The American Task Force on Palestine is supposed to be the Palestinian lobby in Washington. It never succeeded as such but it did succeed as a personal vanity vehicle for its founder Dr. Ziad Asali and his aide, Hussein Ibish.
At some point it gave up any semblance of being a Palestinian lobby and joined up with the Israeli lobby, as its Palestinian front. Ultimately, however, it took things too far. As this terrific piece in Daily Beast describes, the moment the gig was up for the ATFP was when Dr. Asali was photographed celebrating Israel independence day at the Israeli embassy and Ha’aretz tweeted the photograph.
A few months ago, I wrote the following about the ATFP. I’m bringing it back today, an oldie but a goodie.
The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) is an example of an interest group that is suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome, i.e. the malady where a kidnap victim comes, in time, to identify with those who are holding him captive.
Originally established to lobby for Palestinian rights (and specifically the two-state solution), ATFP successfully sought respectability in a city where the “pro-Israel” lobby has reigned supreme for decades. But, eventually, as happens with other groups, the quest for respectability became the organization’s primary goal. Instead of challenging the lobby, ATFP started courting it, as if its goal of acceptance by policymakers required ingratiating itself with its adversaries.
ATFP initially only engaged in dialogue with Jewish groups that support the two-state solution and are sympathetic to Palestinian rights. But in the past several years, it has branched out to build one-sided relations (one-sided because these groups maintain their hard line on matters relating to Israel) with organizations like AIPAC, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the American Jewish Committee and, shamefully, the far-right Israel Project. (Here is a statement by the ATFP defending its relations with those organizations.)
ATFP has now taken a giant step in its strategy to ingratiate itself with “pro-Israel” groups that work to undermine the very two-state solution the ATFP holds as its primary goal. The group is not supporting the Palestinian effort to seek recognition at the United Nations. According to the Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, it is staying ”neutral.” Kuttab is rightfully appalled:
How could an organization that tasked itself to fight for Palestine refuse to join the aspirations of the Palestinian people, the decision of the Palestinian leadership and the public support for statehood by nearly 140 countries.
By attempting to be neutral, ATFP was echoing a position closer to rightwing Israelis and AIPAC Americans than to that of most Americans and the vast majority of American Palestinians.
ATFP has become another Washington organization, playing a power game that, in Kuttab’s words, forced the group to go “against its own raison d’être.”
The ATFP decision to court the “pro-Israel” right has also made the work of Jews who support the Palestinian people’s aspirations for statehood more difficult. We have made the decision to break with the lobby and criticize the status quo in favor of supporting peace, justice, and security for two peoples in two states. But, thanks to the ATFP, we can be labeled as being ‘more pro-Palestinian than the Palestinians.’
ATFP is doing the Palestinian people a terrible disservice. And it’s not doing much for anyone else either, except trying to secure more Washington-style ‘power and influence’ for itself.