• Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Judah Rosen on Will AIPAC Learn From Its Big…
    Teven Laxer on New Year; Old Hope
    Goose on ‘Deal of the Century’ Rev…
    The Scoop: Why Trump… on The Scoop: Why Trump & Net…
    Phil Fine on Anti-Semitism: See Under Hate,…
  • Top Posts

  • Search by Category

  • Archives

  • Pages

  • Twitter

  • Meta

Will AIPAC Learn From Its Big Mistake?

time.com

I wouldn’t bet on it, though there are signs of progress lately. But first what is, or was AIPAC big mistake? Let me tell you: It placed its loyalty, resources and absolute trust in one leader—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—above all else. Above all principles. Above all morals. Above all other considerations and obligations to its own country, the U.S.A., where the organizations and its leaders live and operate. This duel-loyalty, which AIPAC demonstrated in Netanyahu’s case, and was rightly condemned for, carried with it some responsibility, even if not directly, to the recent increase we are experiencing in anti-Semitism sentiments and incidents, and the rise of white supremacy forces in this country.

How come, you ask, I level such a strong accusation at AIPAC? I’ll answer that by reminding you of AIPAC’s mission, “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.” By this standard, they failed miserably when they cooperated with Netanyahu and the Republican Party in Congress against a sitting American President, Barack Obama, trying to subvert his administration’s efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions by striking a deal with it, together with our European allies. Helping and facilitating Netanyahu’s trip to America, and his speech in congress—while the President and Secretary of State were working so hard to accomplish that nuclear deal—was close to being an act of treason: Choosing the leader of Israel over the leader of America, your own country.

But wait, there’s more. I see AIPAC’s unqualified support of Netanyahu—who basically overwhelmed and subverted the organization to his own will—directly responsible, among other forces of course, to the rise of Mr. Trump, his disastrous withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and, together with his American Ambassador to Israel and Netanyahu, the danger situation we find ourselves currently in the Middle East and in Israel. Its support of this Israeli leader—soon to be indicted on some very serious charges—without reservations, without questions, without critical thinking, is at fault here. Whoever is the prime minister, we support him/her they say; whatever is the policy of that prime minister, we support him/her; whatever war they are fighting there, we support it. We are not here to judge; we are here to support.

This is all fine on paper and speech, this unconditional support. Though one may ask what would AIPAC do, how it would react, if a dictator comes along in Israel? If Israel becomes an autocratic state, what then? As indeed many, yours truly among them, thought was Netanyahu and his party’s intent in the last two elections: avoid prosecution and solidify his strongman’s rule, by placing himself above the rule of law. And what if Israel would become, as many do fear—and some insist it already de facto is—an Apartheid sate? What then? Will AIPAC still support that leader, and the country unconditionally? No moral judgments? No regard to the rule of law? To human rights?

Case in point: Bibi Netanyahu. AIPAC didn’t just support him in all his endeavors, therefore solidifying the occupation of 3 million Palestinians; the building of settlements financed mainly by America and American Jewry money for 50 years now, and counting. If AIPAC is indeed in support of a “two-state solution,” as it states on his website, how was it possible that it continuously supported Netanyahu and his policies so diligently all these years? Netanyahu who did all he could—still does, in fact—to create “facts-on-the-ground” that will prevent such a solution from ever happening?

In actuality, AIPAC caved in and served as Netanyahu’s tool of solidifying his rule, agenda and West Bank’s occupation. Working without a moral compass to guide you is a dangerous way to go. And when it comes to the rise in antisemitic incidents and hatred in this country, as I pointed above, these are all contributing factors. The history of antisemitism a is long, painful, and complicated—as I pointed in my February post, titled Anti-Semitism: See Under Hate, Envy, and Israel -–but we cannot allow ourselves to overlook the sentiment, prominent especially in Europe, of animosity toward Israel and Jews for the mistreatment of the Palestinians, and for the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For which AIPAC, with its blindness and policies as pointed above, carries a significant responsibility.

In a Washington Post article (March 6, 2018) by Doug Rossinowin, “The Dark Roots of AIPAC,” he writes that “The group was formed to spin positive PR after Israeli atrocities.” Somehow, I’m not surprised reading that. Though lately there’s a sign that AIPAC may have learned its lesson. Just before the Israeli first-round election in April, when PM Netanyahu announced, in a lame attempt to win a decisive win, that should he win and stay in power his first act would be to annex most of the West Bank—in opposition to international law, and even to the hawkish Trump administration, to the Palestinian aspirations obviously, and to the European Union policy—suddenly, and rarely, AIPAC issued a statement of objection as well. Breaking, in so doing, its golden rule of not ‘criticizing,’ of not ‘interfering’ in Israel’s official policies.

Well… what a major change. Even if on a ‘onetime’ basis for now. But it does signify that AIPAC might have learned from its big mistake, and has come to the realization that indeed, as a political lobbyist organization, it does need to have a moral compass after all. One hopes that, if that’s the case, it might be able to continue its good work by not only supporting Israel and its strong relation with America, but also by not giving more ammunition to the forces of anti-Semitism, and by not dividing further the American Jewish community, which is mostly liberal and democrat, from Israel.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

If Not Now, When?

nymag.com

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” So said the 1st century Jewish sage ‘Hillel the Elder’, or ‘Hillel the Wiser’ (as I prefer to call him), whom most—if not all—of you I’m sure are familiar with. Same goes with the above aphorism, his most well-known saying. It serves also, by name and by idea, the ‘IfNotNow’ movement, “founded in July 2014 to protest American Jewish institutional support for Israel’s actions during the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict (according to Wikipedia). Their first action was to recite the Jewish prayer of mourning, the Mourner’s Kaddish, for all Palestinian and Israeli victims of the war outside the offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.”

But before I move on to the reason I’m writing about it now, a confession: In the summer of 2002 I led a group of Jewish students from UC Davis and Sacramento State on a ‘Birthright’ trip to Israel. That experience was especially dear to me, visiting the old country with young people who have never visited the ‘land of milk and honey’ before. And while we stopped almost daily at various places, to sit in a circle and discuss the significance of our visit in those places—including historical facts and political implications, not shying away from some hard questions—we did not visit the occupied territories, other than the Golan Heights.

Admittingly, times in 2002 were very different. The trip—an act of not insignificant courage on the part of the students and their parents—began short of two weeks after the vicious terrorist attack in the Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium where 21 Israelis, 16 of them teenagers, were murdered. Jerusalem was terrorized by random, if frequent terrorist attacks on buses and in street cafes. Security during the trip was a prime concern, and the possibility of visiting the West Bank was not even remotely on the agenda. The decision to stop in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood (if I remember correctly), and allow the students to stroll around, visit shops and cafes for an hour or two, was a major headache. Visiting Hebron, Ramallah, or even some close by settlements was impossible.

Now, you may ask, why am I bringing it up? Here’s why: I first learned of the ‘IfNotNow’ movement when it was associated—even blamed for—in the Israeli media for a trickle of Jewish students who, while visiting Israel as part of the ‘Birthright’ trip, decided that they wanted to see for themselves—how audacious of them, really?—the occupied territories of the West Bank, and learn firsthand what life there is all about for the Palestinian population, what the occupation does to them, the Israeli Army rule and role, the checkpoints (see the picture above) effect on everyday life. In short, they wanted to know, and sort out the truth for themselves, not eat without questions what was spoon-fed to them by the trip’s organizers and counselors.

A storm irrupted, of course. The rebellious students were ostracized by the trip’s tour guides, and those in charge did not allow then to continue with the scheduled trip, and I believe they had to pay their way back home to America by themselves. Still, the movement grew, as more and more conscientious young people continued to demand to know the truth: What really the Jewish state is doing, inflicting such pain on the Palestinian People? And to what end? It was also, immediately associated with the IfNotNow movement as the catalyst to this new phenomenon. Blaming that movement for starting this mini-rebellious in the first place.

Now whether this is true I don’t know, and “frankly, I don’t give a damn.” The crux of the matter, and with it the battle for the hearts and minds of young Jews, is what matters most. Which brings me to a story in Haaretz that I recently shared on Facebook, where a young woman demonstrating on behalf of ‘IfNotNow’ wore a shirt imprinted with this slogan: “The Jewish people future demands Palestinian freedom.” How refreshing, how appropriate: Hitting the occupation’s nail right on its head. This is something I believed in for a long time, and referred to not once on this blog. I therefore applaud all these young Jewish students and not students, urging them to keep demonstrating all around the country with this slogan carried upfront (again, see above picture).

However, it is important to point out that the Palestinian people deserves justice—historically and currently—no matter what, and not only because by granting them this justice the future of the Jewish people will also be secured. More so: The Zionist dream and endeavor of establishing Israel as the secured home for the Jewish people, cannot be fully achieved without granting similar rights to the Palestinian people. This simple equation, which I’ve tried to explain many times to American Jews since immigrating—with considerable resistance and abuse from their side—still exists today at the core of this historic conflict.

What Hillel, the most famous of Jewish sages knew so well more than 2000 years ago was that one, you—as a person and as a people—have to STRIVE to achieve justice for yourself. But that second, if this justice is JUST for yourself—again, as a person and as a people—then what is the justification for it, really? And third that the TASK of achieving this justice—for you and for the other—cannot wait. It must be work for now. Without delay!

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

%d bloggers like this: