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Israel lobby challenged during AIPAC conference

By Askia Muhammad
Senior Correspondent | Last updated: May 28, 2009 - 12:43:10 AM

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WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - A small band of determined women raised their voices against America's most powerful political lobby—the Israel lobby—and they got their point across.

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A protester unfurls a banner as Israeli President Shimon Peres addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference May 4 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
‘If you cross AIPAC, AIPAC is unforgiving and will destroy you politically. Their means of communication, their ties to certain newspapers and magazines, and to individuals in the media are substantial and intimidating.’
—Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.)
When Israeli Pres. Shimon Peres began speaking to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference at the Washington Convention Center May 4 six members of CODEPINK Women for Peace raised banners saying “Want Peace? End the Occupation,” “What About Gaza?” and “No Money for War Crimes.”

The next day, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden began addressing the AIPAC meeting, another pair of CODEPINK members disrupted his speech.

Each day, as the activists—some of them Jewish women—were forcibly dragged away from the stage, they shouted phrases in Hebrew. “Tikkun olam (Heal the world) for Gaza, too!” they screamed, drawing attention to their opposition to AIPAC's influence which produces virtually unconditional support and financing for Israel's militaristic policies including the recent devastating invasion of Gaza; the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; the separation wall; refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians' democratically elected representatives; and threats to attack Iran.

“We disrupted two days in a row,” Gayle Murphy, CODEPINK co-founder told The Final Call, May 5. “Today we went in and intended to speak to Mr. Biden in front of the entire AIPAC crowd, which we managed to do. There were two of us. We had a banner that said, ‘No more money for war crimes.'

“And then we were accosted by a bunch of people who tried to muzzle our mouths—literally they put their hands over our mouths, and we kept wrestling away and yelling all the way out, and the police eventually put us out on the street,” Ms. Murphy continued, pointing out that outside of the event, the police officers involved took pains to tell them that the law enforcement personnel had not tried to gag them.

Later, in his remarks, Mr. Biden offered rare public criticism of Israeli policies. He received faint applause when he told the organization that Israel should freeze settlement activity on Palestinian land.

“Israel has to work toward a two-state solution,” said Mr. Biden. “You're not going to like my saying this, but do not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement based on their first actions, access to economic opportunity and increased security responsibility. This is a show-me deal, not based on faith. Show me!”

AIPAC members who tried to muzzle the CODEPINK protestors, “were angry that there was opposition to an idea of 150 percent support of Israel from the United States,” said Ms. Murphy.

“They want full military funding. They want (the U.S.) to put hard sanctions on Iran. They want us to basically be their protector as they carry on their occupation of the West Bank and their siege of Gaza. The point was they don't agree with our position which is to stop funding war crimes, and to stop blockading Gaza.”

While AIPAC claims to represent the U.S. Jewish community, its wholesale support of the militaristic Israeli government increasingly goes against the opinions of many Jewish Americans. According to a recent survey by the Jewish lobby group J Street, 76 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution, 69 percent support negotiating with a Fatah-Hamas unity government, and 59 percent felt the Gaza invasion did not improve Israel's security.

AIPAC's hard line and punishing political tactics has made the lobby group feared among many politicians on the national scene. Their opposition was directly linked to the defeat of Congressional Black Caucus members Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), and Earl Hilliard (D-Al.) in Democratic primary contests, by candidates supported by AIPAC and its allies.

“If you cross AIPAC, AIPAC is unforgiving and will destroy you politically.” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said in the September-October, 2007 edition of Tikkun, an interfaith, progressive Jewish magazine. “Their means of communication, their ties to certain newspapers and magazines, and to individuals in the media are substantial and intimidating,” he continued, provoking several public condemnations of his remarks.

While Mr. Moran was easily re-elected in 2008, other politicians and even some Jewish intellectuals in various states and universities were not so fortunate, when they incurred the wrath of Israel's lobby.

A short list of some of the people who have been politically destroyed by the Israel lobby includes: former Illinois Republican Sen. Charles Percy; former Illinois Democrat Adlai Stevenson III; former Arkansas Democratic Sen. J. William Fulbright; former California Republican Rep. Paul McCloskey, this according to a nine-week Washington Post best-selling book “They Dare To Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby”, written by former Illinois Republican Rep. Paul Findley, who served 22 years in Congress.

And Professor Norman Finkelstein—the son of a Holocaust survivor himself—was denied tenure at DePaul University, a Catholic school, because of opposition by the Israel lobby.

But Israel's recent policies—particularly the invasion and attack on Gaza, shortly after the 2008 U.S. elections—have even changed the minds of some Jews in this country. “The brutal invasion of Gaza was a breaking point for me and many American Jews,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, who recently led a 60-person delegation to Gaza, according to a report published by Common Dreams.org.

“I was appalled by the devastation and the suffering I saw, particularly among the children. As a mother, I feel compelled to speak out against Israel's bombing of civilians and the ongoing siege that is so devastating to the lives of Gaza's 1.5 million people—most of whom are under 18,” said Ms. Benjamin.

“I think the Israeli military is really what's running Israel,” said CODEPINK co-founder Ms. Murphy, “and I don't think they represent the position of most Israelis, and I think they're out of control. They certainly evidenced that in Gaza. They were totally out of control.

“They were totally in control of their leaders, but what they did was unacceptable. They were war crimes. And they're not being held accountable, and (the U.S. is) funding it, and we don't see the horror of what it does, of what our tax dollars are doing to West Bank and Gaza. And it's a direct link. But you can be sure that every child in Gaza and in the West Bank knows from where the bombs come.”

Related links:

Picking on AIPAC? (Philip Giraldi, 05-19-2009)

President Obama Lost a Battle to Israel Lobby (FCN, 04-18-2009)

Media controversy highlights rift in Jewish community (FCN, 08-14-2008)

Pro-Israel lobby dictates U.S. policy, study charges (FCN, 04-05-2006)

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