Is the Arab Spring spreading to US Congressional staffs?
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.
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, increasingly under 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."