This weekend, the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Convention takes place where 15,000 of this diabolical Jewish lobby’s best and brightest meet to mix and mingle, celebrate the successes of the past year and more importantly, strategize for the coming year how best to maintain Israel’s strength. The claim is that it’s in America’s best interest, as well, but the truth is American citizens get zero from this one-sided relationship. Sure, a few American companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin make boatloads of cash through the sales of Apache helicopters and weapons to Israel, but for American tax payers, the return on investment is nothing more than our share of the guilt of mass slaughter of Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, and whomever challenges Israel’s dominance in the region.
This lobby is powerful. Some consider it to be a lobby like any other, but the truth is it differs in a few crucial ways. To start with, no other lobby forks over millions of dollars in campaign donations, on local and federal levels to push the agenda of and back a foreign government. Whether one supports or opposes the existence of the Jewish state, it cannot be denied it is, in fact, a foreign government. And no other lobby makes EVERY member of Congress sign an agreement that they will fully and unconditionally support the state of Israel economically, politically, militarily and diplomatically. On the rare occasion someone has refused to sign it, the AIPAC campaign to get them removed from Congress goes into full-force. Ask Cynthia McKinney how refusing to sign this agreement worked out for her.
Counter to this annual event is a protest of AIPAC. I’ve attended this protest four times. Different groups organize to meet at the Convention Center to denounce AIPAC’s hideous agenda and the impact it has on our government, the Palestinians and beyond. The protests are always peaceful with a diverse group of people and one can always count on seeing familiar faces including Orthodox Torah Jews, Neturei Karta. They adamantly oppose Zionism and the existence of the Jewish state. I attend independently, not as a member of any group.
This year I made the choice to forego the protest and attend the fourth annual conference, ‘The Israel Lobby And American Foreign Policy’ hosted by The American Educational Trust who publishes Washington Report On Middle East Affairs and The Institute For Research: Middle Eastern Policy. I only learned of the conference just last year and missed an impressive lineup. This year I got lucky as a friend had an extra ticket and was generous enough to let me have it. The presenters and keynote speakers were, again, impressive. The standouts for me were Palestinian legislator and scholar Hanan Ashrawi, Ilan Pappé, documentary filmmaker (Two Blue Lines, Native Sons), Tom Hayes, and American Journalist and author, Clayton Swisher, who managed the six-month undercover investigation that produced Al-Jazeera’s 4-part series, “The Lobby”, about AIPAC’s activities in the U.K. It’s stellar and you can watch it on YouTube.
Hanan Ashrawi is a powerhouse, just as I expected. She is monumentally clever, charismatic and a force to be reckoned with. Her main focus was the Israel Lobby and the duplicity of the “peace process”. Ilan Pappé geared his presentation towards seeing Palestine through the prism of settler-colonialism (a term I’ve grown disgusted with due to its inaccuracy of what’s really taken place, therefore it’s been adopted by controlled opposition groups. It invokes a romantic, pastoral image rather than the reality of the more accurate terms of genocide, ethnic cleansing, land theft, etc.), the lobby’s participation in forming/maintaining Zionist myths, and accurately identifying and exposing the myths so that efforts to end the conflict are based in reality.
While most of the speakers had interesting perspectives and personal experiences with the Israel lobby, I had a nagging, frustrating feeling that something was missing. Speaker after speaker, I continued to be underwhelmed. No one went far enough. No one drew the parallels between Gaza, Detroit, Athens, and Berlin. In the world in which we currently live, we are all Palestinians. There was quite a lot of focus on the impact in Palestine and to Palestinians and non-Palestinian supporters of this struggle, we are always elated to hear anyone acknowledge the injustice and continuing horrors inflicted upon them since 1948, but is the acknowledgement of what we already know all we can expect? Have we been so well trained by the oppressor to not expect more?
About an hour or so after the conference ended, I had an epiphany. AIPAC is convening to determine our future while pro Palestinians convened to reflect on the past. Over the course of 8.5 hours, it was evident what is AIPAC’s agenda, how duplicitous and ruthless are its methods, how it manipulates Congress and further exacerbates the suffering of the Palestinians and how it strong-arm’s our government out of billions of tax-payer dollars to support the foreign government of the Jewish state of Israel. The conference was a culmination of the past and the present. But, what about the future? Where is the strategic plan for the future? When AIPAC has their convention on Sunday, March 26, 2017, they will spend some time celebrating the successes of this past year, but the vast majority of their 8 hour day will be spent strategizing about the future, both immediate and long term. They will present the road map, step by step no doubt, with crystal clarity of what are their goals and exactly what steps need to be taken to bring them to fruition, so that next year’s celebration will be bigger than this year, followed by a whole new strategy for the coming year.
If there is anything we can learn from AIPAC, indeed this is it.