Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An Impression of AIPAC Policy Conference 2009

Shalom All,

There is a false perception that AIPAC is somehow an organization of the political right. Anti-Israel groups have worked hard to give people that false impression. Many in the Jewish community, see AIPAC also WRONGLY as an advocate for the Israeli political right. In many ways, Jewish peace groups are responsible for that falsity. One need only look at the depth and breadth of the AIPAC Policy Conference to see the dramatic error in those false conceptions of AIPAC.

AIPAC is a BI-PARTISAN organization seeking to maintain and strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States and Israel. It DOES NOT advocate for or against specific policies of the nation of Israel. AIPAC's lobbying agenda this year included three things, all of which were sponsored by leading Senators and Representatives from BOTH parties.

First, efforts need to be strengthened to increase the diplomatic pressure put upon Iran to cease its development of nuclear weaponry and to allow its nuclear efforts, regardless of whether they are intended for peaceful purposes as Iran contends or for military purposes as others contend, to be monitored far more closely by the IAEA. Failing this effort, should Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, the Middle East will become a new home for nuclear proliferation as other nations will follow in their footsteps. Additionally, as a grossly destabilizing force in the Middle East, Iran's power and influence would be strengthened, something that bodes ill for the future of the region. To have the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world in possession of nuclear weaponry will enhance the threat that all terrorist organizations backed by Iran pose to Iran's enemies, which includes at the top of the list, Israel and the United States. Furthermore, to have Iran, which has threatened Israel's demise, in possession of the means to execute that plan is simply unconscionable. Thus, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act is being introduced in the House and Senate by leading members of BOTH parties in the hope of achieving an end to Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions short of military action by strengthening sanctions against Iran.

Second, as there is a new administration and new Congress in Washington, there is a desire to reiterate the basic points essential to maintaining a positive working relationship between the United States and Israel regarding the peace process. To that end, a letter was written to President Obama, again with Bi-Partisan origin, asking that the fundamental principles of the peace process be maintained, namely that the US must continue to insist that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist, that they renounce terror, and that they abide by previous resolutions. This is particularly important considering efforts to form a unity government including Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, promotes and practices terror, and refuses to abide by previous resolutions. Additionally, the administration is asked to promote a bi-lateral solution to the crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians with the understanding that imposed solutions have failed to achieve positive results. The parties must negotiate face to face with each other.

Third, maintaining the Security Assistance to Israel and passing the entire Foreign Aid bill is essential. The assistance is vital to Israel's security and since 75% of the money given in aid is spent in the US, Foreign Aid also provides a stimulus to our economy.

These three issues have overwhelming BI-PARTISAN support.

As I listened to the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, once vilified in Israel for his dovish attitudes by its political right and who spent almost his entire speech talking about Israel's pursuit of peace, being shouted down by American Jewish peace protestors chanting "Free Gaza," as if this Nobel Prize winning peace maker wanted something other than freedom for the people of Gaza , I felt strengthened. Peres' voice of peace, honored by AIPAC, was far more powerful than the "peace protesters" voices in support of ignorant hatred. I wanted to call out to those souls blinded by hatred of their fellow Jews, "Free them from Hamas! Free them from hatred!" But, to have interrupted Shimon Peres again would have been to insult the desire for peace, because that desire was the central theme of his speech that day and that desire has been the central theme of his life. Three misguided protestors brought that point home all the stronger.

The first protestor shouted without listening as he said, "It is clear in our eyes that peace may require painful compromises, difficult concessions. Compromises require two conditions. First, peace must be real, lasting, mutually respected. We have to guarantee that our children -- actually, all children -- will be free from war, will breathe the fresh air of peace -- all children, from all nations, from all parties. And then, secondly, peace should enable Israel to protect its people, to realize the fundamental responsibility of a free government, namely to defend its people from harm, to enable them to meet opportunities."

The second jeered without caring as he said, "The same is true for the future of the Palestinian people as well. I say it loudly, because I believe in it more fondly. The Palestinian people have the right to govern themselves. We don't want to be their masters. They have the right to invest their resources, to direct aid to civil high tech, not military rocket -- to books, not bombs -- to their people, so their people can be both free and prosperous, free from fear, free from hunger."

The third stood and blotted out his memory when he remembered, "I can still see with my eyes and feel with my heart when President Sadat landed from Egypt. We thought he came from the moon. If Anwar Sadat had not courageously taken the one-hour flight between Cairo and Jerusalem, I doubt peace would be achieved. We were ready. He showed his readiness."

And at the conclusion of his speech, he might as well have been speaking to those protestors when he said:

Ladies and gentlemen, to know the future you have to remember our history. Calling history is actually remembering the past. But as you know, we are pragmatic people. So when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he turned to his people and called them. "People, listen, Israel. Shema Yisrael." He asked them -- he asked us to listen, so we shall be able to hear the prophetic message, the mountainous music of peace and justice to this very day. But as you know, we are pragmatists. So the people replied, "We shall do and listen. Naaseh Venishma."

AIPAC is an organization that includes large numbers of Christian supporters of Israel from every ethnicity in America, of every economic level, and of walk of political life. It is an organization for all of those who support Israel's security and advocate for its peaceful future. It's membership does not by any means all agree on the ways to go about achieving those goals, but that membership understands that the friendship between the United States and Israel is essential to them and mutually beneficial. If only more of us listened, perhaps more of us would do the right things. Naaseh v'nishma!

Od yavo shalom aleinu v'al kol Yisrael v'al kol amim.
Someday peace will come for us, for all of the people of Israel, and for all peoples.


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