Eve Mykytyn 3/26/19
The Forward’s headline news this week was: “Defiant AIPAC Opens Conference Emphasizing Diversity." The Forward’s claim to ‘diversity’ seemed to be based upon the inclusion of a few ‘progressive’ speakers and a high school student who said: “When people say my generation is losing faith in Israel I am an example of why they are wrong.”
Or perhaps by diversity they meant the inclusion of a Brit. MP Joan Ryan used the occasion to announce that she had “walked away from the Labour Party” which she called ‘far left’ and ‘anti Semitic’.
AIPAC’s claim to diversity is belied by its support of Israel that has declared itself to be a “nation state for Jews alone.”
Whatever the lip service to diversity, the AIPAC conference opened with an unintentionally comic rant by AIPAC CEO, Howard Kohr who complained at the America -Israel conference of “the scurrilous charge of dual loyalty.”
Speaking as a “progressive Democrat” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared his ‘solidarity’ with Israel. De Blasio claimed to know that: “The vast majority of Democrats [and progressives] support the State of Israel.” De Blasio also announced his opposition to Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) which he claimed is intended to end international support for Israel and is an affront to “the very notion of Israel as a guaranteed refuge” for Jewish asylum-seekers.
Why do politicians rush to AIPAC? Although AIPAC itself is prohibited from making political contributions, as noted by Philip Geraldi, AIPAC is a seriously threatening organization with income of more than $100 million per annum, nearly 400 employees, 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and a “vast pool of donors.” AIPAC effectively links Congressional candidates with pro-Israel donors and its control of donations encourages political candidates to accept pro-Israel contributions or risk having that money fund their opponents. The Foreign Policy Journal notes that the “AIPAC-led pro-Israel lobby is probably the strongest, best organized and most effective lobby network in Washington DC.”
Electronic Intifada obtained and published the four-part series in which Al Jazeera examined the Jewish Lobby in the US. In it, leaders of the pro-Israel lobby speak openly about how they use money to influence the political process. Their declarations are so blunt that as Ryan Grim said in the Intercept, “if the comments were made by critics, they’d be charged with anti-Semitism.”
In one scene, David Ochs, founder of HaLev, which helps send young people to AIPAC’s conference, described how AIPAC and its donors organize fundraisers outside the official organization so that the money doesn’t show up on disclosure forms as coming from AIPAC. Ochs asserts that the money enables the pro-Israel lobby to enact its agenda: “Congressmen and senators don’t do anything unless you pressure them… and the only way to do that is with money.”
Israel relies on AIPAC to keep US support for Israel high.“When people [in the US] ask me how they can help Israel,” former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon once told an audience, “I tell them: Help AIPAC.”
Gilad Atzmon has observed that when Jews detect “that something associated with them has become problematic they quickly form satellite dissent movements: they are first to oppose themselves.” This year, MoveOn, an organization that claims to be “committed to an inclusive and progressive future” urged 2020 presidential candidates not to attend the AIPAC Conference.
In urging the boycott of AIPAC, Iram Ali, Campaign Director at MoveOn stated “It’s no secret that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage.” MoveOn also listed in its AIPAC critique the fact that AIPAC has refused to “condemn the antisemitism of Republicans, such as Trump’s friend and advisor Steve Bannon.”
Moveon was created in 1998 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, to counter the negative publicity surrounding the Clinton impeachment. A similarly named group, the moveon peace campaign was founded in 2001 by Eli Pariser, a college student who had gathered half a million signatures on a petition against military retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, and the two groups merged shortly thereafter. Pariser is a longtime protester, who recounts that when he was 5 he picketed his own driveway in rural Maine with a sign that said, ''Nature's great -- don't take it away.'' He descends on his father's side from Zionist Jews who helped found Tel Aviv, and on his mother's from Polish socialists.
Initially, George Soros and Peter Lewis were by far the largest individual donors to Moveon. George Soros is a Hungarian-born Jew and a famous social liberal who got rich speculating on currency markets and Peter Lewis was the Chairman (and onetime CEO) of the Progressive Insurance Company, which was co-founded in 1937 by his father, Joseph Lewis. Under Peter Lewis, Progressive grew into the fourth-largest U.S. personal auto insurer, and insures high-risk motorists who can’t get insurance anywhere else. According to Forbes magazine, Peter Lewis had amassed a fortune estimated at $1.1 billion when he died in 2013.
Lewis credited his Jewish heritage for playing “a strong role” in his philosophy of life, the centerpiece of which was “extraordinary openness and impeccable honesty.”
In 2018, Moveon’s largest donor by far ($3,000,000) was the Asana Corporation, a $900 million dollar software business founded by two ethnically Jewish men, Justin Rosenstein and Dustin Moskovitz.
Whatever the intent of the opposition, it proved not particularly effective. By tradition, Presidential primary candidates rarely attend AIPAC anyway and most of the US’s major political figures joined the long list of AIPAC’s speakers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s speech, made after the third day in a row that Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, praised the “relentlessly bipartisan” nature of Congress’ support for Israel. Pelosi first defined the claim of “dual loyalty” as ‘anti Semitic” and then declared “that to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-American.”
The only regular attendee to skip AIPAC this year was Benjamin Netanyahu who announced he was cutting short his visit to the American capital and would return to Israel after meeting U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House.