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AIPAC and Me


By Bruce Taub

Friends - Last night I went to the AIPAC fundraising dinner here in Boston, specifically intending to speak out on behalf of the Palestinian people. This was not intended by me as an act of civil disobedience, but as an act of conscience. When I was in the Occupied Territories/Palestine about a month ago and asked the wonderful people I met there what I could do to help end their oppression by the Israeli state, to a person they said, "change US policy, expose AIPAC."

So when I heard AIPAC would be in Boston raising money I felt a virtually uncontrollable desire to act, to speak truth to power, to be as un-good a "good German" as I was capable of being.

The AIPAC affair itself was predictable. The room was immense, with amazing loudspeakers, twin jumbo screens, senators, congressmen and women, security, free flowing alcohol, and nearly 700 wildly applauding AIPAC toadies and sympathizers. Israel was wonderful. The United States was wonderful. The terrorists, the Muslims, the Arabs, the fundamentalists, the mullahs, the leaders of Arab nations, Hamas, the protesters outside the hotel, the sponsors of the divestment action in Somerville, were all detestable abominations. The words "terrorist," "9/11," "Islamic," "Arab," and "enemies of freedom" ran together repeatedly like the refrain of an advertising jingle.

During the incredibly jingoistic, intolerant, uncompromising, arrogant, ass-kicking keynote speaker's speech by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL], lead sponsor of HR4681, the so-called Palestinian Anti-terrorism Act of 2006," (the one that will cut off humanitarian aid to Palestine until the PA halts "all anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled electronic and print media and in schools, mosques, and other institutions it controls, and replaces these materials, including textbooks, with materials that promote tolerance, peace, and coexistence with Israel,") it was clear to me what I needed to say. Because believe it or not, in over two hours of speeches and declarations, the Palestinian people, the invisible people, the suffering, oppressed, subjugated, ethnically segregated people had never been mentioned once!!

"The people missing from this meeting are the Palestinian people," I called out as loudly as I could. "The issue of the Palestinian people is the painful crippling pebble in Israel's shoe. Without justice for the Palestinians there can be no peace for Israel."

Upon which I was promptly grabbed by some heroic AIPAC supporters, the plain clothes security detail I had identified earlier, and three guys who appeared out of nowhere and were each the size of an SUV.

As I was being escorted out, I placed some of the handouts I had prepared on one of the reception tables, where they were picked up by security no sooner than I had left them. I was in no position to argue. So here's a copy of that handout (below), with reference to the web site I mentioned - www.justandpeaceful.org - at the end. If you get a chance I hope you'll read it. The site was created in an effort to help advance the cause of peace and justice in Palestine and Israel and to provide some modest support to the many Palestinian, Israeli, and U.S peace activists who labor so passionately and conscientiously to realize a new vision for Israel and Palestine. Submissions to the site are more than welcome.

In peace and struggle, Salaam, Shalom, Bruce

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PEACE IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE – An alternate view

There are many different narratives and different "truths" in Israel and Palestine. The one universal truth is that all people involved in the struggle have suffered gravely over many generations and that all are suffering still. Demonizing of the "other" cannot help bring about peace.

Peace with justice for most Palestinian people means ending the Israeli Occupation of their lands at the 1967 Green Line borders, establishment of an independent nation of Palestine with its capital in Jerusalem, and normalization of lives lived in peace with Israel.

Peace to most Jewish Israelis means no wars, no conflict, and keeping the status quo. Yet there can be no peace in Israel and Palestine if the status quo remains as it is today. And there can be no peace for the Israeli people or for the Jewish people without justice for the Palestinian people.

Neither peace nor justice can be achieved in Palestine and Israel while the sides continue to demonize each other or try to dominate one another.

This is from AIPAC’s own militaristic, brazen, conquest driven, one sided, lobbying site - http://aipac.org/cooperation.cfm.

This is my modest rejoinder – www.justandpeaceful.org

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension. True peace demands the presence of justice." M. L. King

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Excerpts from an article published by Haaretz

[T]he State of Israel remains curiously (and among Western-style democracies, uniquely) immature. The social transformations of the country - and its many economic achievements - have not brought the political wisdom that usually accompanies age. Seen from the outside, Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one "understands" it and everyone is "against" it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offense and quick to give it. Like many adolescents Israel is convinced - and makes a point of aggressively and repeatedly asserting - that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences and that it is immortal. Appropriately enough, this country that has somehow failed to grow up was until very recently still in the hands of a generation of men who were prominent in its public affairs 40 years ago: an Israeli Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in, say, 1967 would be surprised indeed to awake in 2006 and find Shimon Peres and General Ariel Sharon still hovering over the affairs of the country - the latter albeit only in spirit.

Before 1967 the State of Israel may have been tiny and embattled, but it was not typically hated: certainly not in the West. Official Soviet-bloc communism was anti-Zionist of course, but for just that reason Israel was rather well regarded by everyone else, including the non-communist left. The romantic image of the kibbutz and the kibbutznik had a broad foreign appeal in the first two decades of Israel's existence. Most admirers of Israel (Jews and non-Jews) knew little about the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. They preferred to see in the Jewish state the last surviving incarnation of the 19th century idyll of agrarian socialism - or else a paragon of modernizing energy "making the desert bloom."

But today everything is different. We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967 and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state's very own nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country's shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, "targeted assassinations," the separation fence: All of these routines of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish - which means that Israel's behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the international view of Israel. Until very recently the carefully burnished image of an ultra-modern society - built by survivors and pioneers and peopled by peace-loving democrats - still held sway over international opinion. But today? What is the universal shorthand symbol for Israel, reproduced worldwide in thousands of newspaper editorials and political cartoons? The Star of David emblazoned upon a tank.

If Israel's leaders have been able to ignore such developments it is in large measure because they have hitherto counted upon the unquestioning support of the United States - the one country in the world where the claim that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is still echoed not only in the opinions of many Jews but also in the public pronouncements of mainstream politicians and the mass media. But this lazy, ingrained confidence in unconditional American approval - and the moral, military and financial support that accompanies it - may prove to be Israel's undoing.

Something is changing in the United States. To be sure, it was only a few short years ago that prime minister Sharon's advisers could gleefully celebrate their success in dictating to U.S. President George W. Bush the terms of a public statement approving Israel's illegal settlements. No U.S. Congressman has yet proposed reducing or rescinding the $3 billion in aid Israel receives annually - 20 percent of the total U.S. foreign aid budget - which has helped sustain the Israeli defense budget and the cost of settlement construction in the West Bank. And Israel and the United States appear increasingly bound together in a symbiotic embrace whereby the actions of each party exacerbate their common unpopularity abroad - and thus their ever-closer association in the eyes of critics.

The fact is that the disastrous Iraq invasion and its aftermath are beginning to engineer a sea-change in foreign policy debate here in the U.S. It is becoming clear to prominent thinkers across the political spectrum - from erstwhile neo-conservative interventionists like Francis Fukuyama to hard-nosed realists like Mearsheimer - that in recent years the United States has suffered a catastrophic loss of international political influence and an unprecedented degradation of its moral image. The country's foreign undertakings have been self-defeating and even irrational. There is going to be a long job of repair ahead, above all in Washington's dealings with economically and strategically vital communities and regions from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. And this reconstruction of the country's foreign image and influence cannot hope to succeed while U.S. foreign policy is tied by an umbilical cord to the needs and interests (if that is what they are) of one small Middle Eastern country of very little relevance to America's long-term concerns - a country that is, in the words of the Mearsheimer/Walt essay, a strategic burden: "A liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states."

That essay is thus a straw in the wind - an indication of the likely direction of future domestic debate here in the U.S. about the country's peculiar ties to Israel. Of course it has been met by a firestorm of criticism from the usual suspects - and, just as they anticipated, the authors have been charged with anti-Semitism (or with advancing the interests of anti-Semitism: "objective anti-Semitism," as it might be). But it is striking to me how few people with whom I have spoken take that accusation seriously, so predictable has it become. This is bad for Jews - since it means that genuine anti-Semitism may also in time cease to be taken seriously, thanks to the Israel lobby's abuse of the term. But it is worse for Israel.

This new willingness to take one's distance from Israel is not confined to foreign policy specialists. As a teacher I have also been struck in recent years by a sea-change in the attitude of students. One example among many: Here at New York University I was teaching this past month a class on post-war Europe. I was trying to explain to young Americans the importance of the Spanish Civil War in the political memory of Europeans and why Franco's Spain has such a special place in our moral imagination: as a reminder of lost struggles, a symbol of oppression in an age of liberalism and freedom, and a land of shame that people boycotted for its crimes and repression. I cannot think, I told the students, of any country that occupies such a pejorative space in democratic public consciousness today. You are wrong, one young woman replied: What about Israel? To my great surprise most of the class - including many of the sizable Jewish contingent - nodded approval. The times they are indeed a-changing.
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** PEACE TAKES COURAGE **

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