From Peter Beinart’s NY Review of Books article “The American Jewish Cocoon” is this bit about AIPAC’s well-funded excursions for U.S. Congressmen:
But to a striking degree, the same insularity characterizes debate about Israel in Washington. In part that’s because of the weakness of Palestinian and Arab-American groups. And in part it’s because of the effectiveness of the American Jewish establishment. Since 2000, according to the website LegiStorm, members of Congress and their staffs have visited Israel more than one thousand times. That’s almost twice the number of visits to any other foreign country. Roughly three quarters of those trips were sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), AIPAC’s nonprofit arm. And many of the rest were sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, local Jewish Community Relations Councils, local Jewish Federations, and other mainstream Jewish groups. During the summer of 2011 alone, AIEF took 20 percent of House members—and almost half the Republican freshman class—to the Jewish state. Since 2000, the foundation has taken House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer or his staffers to Israel nine times and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor or his staffers eight times.
These trips, whose cost can exceed $10,000 and often include congressional spouses, are extremely popular. They’re also influential, leaving what Hoyer has called an “indelible impression” on legislators…
That’s not to say members of Congress don’t learn anything on their Israel trips. They learn why Jews feel so connected to Israel and why they worry so much about its security. And for the most part, they learn to see Palestinians the way the American Jewish establishment does: as a faceless, frightening, undifferentiated mass. As one “pro-Israel” activist told The New York Times last year, “We call it the Jewish Disneyland trip.”
There’s also this telling passage, addressing a fact that, if spoken by a gentile, would instantly cause the interlocutor to receive charges of anti-semitism:
[E]stablishment Jewish discourse about Israel is, in large measure, American public discourse about Israel. Watch a discussion of Israel on American TV and what you’ll hear, much of the time, is a liberal American Jew (Thomas Friedman, David Remnick) talking to a centrist American Jew (Dennis Ross, Alan Dershowitz) talking to a hawkish American Jew (William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer), each articulating different Zionist positions. Especially since Edward Said’s death, Palestinian commentators have been hardly visible. Thus Palestinians can’t easily escape hearing the way the other side discusses Israel; American Jews can.
For centuries, when Jews lived in the Diaspora as a persecuted minority, we had to understand the societies around us. Because we lacked power, we had to be smart to survive. Now, I fear, because Jews enjoy power in Israel and America, especially vis-à-vis Palestinians, we’ve forgotten the importance of listening…