Israel, Politics

It's about time…an alternative to AIPAC

A quick feed off of the JTA–(we’ll see if this comes to fruition, and what the vision will look like since it’s so funder driven it’s unclear what the politics will look like, but interesting and a conversation (in terms of having something to offer a different vision than AIPAC) many of us have been having for a long long time…)

A top staffer for billionaire philanthropist George Soros met recently with senior representatives of the dovish pro-Israel community to discuss setting up an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, JTA has learned.
Morton Halperin, a director of Soros’ Open Society Institute and a veteran of senior positions in the Clinton, Nixon and Johnson administrations, confirmed to JTA that the meeting took place late last month. He would not add details.
Dovish group still pushing talks
“It was a private meeting, it was an effort to get this off the ground,” said Halperin, who directs the institute’s U.S. advocacy.
The meeting focused on how best to press Congress and the Bush administration to back greater U.S. engagement toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how to better represent American Jews who don’t buy into AIPAC’s often hawkish policies.
Contacted by JTA, an AIPAC spokesman said he was not aware of the effort, but officials with the group did not express any concern that the new initiative posed a threat.
JTA has learned from a variety of sources that a follow-up meeting focused on funding will take place in New York on Oct. 26.

25 thoughts on “It's about time…an alternative to AIPAC

  1. Whatever its origins, Thank God! It’s about damn time we had a chance to participate in an organized effort to channel our widespread disgust with AIPAC, a chance to expose the hypocrisy of the sleazy hustlers and propagandists who long ago anointed themselves King of the (American) Jews.

  2. Maybe this will kill the stupid lobbying system you Americans have in which he who makes most noise wins. Also, the community is funny: why have you let these right-wing goons represent you this long, anyway?

  3. Maybe this will kill the stupid lobbying system you Americans have in which he who makes most noise wins.
    Unfortunately, it’s even worse — it’s not about the most noise, it’s about the most money.

  4. This is good, but slightly mixed news. BTVS, APN and IPF have built up a culture, a niche, and a base for thier activities. Now, a wealthy man dangling real money will get to trump decision making on strategy. This man has baggage, allowing pro-Israeli peace politics to appear married to a liberal – Democratic world view. (In fact, there is nothing Democratic or Republican about supporting an end to the occupation.)
    I also wonder if this will have the effect of further marginalizing voices that aren’t explicitly pro-Israel, but rather pro-Israel AND pro-Palestinian. I’m thinking of the good folks at Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun Community and so on.
    However, as a Jew who really wants a way to promote liberal Judaism in tandem with liberal, pro-peace approaches to Israel, this could really energize things. How many rabbis, board members and community officials will start feeling more wind at thier backs as they step outside the AIPAC/Federation orbit?
    Last but not least, knowing as I do that BTVS has become a front group for co-counseling, I hope they get eclipsed and overtaken by folks with real organizing moxie.

  5. This is great news for anyone interested in Israel’s long-term future…something to which AIPAC and the Bush administration only pay lip service.

  6. Is AIPAC really so right-wing? I was under the impression that AIPAC’s political stance was simply to support the current gov’t of Israel, whoever that gov’t might be and whatever they might do. When Barak was PM, this meant supporting Barak’s peace efforts. When Sharon became PM, this meant moving more to the right, but also supporting the Gaza withdrawal. With Olmert as PM, this means supporting the Israeli gov’t’s position on Lebanon (even if they screwed it up) and supporting any West Bank withdrawals (if they ever get around to that).
    Sure, AIPAC desists from criticizing the Israeli gov’t even when criticism is warranted, but that’s because (as I understand it) they see their role as building and maintaining US gov’t support for the actual State of Israel with all its flaws, not as a voice pushing for some hypothetical ideal of Israel.
    I think it’s great that there are other organizations seeking to not just support Israel, but to try to build US backing to improve it. But I’m not sure I agree with the idea that AIPAC as an organization is bad (distinguishing the organization itself from the bad apples within it who have done bad things). Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think AIPAC is still very important for keeping the US gov’t solidly behind Israel, even if I don’t always agree with everything Israel does.

  7. “I was under the impression that AIPAC’s political stance was simply to support the current gov’t of Israel, whoever that gov’t might be and whatever they might do.”
    In some ways, yes, but in most ways it doesn’t actually live up to that ideal. A friend of mine who worked as one of the “higher ups” in the foreign ministry said that at times they would basically have to tell AIPAC to “just shut up for a week, we need to get something done.” She basically said that AIPAC would just run its collective mouth all over DC and get in the way of the Israeli government making real progress on any front.
    Also, wasn’t the Israel Policy Forum founded as an alternative to AIPAC’s lobbying in DC? MJ Rosenberg, their Director of Policy Analysis comes directly from a career at AIPAC, and they were founded post-Oslo “to become the most important independent, mainstream organization dedicated to mobilizing American Jews in support of sustained U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. IPF is increasingly recognized as a central clearinghouse for policymakers seeking to more effectively engage the United States in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

  8. One of the interesting things about this discussion, and indeed of many of the anti-AIPAC’ers is their fundamental ignorance of how AIPAC – and indeed Washington DC – works.
    One can bemoan the ills and evils of the American political system, but personally I would rather learn it, master it, and win at it than cry about it. The influence AIPAC has built over decades is a product of disciplined focus and attention to learning how to play politics better than anyone else.
    There is no virtue in losing, especially when the stakes are so high.

  9. gotta agree with rebecca m on this one randy–the whole premise of this group is very very much inside the beltway politics–these are inside the beltway funders…and leaders

  10. To setup a pro-Israel lobby is one thing. To setup a pro-Israel lobby with the sole purpose of being the “anti-AIPAC” is wrong. Setting two pro-Israel lobbies to fight one another instead of supporting Israel is bad for Jews, it’s bad for Israel and it’s bad for the Palestinians, as it will embolden the terrorist factions in their society to fight on.
    AIPAC gets the job done, period.
    That’s more than I can say for all the half-brained “peace” initiatives, that somehow end up reigniting the much maligned “cycle of violence” and butchering innocent people on both sides.
    If you want to setup a new pro-Israel lobby, go ahead, but you don’t have to destroy the only effective pro-Israel lobby that exists to do it.
    Don’t forget, you’re not Jewish, you’re a Jew.

  11. Cole and Rebecca, AIPAC’s mission is greater than a right-wing or left-wing agenda. It’s about having a structure in place that allows supporters of Isael (and indeed the Jewish community writ large) to have immediate and direct access to powerholders in our government. Victor is right when he says AIPAC gets the job done.
    As far as the question of who exactly AIPAC speaks for, that’s part of a greater argument within our community that has been going on for ages. The Jewish community is neither left-wing or right wing, liberal or conservative. It is simply an undefined sum of its parts.
    The danger as I see it of trying to set up an “anti-AIPAC,” again echoing Victor, is that once our voice on Capitol Hill is diluted so is our power (as defined by our access). While the folks who read Jewschool may understand the nuanced differences in our positions, some Congressional staffer who is charged with developing a Congresswoman’s position on Israel may not. And that is where the need for a single voice on the Hill comes in.

  12. Randy I couldn’t disagree more. The point is that there isn’t a single voice on this issue, and that there are many of us who disagree with AIPAC’s stance and positions on Israel. And indeed, supposedly, diversity of opinions is exactly what Congressional offices are supposed to be set up to represent. The call for a monolithic voice is tired–as is these nationalist frameworks–and many of us are not going to tow the party line for maintaining a “power” that we don’t agree with.

  13. AIPAC has vigorously defended the occupation. That occupation is deeply detrimental to Israel’s long-term interests. AIPAC has not gotten the job done on helping israel towards a just and sustainable peace. as i see it, there is no greater task facing any organization which seeks to weigh in on israel. So, no, AIPAC doesn’t get the job done, in fact they do a lot of damage.
    The above is a moral and strategic point on which i understand there is a diversity of opinions in the Jewish community. AIPAC covers up that diversity. If staffers are misled into thinking Jews support occupation, or any other specific israeli policy, that is a bad thing. there is diversity and AIPAC is unwilling or unable to present that. as a result it misrepresents american jews. this is dishonest and detrimental.
    Kudos to the coalition of people who are saying enough is enough to the neocons and their Jewish communal backers.
    As for a throwdown, IPF/APN/BTVS get along quite well and just have slightly different missions and organizational structures, no likelihood of a royal rumble, so don’t get to excited.

  14. “Victor what job does AIPAC get done, and for whom is the question?”
    AIPAC puts weapons in the hands of IDF soldiers, and they, in turn, make sure that the next time you’re in Israel you don’t get blow up by some brainwashed seventeen year old. Israel’s offensive, defensive and missile defense capabilities are largely due to American funding, not that you care.
    Past your morally equivalent abyss, there is a real world out there, with real people who are making real plans to really kill Jews. That is unacceptable to me, and it should be unacceptable to you; AIPAC makes sure that, for all its faults, Israel can defend itself.
    “Indeed, some of their biggest allies are Christian Fundamentalists…”
    And your problem with that is… what, exactly? For the first time in millenia, if ever, the Christians support the Jews, morally, materially and substantially, and you have a problem with that? You’d rather the Christians were supporting the Arabs, or better yet, just pogroming us directly?
    We’re facing a 50% assimilation rate and YOU’RE worried about Christians supporting Jews?!
    As has been the case since the Enlightenment, the inclination of certain Jews is to accept the basic premise of Anti-Semitism – that there is something abnormal and wrong with being a Jew and acting as a Jew. Thus, the “Enlightened” Jew seems to make themselves more acceptable to the prevalent society by negating certain aspects of Jewish heritage, tradition and observance. After all, if you accept the premise that there is something wrong with us, the Jews, then it is we who must change to appease society.
    In this case, this neurosis of Galut manifests itself in negating our obvious self interest – which is the preservation of life (both Jewish and Palestinian) by support for a strong State of Israel that is able to impose security, if necessary. Certainly, it is utterly immoral and illegal, even, to place our security in the hands of those who are now sworn to destroy us.
    Despite every evidence that concession breeds concession, that “land for peace” is a sham, that American support for Israel is not guaranteed when viewed in the context of an increasingly affluent Arab-American and Muslim-American population, a bunch of Jews get together and say, “we need an alternative to AIPAC that expresses our progressive ideals.” Great. And what “progressive ideals” are those? The destruction of Israel through more peace campaigns or land concessions or unilateral disengagements or more utterly incoherent and visionless Israeli government policy stewarded by even less accountable American leaders?
    The Israeli political class has failed. The Israeli Army has failed. Now you want to destroy the last vestige for the preservation of Israel – American support. Very progressive.
    Remember, you’re not Jewish, you’re a Jew.

  15. Cole, perhaps we can agree to disagree then, I think we might be talking past each other. I acknowledge you disagree with AIPAC’s stances on certain issues. So do I, but I support AIPAC based on a larger principle. Namely, there has to be one united voice on Capitol Hill that speaks for a strong US-Israel relationship. If it is diluted by having 10 smaller lobbies each built around their own parochial interests, the net result is we (those who believe in the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state behind secure and defined borders) all lose.
    To ZT and others who exist in a world of conspiracies, cabals, secret societies, etc. etc. etc. and who wrap themselves in a cloak of self-righteous name calling and straw man arguments, your point is duly noted and dismessed.
    Many of us who support AIPAC do not support *the occupation.* We simply refuse to pull it out of context as you do and elevate it in to a stand alone issue. I do not want Palestinians to live under Israeli military or civil administration. I do not want them to have to go through checkpoints. I do not want them to have to experience humiliation, depredation, degredation or deprivation. How much clearer can I put that? I simply recognize that there are significant extenuating circumstances which are out of the control of Israel, the US or AIPAC. When the Palestinians are ready to put forth a leadership that is ready to clearly and unambiguously accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and when the Palestinians are ready to rid their body politic of terrorist organizaitons masquerading as political parties, then the occupation will fade away as a “peace dividend.” But putting the horse before the cart is not just naive in this case, it’s deadly.
    Cole, I’ll return to my original point. To abandon AIPAC – and actively work against it – is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There will never be any Jewish organization which represents everyone, be it political, religious, or social. But the nature of power and how it is excercised in DC requires that we have something as close to that as possible in order to marshal our collective political power for the good of the entire pro-Israel community, left to right. For that reason and that alone I would ask you and others who share your point of view to reconsider your stance on AIPAC.

  16. I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. AIPAC does not, and I really doubt will ever, represent what I think is good for our future–AIPAC is hawkish and I think in the end isn’t serving the interests of Jewish people, nor the state of Israel, but rather plays into Israel perpetuating models of imperialist hate, domination and colonization that the US has so galantly demonstrated in their pretense that they are spreading democracy when we don’t even have democracy here at home.
    And as to why I don’t support Christian Zionism being in bed with AIPAC…well, because it’s they aren’t doing it because they care about Jews. In fact, they could care less. Nor honestly do they care about my existing for all other aspects of my identity and who I am and policies that they would love to have implemented that would make this country a blatant theocracy, even though it already is in some ways as stands. Their stake in Israel has nothing to do with Jewish people.

  17. right now US aid goes directly into the israeli treasury w/no oversight — a unique situation — all other aid to foreign countries is channeled thru USAID. Even if Israel claims US money isnt being used to build settlements, it’s irrelevant, because money is fungible– and we continue to subsidize settlement building this way. groups like americans for peace now have recommended conditioning US aid to Israel — but stop short of actually opposing the aid if it isnt conditioned. unless this new group is willing to do that, i’m skeptical it will really affect policy.

  18. “I acknowledge you disagree with AIPAC’s stances on certain issues. So do I, but I support AIPAC based on a larger principle. Namely, there has to be one united voice on Capitol Hill that speaks for a strong US-Israel relationship.”
    Randy, your points are excellent. I totally agree withh you.
    xisntox, I may be wrong but I think USAID money is for non-military aid. Since most of the aid the US provides for Israel is military in nature, that may be one reason why it does not go through USAID. Also, do you have a source for your claim that “all other aid to foreign countries is channeled thru USAID”? I don’t think this is the case.

  19. Cole, I disagree with you on your worldview and that’s a discussion larger than would fit in to a comment box. Suffice to say, however, that your oppressor-oppressed worldview where much if not everything springs from Colonialism is not one shared by the mainstream Jewish community be it liberal or conservative.
    The irony of fingering AIPAC (and Israel!) as representative of imperialist hate is remarkable given the times we live in, but as mentioned before there is not enough space for that chitchat here.

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