The US has appointed Elizabeth Frawley Bagley as the new Ambassador to Brazil after she was reprimanded during the confirmation hearing over remarks about the power of the “Jewish lobby” in Washington. Bagley was nominated a year ago by President Joe Biden for the job but her appointment has been dogged by delays and allegations of anti-Semitism.
“There is always the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved,” said Bagley in the offending interview that was part of an oral history project for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. She claimed that the Democrats “always tend to go with the Jewish constituency on Israel and say stupid things, like moving the capital to Jerusalem always comes up. Things that we shouldn’t even touch.”
Bagley went on to add that the “Jewish factor” is not about the raw number of electors who care about these issues, “it’s money.” When questioned about these remarks during a confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 18 May last year, Bagley claimed that they were the result of a “free-flowing discussion” with the interviewer.
During the hearing Bagley apologised for her “choice of words” while noting that the interview “certainly does not reflect my views on Jewish Americans.” She also noted that her comments on Jerusalem were “a stupid thing to say,” adding that she had backed keeping Jerusalem “as part of the overall negotiations over a two-state solution.”The appointment of Bagley follows days of unrest in Brazil. Far right supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the National Congress building while shouting slogans and demanding the Brazilian military to intervene in the political process. Some of the supporters of Bolsonaro, who is an ardent supporter of the apartheid state of Israel, were seen storming the capital while flying the Israeli flag.
Bagley’s remarks about the power of the pro-Israel lobby echoed comments by former US President Barack Obama. In his book A Premised Land, Obama recalled how the lobby was constantly breathing down his neck. “Members of both parties worried about crossing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),” he said, describing it as “a powerful bipartisan lobbying organisation dedicated to ensuring unwavering US support for Israel.”
Explaining the challenges of confronting the lobby, Obama said that, “AIPAC’s clout could be brought to bear on virtually every congressional district in the country, and just about every politician in Washington — including me — counted AIPAC members among their key supporters and donors.”
The former president soon realised that “those who criticised Israeli policy too loudly risked being tagged as ‘anti-Israel’ — and possibly anti-Semitic — and confronted with a well-funded opponent in the next election.” The extent of this challenge was laid bare when he discovered that members of his own party were infuriated with him.
Obama recollected a conversation with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes following a complaint by an agitated Democrat member of Congress. “I thought he opposes settlements,” said Obama to Rhodes, who had spent an hour on the phone to calm the congressman down. “He does,” replied Rhodes. “He also opposes us doing anything to actually stop settlements.”