1967

    Top Secret

    To: Mr. Adi Yafeh, Political Secretary of the Prime Minister
    From: Legal Counsel of the Foreign Ministry
    Re: Settlement in the Administered Territories

    As per your request . . . I hereby provide you a copy of my
    memorandum of September 14, 1967, which I presented to the
    Foreign Minister. My conclusion is that civilian settlement
    In the administered territories contravenes the explicit
    Provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    Sincerely,
    T. Meron”

    http://www.amazon.com/Accidental-Empire-Israel-Settlements-1967-1977/dp/0805082417/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306625005&sr=1-1#reader_0805082417

    In the talk, as in his book, Gorenberg elaborated on the ruses Israelis devised to end-run the legal demands of the memo — actions such as claiming that Israeli military barracks were in occupied territory, therefore, building in OT was legal.

    The second point that Gorenberg made is that by government decree, Israel has erased the Green line from all maps published in Israel, thereby erasing psychic memory of the existence and location of Israel’s boundaries.

    I refer once again to the words of Chas Freeman, which Debbie Menon brought to the attention of this blog. Freeman said,

    “the United States, once the principal champion of a rule-bound international order, has followed Israel in replacing legal principles with expediency as the central regulator of its interaction with foreign peoples. The expediently amoral doctrine of preemptive war is such an Israeli transplant in the American neo-conservative psyche. Neither it nor other deliberate assaults on the rule of law have been met with concerted resistance from Palestinians, Arabs, or anyone else, including the American Bar Association. The steady displacement of traditional American values – indeed, the core doctrines of western civilization – with ideas designed to free the state of inconvenient moral constraints has debased the honor and prestige of our country as well as Israel. ”

    Florida Rep. Allen West is among those who have chosen to emulate Israeli amorality in preference to a courageous defense of what used to be America’s hallmark: government by the rule of law.

  7. The Rev. Daphne Grimes on the 30. May, 2011 remarked #

    I am both horrified and ashamed of the Congressional scene during Netanyahu’s speech. I have seen first hand during visits over the past 50 years the injustice towards Palestinians, boh Israeli citizens and those in the occupied territories, with many visits to Gaza as well. Why the US is afraid to stand up to Israel, whose very position has relied on US military and economic support over the years, I do not know, when Israel defies the Geneva Convention, the UN, and the censure of most of the rest of the world for their actions. Israel talks of Iran’s supposed nuclear plans, when they alone hold a nuclear bomb arsenal themselves, which is never talked about. I would like to see a strong, peaceful and truly democratic Israel, but I do not see it moving that way under its present regime.

  8. COILIN OWENS on the 30. May, 2011 remarked #

    Seeing our elected representatives rise en masse so many times to applaud such unprecedented arrogance was nauseating. The arrest of Ratko Mladic but 48 hours later on a criminal record startling in its parallel with that patronized and advocated by Mr. Netenyahu should give food for thought, even to those half persuaded by Zionist-Israeli propaganda. That the US Congress would applaud a speech loaded with such Mladic-like sentiments and ambitions should call for a day of national reflection and repentance.

  9. Anthony Clifton on the 31. May, 2011 remarked #

    Americans do not have “representatives”, do not have a “republic” do not have “lawful money”, do not have “Justice”, but they do have the “Jewish narrative”…which starts like this…G*d is Jewish, and got Abram to change his name, and made Abraham “Jewish”, even G*d asks the Rabbi’s for permission to advance any agenda. Notwithstanding, G*d was never selected to serve in the Jewish Crackwhore “Congress”, the metaphysical junction box for fornicating demons. See The Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem – Author Issa Nakhleh. [http://www.palestine-encyclopedia.com/EPP/TheAuthor.htm] – Thanks for a report from Occupied Territory, many might consider the story of Lot’s wife, or Adoram.

  10. Frank on the 01. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    Not for nothing did that terrorist Christ call them the Synogogue of Satan!

  11. Alb on the 04. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    Bravo!! You have shown the world how useless America can be! You have no say in the world affairs.. Go back and work the fields slaves. Israel has ordered you to give them money like there’s no tomorrow and to shut up! USA is no longer “Viva United States of Israel”.

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