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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ameinu versus AIPAC

Below are several articles about the AIPAC controversy initiated by Ameinu, the U.S. Labor Zionist group, which is unhappy at what they view as extremists resolutions adopted by the Israel lobby group.  None of the articles presents the AIPAC agenda in full, so to an extent, we are taking stabs at issues that are lurking, bobbing and dodging somewhere behind a curtain of obscurity.
Ameinu's main point is this:
"AIPAC, which presents itself as 'THE pro-Israel lobby' representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace. The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush Administration and the Israeli Government," said Mr. Bob.
But AIPAC does not represent the entire American Jewish community and it never intended to represent the entire American Jewish community. It represents genuinely pro-Israel Israel Americans. That excludes some Jews like Norman Finkelstein (for example) and it includes an increasing number of non-Jews, as pointed out in Jerusalem Post article below. AIPAC is a lobby for pro-Israel Americans, not for all Jews or only Jews.  
Ameinu is unhappy that AIPAC wants congressppersons to sign a letter opposing US contact with Mr. Abbas and the Fatah. Ameinu is right to be unhappy. AIPAC's position is unrealistic and not constructive. It might satisfy the ZOA to get congresspersons to sign a letter asking the US not to have any contact with Palestinians, but even if every congressperson signed it, the US is not going to stop talking with Mr. Abbas. Even if the position were correct, it is unwise for any lobby group to back hopeless cases unless they are "do or die" propositions. The only value of such a letter is as fodder for press releases.
But Ameinu has to recognize that a new reality was created by Mr. Abbas when he signed the Mecca agreement on the dotted line, and then told the US and Israel, "take it or leave it." Mr. Abbas caved in to Hamas demands for his own internal reasons, but it is absurd to supposed that AIPAC should support him in that position. There has to be some Israeli and US response to the Mecca agreement, and there should have been a response from the Jewish peace lobby as well, because everyone who is a realist recognizes that that agreement was bad for peace, bad for Israel and bad for the Palestinians.
It is not right for AIPAC to become the Mearsheimer and Walt caricature of the "Israel Lobby." However it is equally unrealistic to confuse AIPAC with the Israeli peace movement or the American Task Force on Palestine.
What we are missing in all this, is a positive and progressive program for AIPAC. Ameinu has to keep in mind that AIPAC is not the peace lobby. It should represent Israeli interests as US supporters of Israel see those interests. Within that broad definition, it must be possible for Ameinu to offer some concrete action proposals that advance progressive Israeli interests. Unless and until the Palestinian unity government supports peace, supporting the Palestinian unity government is not in the interests of Israel and is not in the interests of peace. You don't have to be a neoconservative to demand that the Palestinian government must recognize the right of Israel to exist, and to demand that Mr. Abbas stick to his original stand on this issue. But between that and cutting off all contact with the Fatah and Mr. Abbas, there is still quite a distance. Ameinu doesn't give us a constructive alternative.
Ami Isseroff


Ameinu Denounces AIPAC's Hawkish Shift on Palestinians

CONTACT: Gidon D. Remba

Ameinu Denounces AIPAC's Hawkish Shift on Palestinians

Washington, DC—AIPAC'S 2007 Action Agenda, approved earlier this week by AIPAC's Executive Committee at the group's annual national policy conference in Washington, adopts radical hawkish positions which would curtail current tentative Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts, a major policy change that is contrary to the national security interests of both the United States and Israel, according to Kenneth Bob, National President of Ameinu, the leading progressive Zionist organization in the U.S.

"AIPAC, which presents itself as 'THE pro-Israel lobby' representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace. The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush Administration and the Israeli Government," said Mr. Bob.

"Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh's remarks at the AIPAC national conference testify to this clash," added Ameinu Executive Director Gidon D. Remba. Ameinu, as a member of AIPAC's Executive Committee, cast a vote against portions of the 2007 Agenda which are ill-advised, dangerous to Israel and unrepresentative of the American Jewish community, noted Mr. Remba.

AIPAC's hawkish shift on US policy towards the Palestinians, which would cut off all US contact with moderate Palestinian leaders, is mirrored in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, initiated by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and John Ensign (R-NV), which AIPAC is now urging senators to sign. AIPAC's new demand is contained in "Talking Points" it has distributed to supporters who lobbied their Members of Congress yesterday on Capitol Hill as part of AIPAC's annual conference.

Mr. Remba also stated that "the 'Talking Points' disguise AIPAC's new position, leading many conference attendees to naively believe that in asking their senators to sign on to the Nelson-Ensign letter, they are merely "'holding firm and insisting' that no aid or recognition should be granted to the PA until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements," as the Talking Points memo claims. In fact, the Nelson-Ensign letter, and AIPAC's new 2007 Agenda, go much further," added Mr. Remba.

AIPAC's new 2007 Agenda calls for:

• "Urging the US government to vigorously enforce the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act," and "Urging the US government and other parties of the 'Quartet' to adhere to the position that they will not have contact with or provide funds to a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas until Hamas" meets the three international conditions.

• The Nelson-Ensign letter which AIPAC supporters are calling on their senators to endorse also urges senators to "continue to hold firm and insist that these very basic international principles do not change—no direct aid and no contacts with any members of a Palestinian Authority that does not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous agreements."


• According to Mr. Bob, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act does not bar the US from maintaining contact with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until the PA meets the three international conditions. Both Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have conducted recent meetings with President Abbas, who supports a two-state solution recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security, opposes violence and terror and accepts prior agreements between Israel and the PA.

• "As Israel's Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Knesset Member Ephraim Sneh stressed in his remarks to the AIPAC Plenary, strengthening President Abbas and other Palestinian moderates in the PA by providing them with political dividends and security assistance is critical to weakening Hamas and other rejectionists in Palestinian society," said Mr. Remba. Ameinu believes such steps are essential as well to building hope among Palestinians and Israelis for the success of any new peace initiative and reaching a comprehensive and durable cease-fire agreement.

• The new AIPAC policy of cutting off contact with all Palestinian Authority officials also contradicts AIPAC's own promise in its 2007 Action Agenda to "build on the commitment of the [Bush] Administration and Congress…to a peace process predicated on direct negotiations between Israel and her neighbors." It brings AIPAC full circle back to the extreme version of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act it unsuccessfully sought to pass last year.

AIPAC's new agenda, relying solely on economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority and Iran, along with the threat of possible preemptive military action against Iran in future, would now unwisely block all diplomatic bargaining between Israel and the Palestinians.

About Ameinu

Ameinu is dedicated to promoting a negotiated peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, and to social and economic justice for all in Israel and America. Together with the Labor movement of Israel and other partners, Ameinu reinforces Jewish continuity through support for Habonim Dror, the Labor Zionist youth movement, and the Union for Progressive Zionists campus organization.

Liberal Zionists denounce AIPAC

A liberal Zionist group denounced the America Israel Public Affairs Committee for adopting "radical hawkish positions" at the powerful lobby's annual policy conference. In a statement Wednesday, Ameinu National President Kenneth Bob said AIPAC's 2007 Action Agenda represents a major policy shift that runs counter to the security interests of Israel and the United States. Ameinu is a member of AIPAC's executive committee and voted against the measure.

"AIPAC, which presents itself as 'THE pro-Israel lobby' representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace," Bob said. "The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush administration and the Israeli government."

AIPAC at its major annual gathering this week in Washington ran afoul of other liberal groups for urging lawmakers to sign a letter calling for a continued American boycott of the Palestinian Authority until it had met international preconditions: renouncing terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting past agreements with the Jewish state. Brit Tzedek V'Shalom, Americans for Peace Now and Churches for Middle East Peace protested the letter, arguing that the United States must engage moderate Palestinians or risk strengthening extremist elements.

Mar. 11, 2007 23:24 | Updated Mar. 12, 2007 17:32
Non-Jewish students, officials flock to AIPAC conference

Talkbacks for this article: 16

The 6,000 participants who have congregated in Washington to participate in
AIPAC's annual policy conference have seen their numbers boosted by a growing
number of non-Jewish students and public officials.

Christian and historically black colleges which sent student delegates to the
three-day event grew by 25 percent this year, with 55 campuses represented.
The number of student government presidents jumped by a third, to 160 such
representatives, the majority of whom are not Jewish.

For a Jerusalem Online video of the AIPAC conference, click here.

The program itself continues the tradition of holding sessions on support for
Israel among the African-American, Latino and Christian communities.

Pastor John Hagee, the guiding force for the political organization Christians
United for Israel, was asked to address the opening dinner plenary on Sunday.

AIPAC, which subsidizes students who come to the conference, highlighted the
diverse student involvement in its program, which opened with all 1,200
students standing before the assembly.

Campuses have often been a place of fierce debate over Israel, not all of it
flattering, and AIPAC has spent decades building up campus organizations.

But Niiobli Armahm, president of the student government at the historically
black Southern University in Baton Rouge, said his campus suffers more from
apathy than overzealous activism. He said he plans to use the advocacy tools
he'll gain at the conference to invigorate his campus.

He supports Israel largely out of a sense of the common types of struggles the
Jewish and African-American populations have faced.

"It's about coalition-building," he said. "When these minority groups start to
team up, they accomplish more - they become a majority."
AIPAC spokesman Josh Block indicated that this diverse backing can help the
US-Israel relationship.

"As they [African-American students] and the folks from Hispanic background
and evangelical communities continue their political involvement, it's only
going to strengthen the pro-Israel movement," he said. "With close to 70
percent of Americans self-identifying as pro-Israel, obviously there are a lot
of non-Jewish Americans in that group. The pro-Israel community is quite
diverse, and the program reflects the work being done to reach out to all part
of the American society that are pro-Israel."

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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