The Presidential Audition Goes to AIPAC
Tightening Up a “Special Relationship” to Enforce a World of Oppression

by Alan Goodman | March 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


On March 21, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Bernie Sanders sent a presentation that was added to the record of the event.

AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobbying group. But this is not your typical lobbying group. When AIPAC brags that it has far more success with its legislative initiatives than even the National Rifle Association, that’s not because AIPAC has a particularly talented team of lobbyists. Or because Israel or “the Jews” have corrupted the U.S. political process. What that reflects is how essential the “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. is.

What is that “special relationship”? The United States is the world’s dominant global imperialist power, and Israel is a bulwark of imperialism in the Middle East. This is a strategic region—the main source of oil for much of the world and a key military and trade crossroads.

A critical part of the job of being commander-in-chief/president of the U.S. empire is managing and fostering the relationship with Israel. The powerful ruling-class forces who ultimately define who gets to be considered a legitimate candidate for president pay attention to how candidates do in addressing AIPAC. And the candidates’ presentations reflect and reveal much about the nature and role of the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.”

This Year’s Pilgrimage to AIPAC: Unequivocal Endorsement of Israel’s Crimes

Today, the U.S. empire faces unprecedented challenges and crises in the Middle East. Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S. invaded to install compliant regimes, are disintegrating and fertile ground for ISIS and similar forces. Traditional U.S. allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are on shaky ground and/or wracked with crises. The whole mix intersects with challenges to the U.S. empire from rival powers—regional (like Iran) and global (like Russia and China). In some ways, the close ties between the U.S. and Israel pose real problems in managing relationships with U.S. allies in the region. But at the same time, in a situation that threatens to spin out of control, the “special relationship” is absolutely critical for the U.S.

And that need defined all the presentations by the candidates to AIPAC.

The Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip turned to rubble from a July 31 Israeli airstrike that killed 13 people from two families
The Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip turned to rubble from a July 31, 2014 Israeli airstrike that killed 13 people from two families. AP photo

Donald Trump lashed out at any attempt by the UN or the U.S. to rein in Israel in any way. He, along with all the others, turned the one-sided, ongoing slaughter of Palestinians upside down, claiming “Israel does not pay its children to stab random Palestinians.” Actually, Israel pays its soldiers to carry out mass murder against Palestinian children—over 550 of whom were murdered in homes, schools, and UN shelters during Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza.

Ted Cruz opened his speech by declaring “Palestine has not existed since 1948.” In saying that, Cruz celebrated the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), which took place in 1948, when almost a million Palestinians (half the population at that time) were driven from their land, villages and homes by terrorist attacks carried out by European settler Zionists. The Zionists systematically used rape, torture and murder. By the time the Nakba ended, there had been 31 documented massacres and probably others. Some 531 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods were emptied of their inhabitants.

John Kasich said, “The post-war international system that we and our allies [built]… is under challenge,” and “We can best advance stability in the region by providing Israel our 100 percent support.” That “international system” which is “under challenge” is U.S. domination of a world of sweatshops and slums. And Kasich is identifying the need to support Israel “100 percent” to defend that.

Hillary Clinton: "The United States and Israel must be closer than ever"

Hillary Clinton’s speech to AIPAC got some of the most substantial press, and it played a particular role.

She framed her speech by saying the U.S. faces “evolving threats” that “are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever.” She declared the “United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values.” And that “the United States should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology.”

Clinton said one of her first acts as president would be to invite Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. Netanyahu is a particularly rabid Zionist fanatic even within the spectrum of traditional Israeli politics and someone who basically spit in Obama’s face by speaking to the U.S. Congress to denounce the Iran nuclear deal without an invitation from the White House. Clinton reminded everyone that even with all the tension between Netanyahu and Obama over the Iran nuclear deal, U.S.-Israel military cooperation has “always been stronger and deeper than the headlines might lead you to believe.”

Clinton emphasized that the Iran nuclear deal mainly had the effect of clipping the wings of the Iranian regime. She bragged about being behind “crippling sanctions” that forced Iran to the negotiating table—sanctions that have had a brutal impact on Iran’s economy and the lives of ordinary people there. And she insisted she was the only candidate for president tough enough to “impose real consequences for even the smallest violations of this agreement.”

Four Palestinian children killed by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Above: Four children killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, November 2012. Photo: AP

Hillary Clinton demanded that “Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence.” The reality is that less than two years ago, Israel launched a horrific slaughter against the people of Gaza for 50 straight days. Israel killed 2,251 Palestinians—1,462 of whom were civilians, including 551 children.

Clinton claims to distinguish herself from Donald Trump and Ted Cruz by opposing the open, formalized use of torture by the U.S. government (see coverage at for exposure of the actual use of systematic torture by the U.S., including “New CIA Documents Reveal: U.S. Torture—Depraved & Systemic”). But why is it any less obscene to outsource open, formalized torture to Israel? Look up reports by human rights groups on Israel’s record on torture. Among them, you’ll find a 2013 report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Children (CRC) that documents how Israel subjects Palestinian children to “continuous use of physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, death threats, physical violence, sexual assault against them or members of their family, and restricted access to toilet, food and water.”

Clinton told AIPAC, “[W]e look at the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, one of the biggest and most prominent in the world. And we marvel that such a bastion of liberty exists in a region so plagued by intolerance.”

This promotion of Israel as a “bastion of liberty” is a key weapon in the U.S. ideological arsenal to get people to support Israel and align with the interests of the U.S. But the reality is this: Israel is not a bastion of enlightenment but an enforcer for imperialism—in the Middle East and around the world, with all the horrors that brings.

Bernie Sanders: “Israel is one of America’s closest allies”

Bernie Sanders offered to make a presentation to AIPAC by video, saying he was committed to a major campaign speech in Utah. AIPAC turned down that offer but included Sanders’ prepared remarks in the official record of the conference.

After the holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel

Sanders’ presentation had elements that seemed to distinguish it from those of the other candidates. He criticized some Israeli policies like bombing hospitals, schools and refugee camps while portraying them as “disproportionate responses to being attacked.” But most fundamentally, his speech was framed by how to strengthen the relationship where “Israel is one of America’s closest allies, and we—as a nation—are committed not just to guaranteeing Israel’s survival, but also to making sure that its people have a right to live in peace and security.”

Whatever his personal feelings about some things Israel does, Sanders’ speech objectively played a role of training people who are outraged by Israel’s crimes to identify with the whole U.S.-Israel relationship and the world of exploitation and oppression it is a lynchpin within. And it promoted illusions that there are sympathetic ears in the power structure (or potentially in the power structure) to the horrific conditions the Palestinian people are in.

It must be added that, in the event Bernie Sanders actually becomes the president of the United States, he would have to adopt positions in relation to Israel that conformed to the needs of the U.S. empire. It is already the case that as his career has “progressed” from an activist mayor of a town in Vermont to the U.S. Senate, his positions on Israel “evolved” in conformity with the needs of the empire. As Israel was unleashing the one-sided killing spree against the people of Gaza in 2014, Sanders voted for a Senate resolution supporting “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.” The vote for that resolution in the U.S. Senate was 100 to zero, and Bernie Sanders was one of the 100 who justified that massacre as Israel “defending” itself.


Let’s go back to what was behind the parade of presidential candidates who went to AIPAC and what they said: Today, the U.S. empire faces a whole series of challenges, threats, and crises, including the clash with global Islamic fundamentalist jihad. In that context, Israel creates problems for the U.S. in trying to put together a “coalition” that includes countries in the region like Saudi Arabia or Turkey. But in the eyes of the rulers of the U.S., facing all these serious challenges, there is a consensus now that they need to tighten up the “special relationship.”

And in that light, there is a concerted effort by ruling class institutions in the U.S. all up and down the line to back Israel to the hilt, to censor and suppress any criticism of Israel, and declare it utterly beyond the pale, anti-Semitic, or even “pro-terrorist” to expose the illegitimacy of a state built on terrorist ethnic cleansing that today is reaching genocidal proportions.

That cannot be allowed to go down. Protest and opposition to Israel, including the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, and critical examination of the nature and role of Israel in academia must be defended. Israel’s crimes should be opposed and protested by anyone who refuses to be complicit with them.

Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic seeks to set forth, defend, and further advance the theoretical framework for the beginning of a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world. This journal will promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

Beyond that, the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel is a sharp concentration of what it is the U.S. really brings to the world. The Middle East is ground zero in the clash of reactionary forces, but the fact that some of the forces who have claimed the mantle of opposing Zionism are reactionary and offer only different forms of oppression does not in any way legitimize what it is the U.S. and Israel represent in this world.

If you are thinking that there has to be another way in this world beyond the contending reactionary “universalisms” of Islamic fundamentalist jihad and U.S. imperialism, you are correct. But don’t stop there! These “alternatives” are intolerable! I invite and challenge you to join in digging into and promoting the one genuinely radical alternative to both of these horrors: revolution and communism aimed at a world with no more exploitation or oppression of any kind. Today that means Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. Whether that becomes enough of a force on the planet to break humanity out of the clutches of the present is, in the most decisive way, up to everyone who yearns for a whole different kind of world, including one where never again will any people be subjected to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

There is urgent work to do now to get that REAL radical alternative on the map.



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