Common Dreams — Who Will Stop the AIPAC Jews Before it is Too Late?

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Who Will Stop the AIPAC Jews Before it is Too Late?
Published on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
by Medea Benjamin
While I was being tackled by security guards at Washington’s
Convention Center during the AIPAC conference for unfurling a banner
that asked “What about Gaza?,” my heart was aching. I wasn’t bothered
so much by the burly guards who were yanking my arms behind by back
and dragging me-along with 5 other CODEPINK members-out of the
hall. They were doing their job.
What made my heart ache was the hatred I felt from the AIPAC staff who
tore up the banner and slammed their hands across my mouth as I tried
to yell out: “What about Gaza? What about the children?”
“Shut the f— up. Shut the f— up.” one staffer yelled, red-faced
and sweating as he ran beside me. “This is not the place to be saying
that shit. Get the f— out of here.”
What makes my heart ache is thinking about the traumatized children I
met on my recent trip to Gaza, and how their suffering is denied by
the 6,000 AIPAC conventioneers who are living in a bubble-a bubble
where Israel is the victim and all critics are anti-Semitic, terrorist
lovers or, as in my case, self-hating Jews.
I found it fascinating that AIPAC’s executive director Howard Kohr
opened the conference admitting that there was now a huge,
international campaign against the policies of Israel. He painted a
picture of 30,000 people marching in Spain, Italian trade unionists
calling for a boycott of Israeli products, the UN Human Rights Council
passing 26 resolutions condemning Israel, an Israeli Apartheid Week
that is building a global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
This global movement, he warned, emanates from the Middle East, echoes
in the halls of the United Nations and the capitals of Europe, is
voiced in meetings of international peace organizations, and is
spreading throughout the United States-from the media to town hall
meetings, from campuses to city squares. “No longer is this campaign
confined to the ravings of the political far le lamented, “but
increasingly it is entering the American mainstream.”
But Kohr failed to explain why there has been such an explosion in
this movement, even among the American Jewish community. He didn’t
tell the attendees that the world was shocked and outraged by Israel’s
devastating 22-day attack on Gaza that left over 1,300 people
dead-mostly women and children. He didn’t mention the killing of
civilians fleeing their homes, the use of white phosphorous, the
bombing of homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, UN buildings,
factories. He didn’t talk about the continuing, cruel blockade of the
Gaza Strip that is keeping desperately needed humanitarian aid from
reaching 1.5 million people and making rebuilding impossible.
There were no seminars at the conference by human rights groups like
Amnesty International that are calling for an immediate and
comprehensive suspension of arms to Israel. Instead, one after
another, U.S. elected officials eager to curry favor with AIPAC
pledged continued U.S. financial support for Israel. Senator Kerry,
despite that fact that he was one of only a handful of legislators who
visited Gaza, didn’t say one word about the massive destruction he
witnessed and pledged that as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, he would do everything to ensure that the $30 billion in
military aid to Israel is “delivered in full.” “America will continue
our military aid, and Israel will keep its military strength,” he
insisted. Instead of calling for talks with the democratically elected
government of Hamas, Kerry said: “Hamas has already won one
election-we cannot allow them to win another.” He ended his speech
shouting several times in Hebrew, “Am Yisrael Chai-Israel lives!”
Even Vice President Biden, who at least told AIPAC that Israel should
freeze new settlement activity, didn’t say a word about the ongoing
humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s invasion and continued blockade
of Gaza. No U.S. officials, and there were hundreds at the conference,
dared echo the call of the United Nations or the world community to
lift the siege of Gaza.
Republican Congressman Eric Cantor was one of the most emotional
speakers, portraying Israel as the victim of an evil global movement
determined to wipe out Israel and all Jews. Evoking the “shivering,
naked victims who were herded into the gas chambers,” he wondered when
it would become too late to protect Israel. “When is it too late?”, he
repeated over and over.
I wonder the same thing. When is it too late, I wonder, to stop Israel
from destroying itself? When is it too late to tell AIPAC attendees
that more violence and hatred is not the answer? When is it too late
to open the hardened hearts of my people, once victims of a terrible
holocaust, to realize that by occupying Palestine we have become they
evil we deplore? When is it too late to restore meaning to the Hebrew
term “tikkun olam” by truly working to heal the world? When is it too
late for the Jews of the world to weep for the children of Gaza,
recognizing that they, too, are the children of God?
I couldn’t ask my questions at AIPAC. My mouth was muzzled by the
sweaty hands of hate-filled staffers demanding that I “shut the f—
up.” But despite AIPAC’s massive funds and influence, I feel certain
that more and more members of the Jewish community will step forward
and refuse to be silent. I just pray it is not too late.
For information on upcoming delegations to Gaza, see
Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global
Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace