Say what, you say. Why would Aipac have anything to say about Congressional ethics legislation?
First, let’s explain that the Democrats took control of Congress on the strength of (among other things) a promise to overhaul Congressional ethics and limit the power of lobbyists. Among the proposed reforms are ones that would disallow Congressional junkets.
Let The Forward explain it all to you:
All-expense-paid tours to Israel are among the most common overseas trips made by members of Congress and their aides. Watchdog groups, using data from congressional filings, have reported that Israel is the leading destination for privately sponsored congressional trips. In the years 2000 to 2005, 164 of the 1,922 overseas congressional visits were to Israel. In the past year, 62 Congress members and staffers visited Israel on trips funded by pro-Israel and Jewish groups. Most of the junkets are sponsored by the main pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, through its sister organization, the American Israel Education Foundation. The foundation is the second-largest sponsor of overseas trips.
Other Jewish groups sending lawmakers and their aides to Israel include United Jewish Communities, the national association of federated Jewish philanthropies.
American Radioworks has compiled data on 215 trips sponsored by AIEF at a total cost of $1.3-million. This was the third largest-expenditure among all sponsors of such junkets. At this site, you can see who Aipac feted in Israel and how much it cost us.
Aipac is protesting against the reforms under the guise that their junkets are “educational” trips that inform legislators in a supposedly balanced way about the Israeli-Arab conflict:
Jewish groups are now lobbying Congress to make sure that educational trips, such as those to Israel, be allowed to continue even under the new restrictions being considered. “Trips to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) have long been considered among the most substantive, educational and valuable trips available for members of Congress,” Aipac spokesman Josh Block said. “While in Israel, members have the opportunity to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, academics, journalists, elected officials, hearing from speakers representing diverse views across the political spectrum, and get a personal, firsthand view of issues of great importance to American policy in the Middle East.”
I have reviewed the itinerary of a Democratic junket hosted by the National Jewish Democratic Coalition and the AJC. What tour participants wrote about their experiences there indicate that they went through their visit wearing rose colored glasses. Here’s Howard Dean:
“I met with former Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, both of whom are key political actors today; and while they disagree vehemently on pressing issues, they do not challenge each other’s patriotism.”
Bibi Netanyahu does nothing BUT question the patriotism of his political opponents including Shimon Peres.
Steve Grossman, when he toured the Separation Wall (which he euphemistically calls, using Aipac’s precise formulation, “the security fence”), appears to have been somewhere south of cloud cuckoo land:
We toured the security fence by Kalkilya, where the architect responsible for locating the fence demonstrated the difficult balance that Israel seeks to maintain: dramatically reducing the threat to Israeli civilians from terrorists while minimizing the impact on the Palestinian community.”
Why certainly that little fence has only one purpose and that is to keep out those nasty Palestinian terrorists. And it couldn’t possibly have any other purpose like expropriating huge chunks of Palestinian land. That’s just nasty ol’ stuff and Israel wouldn’t have anything to do with something like that.
The Arizona Democratic Party chair had this to say about Israel’s army service:
“I have observed that even though Israel has a draft, people accept their responsibility to serve their nation willingly and seriously.”
First, I’ve never heard Israel’s army service referred to as a draft. It certainly isn’t in the traditional U.S. sense. Israel has compulsory military service. Compulsory, that is, for everyone but Orthodox yeshiva students who somehow are excused from military service possibly because their prayers are considered extra holy and the IDF needs all the prayers it can get. That was meant facetiously. But the point is that not every Israeli “accepts their responsibility to serve their nation willingly and seriously.” If Aipac had really been educating these people about Israel as it really is, then the speaker would’ve known his statement was false on its face.
Finally, the tour itinerary notes that it held its first Shabbat dinner at Rabbi Daniel Gordis‘ home. Gordis holds harsh anti-Palestinian views advocating a military solution to the conflict. His site currently features a glowing review by uber-Israel booster, Alan Dershowitz, of Gordis’ latest book. Gordis’ political views of course fit perfectly with the Aipac agenda, but certainly do not reflect the majority of Israeli and American Jewish opinion as demonstrated in recent surveys.
Though apparently NJDC tour participants met with Palestinians, the group would not admit this in its public statements about the trip. They met with Likud and Kadima politicians, but no one (as far as their public statements about the trip schedule) from Labor and certainly no one from Meretz or any Israeli Arab party. They met with no dovish analysts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And this junket was hosted for DEMOCRATS. You can imagine how even farther right Aipac would slant a junket that included Congressional Republicans.
I’m not saying I’ve seen the itineraries for every Aipac junket. Perhaps a few might’ve scheduled meetings that included progressive voices, Israeli Arabs or Palestinians. But I’d be willing to bet Bush’s ranch (I’d bet my own but I don’t have one) that such meetings would be the exception rather than the rule.
So what you have is a megalobby pretending that it speaks with one voice on behalf of the American Jewish community regarding Israel; but which actually does a deep disservice both to that community and Israel by its narrow-gauge political advocacy. Now, in addition to representing Israel’s interests here so poorly, Aipac wishes to throw a wrench in the gears of Democratic good government initiatives before the new Congress. Way to go, Aipac!
Why should U.S. taxpayers fund slanted junkets to Israel which present a thoroughly one-sided rightist perspective on the conflict? It’s no wonder when these same legislators return to the halls of Congress they refuse to question anything that Aipac does AND cooperate in or even initiate questionable activities of the type alleged of Jane Harman, who stands accused of dragooning Aipac donors into intervening on her behalf in order to save her chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.
House Democrats will be under enormous pressure not only from Aipac, but from every other lobbying interest, not to do away with Congressional junkets. Even House members in their heart of hearts probably want to retain them. We’ll see how much spine the newly majority Democrats have and just how much residual power Aipac has retained, when we find out what the reform legislation will look like. My bet is on a reversion to form–Aipac wins, the taxpayer loses.
I asked a former Aipac staffer (who shall remain nameless since he still works in this milieu) who knows their junket trips inside and out about his “take” on them. Clearly this individual no longer holds Aipac in high regard. But this is what he had to say after reading this post:
You have it exactly right. These AIPAC trips are the grownup version of Birthright. All propaganda, all the time.
Hat tip to TPM.
Privately funded junkets pose a problem when they amount to what is a thinly veiled form of bribery. Thus, a ski trip to Aspen to attend an alleged conference of the insurance industry, or a week in Tahiti at behest of petroleum companies, are a serious problem. That is the laudatory purpose behind the ethics reforms.
The trips to Israel funded by NJDC and the like are different. NJDC, AJC, and the other advocacy organizations are not hoping to win lawmakers’ favors because of the plush bedding at the King David Hotel, because it’s fun to float in the Dead Sea, or because they want to take Congressmembers clubbing to meet the incredibly beautiful women in Tel Aviv. Rather, these trips have a bona fide political and educational purpose.
Richard’s complaint is that these trips do not include the advocacy that he wants to hear or the facts as he believes them to be. Specifically, he claims that these trips do not include any progressive voices. Even using his limited data, this is clearly false. The trips have included visits with Shimon Peres, a long time progressive and dove, as well as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (personally, I don’t think this last fact makes him beyond reproach, but apparently Richard does. See his post on Desmond Tutu). They also showed that, as adeptly noted by Howard Dean, that while Peres and Netenyahu are both on opposite sides of the political spectrum, that just about everyone in Israel, liberal and conservative, agrees that Israel needs to take the measures it has taken to defend itself. The Uri Averny’s of the world are a rarity, and their popularity and relevance are hugely overstated by certain parts of the media, which is another reason it’s good to bring people to the country to actually meet leaders and see the consensus on both the left and the right.
But ultimately, the real problem is that Richard just doesn’t get free speech. Free speech means that groups advocate their point of view. The fact that Richard doesn’t like what pro-Israel advocates say doesn’t mean they should not be able to advocate it to Congress by demonstrating, up close, the very very real threats that Israel faces from its neighbors. When congressmembers visit the Palestinian territories and meet with PNA leaders (which they did until the Palestinians elected representatives from an organization that is internationally recognized as a terrorist group), you wouldn’t expect those groups to take Congressmembers to the many Palestinians who oppose Palestinian policy. You wont see visits to the Christian communities who are desparately trying to keep people from fleeing PNA rule. You wont see meetings with Arabs in East Jerusalem who are positively horrified at the prospect of Israel being forced to cede sovereignty to Palestine.
Ethics is a huge issue in the new Congress (or at least it should be). As such, the ban on privately funded travel has some appeal, because in many cases it really is just a form of legalized bribery. It would be a real shame, however, if the baby were thrown out with the bathwater by prohibiting bona fide educational and advocacy trips like funded by AJC and AIPAC.
Richard Silverstein says
Spoken like a true flack. If you don’t work for Aipac (I note you live/work in the DC area), then they should grab you up. Not that you’re a convincing propagandist. But by their standards you are.
You’re trying to split hairs. A junket is a junket is a junket. If these junkets are so important–then organize them completely transparently. Offer them to legislators but w/o any subsidy whatsoever. Let them go to Israel on their own dime.
As for how “educational” they are–my friend worked for Aipac & had other Hill staff positions & has been working there for over 20 years. If he says they are “All propaganda, all the time,” and you say otherwise, then I know who I believe.
And if you’d care to maintain the junkets are diverse and multi-partisan would you care to provide me any full itineraries so I can judge for myself? Can you point to any junkets who met with a Hadash or Meretz member? How about a Peace Now representative? How about Palestinian NGOs? How about Neve Shalom leaders? Or B’Tselem? Or Rabbis for Human Rights? How many junkets met with any of these organizations?
You see, this is precisely why these junkets are boondoggles & not bona fide educational missions. Congressmembers see what Aipac wants them to see and they “disregard the rest” in Paul Simon’s words. Aipac doesn’t want them to hear about peaceful co-existence. Aipac doesn’t want them to learn that Arabs and Israelis can live together peacefully. Aipac wants to show them a vision of eternal war in which Israel is always vulnerable, always sinned against & never sinning.
Wrong again, These junkets are FULL OF ADVOCACY as I’ve described above. They’re full of advocacy for a nationalist, Likud political perspective on the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any junket will have advocacy. It’s just a question of whether you attempt to include all sides or whether you’re satisfied with presenting only one narrow one. You & Aipac are clearly satisfied with jingoism & propaganda. I’m hoping the majority Democrats ignore your pablum and do the right thing by ending porky junkets like those run by Aipac.
Oh, I see–a visit with Shimon Peres means you’ve covered all the progressive bases? Puh-leeze. Shimon Peres is a washed up has been who hasn’t represented a truly dovish or progressive political position in years. To say that seeing him means you’ve heard a truly diverse perspective is ludicrous and laughable.
I never said ANY Nobel Peace Prize laureate was “beyond reproach.” In fact, if you’d bother to read the comments section of that post you would see that I did take Tutu to task for one of his comments about Israel. Either you ignored that, were too lazy to read it, or did read it & deliberately omitted it because it’s ever so much more convenient to take pot shots when you can alter reality to yr own peculiar specifications.
And as for Peres being “beyond reproach,” guess you messed up on that one as well since I’m highly critical of Peres with or w/o a Nobel. You see the Prize doesn’t give you a free ride. It gives you a platform. It’s what you do with that platform that matters. Peres has done precious little with it esp. compared to others who’ve won it who’ve been featured here.
Just about everyone agrees that the IDF should pound Beit Hanun & its civilian inhabitants into the ground? Just about everyone agrees that the IDF should strangle Gaza till old people die for lack of medical care and children develop malnutrition? Just about everyone agrees that Israel should not engage in final status negotiations with the Palestinians? Just about everyone agrees that Israel should not withdraw from W. Bank settlements? Just about everyone agrees with the policy of targeted assassinations & their concomitant taking of innocent human life? Just about everyone in Israel agrees that Israel should use DIME, white phosphorus and cluster bombs against civilians? Just about everyone agrees Israel should not negotiate with Syria?
These are all policies and “measures it has taken to defend itself” which “just about everyone” does NOT agree with. Once again, you use specious rhetorical tricks to get out of what the real & true questions are–which are Israel has done next to nothing to resolve this conflict. Yes, the current ceasefire is worth commending. But even it was not based on an Israeli initiative. If you read Gideon Levy in today’s Haaretz he makes clear that it was the Palestinians who cooked up this idea. It was the U.S. which sold it to Israel. Olmert just waltzed in & took the credit. But we’ll see how long it lasts. Levy, once again, predicts an Israeli targeted assassination which will, as w. so many prior truces, will destroy this truce as well.
You should only have done in yr entire life as much to promote peace & understanding between Israelis & Arabs as Uri Avnery has done in a single day of his. And while we’re on the subject–point me to a single junket which has met with him. Please prove me wrong. I’d love to be proven wrong. But you know I won’t be.
What “consensus on both the left and the right???” Now, I know you’re out of yr mind. Possibly the only western democracy whose opposing political parties are more rancorously and partisanly divided than Israel would be here in the U.S. Oh, I see you’re claiming that Aipac will show junketeers the consensus bet. Netanyahu & Lieberman on the right and Peres on the so-called “left.” To believe this, you have to be hopelessly out of touch with the Israeli political scene. To say this, would be akin to saying Israeli legislators should take a U.S. junket to hear about the ‘consensus on both the left and right’ from Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman. That’s an entirely plausible statement isn’t it?
“Free speech?” Aipac’s junkets are expressions of “free speech?” Really, you must be joking. That would be $1.3 million worth of free speech. And behind that little nest egg lies another tidy little sum of a $50 million annual Aipac budget. That’s a helluva lot of free speech if you ask me.
If Aipac really wanted to promote free speech it would arrange truly diverse, rather than propagandistic junket itineraries. Until they do so they are engaging in entirely partisan–and not free speech.
I never said Aipac shouldn’t be able to advocate it’s partisan positions in the halls of Congress. But it shouldn’t get away with the false claim that it represents all Jews or that it represents a non-or un-partisan view of the Israeli-Arab conflict. And as long as it represents an entirely skewed view its junkets should not be underwritten by the U.S. taxpayer.
This passage is so chock full of howlers I don’t know where to start. First, if a member of the U.S. Congress visits Palestinian areas I would hope he would speak to any credible representative political leader which would include Hamas, Fatah and other independents. That is more than I can say for those unfortunates who believe Aipac has shown them “the real Israel.” Second, who specifically are these “many Palestinians who oppose Palestinian policy???” Congratulations, you’ve made up a new political category among Palestinians. Or do you know about some secret cell of Hatikva-singing, Occupation loving Palestinians the rest of us have never heard of? Third, Hamas is currently being boycotted by the EU and U.S. Shortly, (in perhaps a month and certainly far less than a yr) this will change. And isn’t it interesting that while they refuse to negotiate with or recognize Hamas, a comfortable majority of the Israeli people want their government to negotiate directly with Hamas. Try explaining away that one would you.
Now, I know you’re out of yr mind. Which Arabs might these be? Who are they and how many are there? I can’t believe you’re trying to foist off the equivalent of the Walid Shoebats of this world as a significant or even credible political force in Palestinian society.
I really like the image of anything Aipac does being associated with a “baby.” The notion of their junkets being “babies” really tickles the funny bone. Rather, I’d liken them to 900 lb. gorillas who get across their “educational” message with a suitably sized tree limb. I’d like to get these animals back to their native habitat and out of the halls of Congress and the legislative process.
Richard, I hate to break it to you, but I neither work nor live in the D.C. area. And I have no connections to AIPAC. I am just, as you have said “Citizen Parkhurst.” (Why you use that as a derogatory term is beyond me. I consider citizenship to be a great privilege and responsibility).
“A junket is a junket is a junket. If these junkets are so important–then organize them completely transparently. Offer them to legislators but w/o any subsidy whatsoever. Let them go to Israel on their own dime.”
A non sequitur. I have no problem with disclosure and transparency (AIPAC’s educational affiliate apparently does disclose what it spends on these trips). That’s diferent from asking if these trips should be on “their own dime?” Who is “their?” Ultimately, you are asking the taxpayer to foot the bill. If a group wishes to lobby a congressmember, they can do so on THEIR own dime. But the experience is a lot more enlightening when someone can actually go to the country and see it up close for oneself (for one thing, one instantly realizes how Israel’s enemies are right on top of it).
“And if you’d care to maintain the junkets are diverse and multi-partisan would you care to provide me any full itineraries so I can judge for myself? Can you point to any junkets who met with a Hadash or Meretz member? How about a Peace Now representative? How about Palestinian NGOs? How about Neve Shalom leaders? Or B’Tselem? Or Rabbis for Human Rights? How many junkets met with any of these organizations?”
Again, you completely miss the point. I’ve never said that the trips give “equal time” to those who wish to drag Israel into disrepute. That’s not the purpose of organizing an educational trip. A lobbyist presents a point of view. A good one presents his or her points of view with facts and compelling argument. The case for Israel is a lot more compelling when you see it up close.
If anyone wants to organize “fact finding” delegations to Palestine, they are free to do so. Go ahead and counter speech with more speech!
“Just about everyone agrees that the IDF should pound Beit Hanun & its civilian inhabitants into the ground?”
No, but just about everyone agrees that Israel has a right to go after Qassam rocket teams. And just about everyone agrees that the errant shell that hit civilians in Beit Hanoun was a terrible mistake that should be avoided if possible. And just about everyone agrees that the claim that Israel deliberately tried to kill those civilians, as has been claimed by the Palestinians, is ludicrous.
” Just about everyone agrees that the IDF should strangle Gaza till old people die for lack of medical care and children develop malnutrition?”
No, but just about everyone agrees that, since Israel evacuated every single settlement in Gaza, that it has become a hotbed for smuggling weaponry and carrying out more rocket attacks and that Israel has to prevent such smuggling and attacks.
” Just about everyone agrees that Israel should not engage in final status negotiations with the Palestinians?”
No, in fact Olmert has offered to engage in such final status negotiations.
” Just about everyone agrees that Israel should not withdraw from W. Bank settlements?”
No, in fact the current lead party of the government came to power on a promise to withdraw from West Bank settlements. Such a promise becomes more difficult, however, in light of the increased violence that came from Gaza.
” Just about everyone agrees with the policy of targeted assassinations & their concomitant taking of innocent human life?”
On this area, there is debate within Israeli society. But yes, most people agree that terrorists should be targeted, so long as efforts are taken to minimize harm to non-combatants.
” Just about everyone in Israel agrees that Israel should use DIME, white phosphorus and cluster bombs against civilians?”
No, not everyone does.
” Just about everyone agrees Israel should not negotiate with Syria?”
For the most part, most people are highly skeptical about negotiating with Syria. However, most of the pressure not to negotiate comes from the U.S. government on Israel, not vice versa.
Beyond these meta-issues, however, the consensus on the left and the right is that Israel cannot simply repeatedly make the unilateral concessions that are demanded of it, and that for Israel to negotiate with extremist parties backed by other extremst nations is not particularly fruitful.
“You should only have done in yr entire life as much to promote peace & understanding between Israelis & Arabs as Uri Avnery has done in a single day of his. And while we’re on the subject–point me to a single junket which has met with him. Please prove me wrong. I’d love to be proven wrong. But you know I won’t be.”
You also should have done in yr entire life as much to promote peace and understanding. We all should, I suppose. Except that Uri Averny isn’t really promoting peace and understanding as much as promoting himself by trying to denigrate nearly everyone else in the country. Regardless of what Uri Averny has done, you again miss the point. Uri Averny simply does not represent a significant portion of Israeli thinking. For you to say otherwise demonstrates that you are significantly less tuned into the political scene than I. An educational trip does not have to promote hostile views to be educational.
Your attack on Shimon Peres is particularly galling. Peres is a man who both in and outside of government has tirelessly worked to promote peace and coexistance. And quite often his political positions cost him electoral success. And you dare denigrate this man as a “washed up has been.” Have you even heard of the Peres center for peace, which for the past decade has funded countless numbers of coexistance projects? Gee Richard, you should only have done in yr entire life as much to promote peace & understanding between Israelis & Arabs as Shimon Peres has done in a single day of his.
“This passage is so chock full of howlers I don’t know where to start. First, if a member of the U.S. Congress visits Palestinian areas I would hope he would speak to any credible representative political leader which would include Hamas, Fatah and other independents. That is more than I can say for those unfortunates who believe Aipac has shown them “the real Israel.” Second, who specifically are these “many Palestinians who oppose Palestinian policy???” Congratulations, you’ve made up a new political category among Palestinians. Or do you know about some secret cell of Hatikva-singing, Occupation loving Palestinians the rest of us have never heard of? Third, Hamas is currently being boycotted by the EU and U.S. Shortly, (in perhaps a month and certainly far less than a yr) this will change. And isn’t it interesting that while they refuse to negotiate with or recognize Hamas, a comfortable majority of the Israeli people want their government to negotiate directly with Hamas. Try explaining away that one would you.”
I see, so Uri Averny is a legitimate representative but Walid Shoebat is not. It is admitedly difficult for Palestinian’s to speak out against their lives being handed over to the PNA, because the price for free speech is, how shall we say it, a bit more expensive in the territories. But that’s one kind of “open debate” that you don’t care about.
Ultimately, your problem is not that AJC and the like are not engaging in education and advocacy, but that they don’t present the particular point of view that you like, and that the point of view that they do present is incredibly persuasive. So instead, under the subterfuge of “ethics reform” you want to ban it.
Richard Silverstein says
You truly disgust me. Israeli progressives do not “wish to drag Israel into disrepute.” This is a despicable lie. Rather, it is yr stupidity in the manner you defend Israel and twist everything reasonable critics say about it that drags yourself into disrepute & does no favors for Israel either.
Ah, I see–the purpose of an “educational trip” is NOT to hear a balanced perspective on the conflict which includes the major political strands of national debate. What is it then? To present a single unified vision of what one particular narrowly defined, ultra-nationalist, and politically conservative lobby group wishes the Jewish public and Congress to believe about Israel? I’ve got news for you, that’s not “education.” That’s propaganda.
And the idea that “education” and “lobbying” can be yoked together is about as much an oxymoron as one of the most famous oxymorons, “military justice.”
More sophistry. And you are dead wrong. Olmert has NEVER, I repeat NEVER “offered to engage in…final status negotiations.” And if by some chance someone can dredge up a quote showing that he has, the proof is in the pudding. He has never DONE it, not even negotiated with Abbas (let alone final status talks), ever. What he has agreed to–but never implemented–is to talk to Abbas. You apparently don’t understand the distinction bet. an offer to talk and final status negotiations or else you’re rhetorically careless (or both). He has made such offers to talk several times over a long period of time. A long enough period of time for the world to realize that he was not serious about about the offer. In other words, he was lying.
It may be that Olmert will indeed at some point agree to meet with Abbas, perhaps even to negotiate with him. But I would almost be willing to bet my house that an Israeli delegation to final status talks with the Palestinians will never take place under an Olmert government. I’d be shocked if this were the case.
I didn’t claim Israelis weren’t ‘skeptical’ about negotiating with Syria. What I said, or rather what Israelis said in a number of diff. public opinion polls, is that a clear majority are in favor of negotiating with Syria. You have not disputed that. You cannot because it is simply true and posts here which link to the poll results prove it. Again, you either don’t understand the clear language I used or else you’re rhetorically careless. It is just like an ideologue or a politician to take a statement they oppose and respond not to the statement but to what you wanted the statement to say.
Again, you completely twist what is the actual truth. The majority of Israelis (again in polls linked in this blog) are IN FAVOR OF negotiating with Hamas, even if it is an “extremist party backed by other extremist nations.”
Don’t you dare talk to me about what I’ve done to promote peace and understanding between Israelis and Arabs. I’ve devoted my life to this subject since 1967. I’ve lived and studied in Israel. I’ve earned a graduate degree in Hebrew literature. I’ve both worked and volunteered for a score of Jewish groups promoting peace in the Middle East. This blog, which I’ve maintained for four years and which contains nearly 1,000 posts on the Israeli-Arab conflict–along with my site, Israel Palestine Blogs–are my blog-related projects on the same theme. I’ve produced radio programs on the subject. I produced a radio show this fall on Israeli and Lebanese peace music.
What do you have to show? Please give us yr curriculum vitae when it comes to promoting peace between Israelis and Arabs.
Your lies are simply hopeless. Have you no shame? Really at long last have you no shame? Yes, you are truly worthy of those famous words delivered by Joseph Welch toward Joe McCarthy. Neither truth nor fairness nor intellectual accuracy matter a whit to you. You may not like Avnery. I’m not asking you to. There are things he writes that even I do not agree with. But to make the patently false claim you do about him shows you are entirely bereft of human decency.
Utter bullshit. If only lying made it so. Peres hasn’t done anything serious to promote peace in yrs. And talk about someone who “isn’t really promoting peace and understanding as much as promoting himself,” that’s Old Man Peres to the max. He can’t get elected prime minister, Labor Party leader, or even president–hell, he might not even be able to get elected dogcatcher. If he was truly devoted to peace he would attract votes from Labor and Meretz voters who are the most devoted to this issue among the Israeli electorate. Instead, he goes and jumps ship to join Admiral Sharon on the Good Ship Kadima. He sure got a lot of peace votes out of that little sham sea voyage. Peres is about as devoted to peace as any standard issue Israeli politician–about as dedicated to it as Sharon or Olmert, which is to say, not very much.
There may’ve been times in his career when he was dedicated to a vision of peace. But that was somewhere back in the 1990s. Ten years is an eternity in the Mideast. You don’t get to stake a claim to being a peacemaker for something you did 10 years earlier, especially when you haven’t done anything credible on the subject since.
No, not ‘quite often.’ But only once. When he was running for prime minister after Rabin’s assassination and Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups conspired to bring Netanyahu into the prime minister’s office. That was a sad day for Peres. And my heart went out to him then. I have no doubt that the Peres of the 1990s who ran for PM had the vision to attain peace if he’d been granted the job. But he wasn’t. And he’s made an abject mess out of the remainder of his career.
Besides, one could easily argue that the vision of peace he pursued was the product of a partnership with Yitzhak Rabin. And that once Rabin died, Peres did not have the strength of will, probity of judgment, or wiliness of personal and political resources to realize the vision on his own. It was a case of Lennon-McCarthy redux. After John died what did you get? Band on the Run.
Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that it was none other than Shimon Peres who provided the Labor government heksher (“official approval”) for the very first Israeli settlement in the West Bank as documented in Gershon Gorenberg’s latest book. The latter argues plausibly that had he not done so, the settler movement might never have succeeded.
You’re damn straight. Uri Avnery is an ardent Israeli, a lover of his country while a hater of its serious moral imperfections. Avnery has published one of the most popular Israeli periodicals. He served several terms in the Knesset. He has never renounced Israel. He has never lived anywhere other than Israel. He has never renounced being a Jew though he doesn’t have much use for theocratic Orthodoxy. Again, there are positions of Avnery’s I don’t agree with. But if I lived in the time of Jeremiah or Isaiah I’m sure there would be positions of theirs I wouldn’t have agreed with. And this doesn’t lessen their (Avnery’s or the prophets) moral stature.
What stature does the despicable Shoebat have? A former PLO terrorist, a former Palestinian, a former Muslim. Now a Christian convert to evangelical right wing Christianity–embraced and fully funded by the Christian Zionist community and Jewish ultra-nationalists. Living not in the Middle East, but in California and among his Christian zealot fellow believers. And how many followers does he have among Arabs? Really, could it be 100, even 1,000? That would really be a stretch. And what Arab parliament has he ever been elected to? What Arab political party or movement has ever embraced him? Who, in God’s name, does he represent among Arabs?
On the contrary, yes, my problem IS that Aipac doesn’t present a fair and balanced perspective on Israeli society and political discourse. As for their “incredibly persuasive” point of view–I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder.
And their success is rapidly diminishing with every Aipac staffer accused of spying for Israel, and every Aipac donor who lobbies the Minority Leader about internal House business (in a vain attempt to get an Aipac darling reappointed chair of a committee), and every bill that gets bottled up by a successful counter lobbying effort by opposing progressive Jewish groups. All these things happened in the past year or so. And more such failures will happen this coming year.
Aipac’s days are numbered. They won’t die overnight or even in a year. But others will arise to challenge their hegemony and those others will eventually gain traction and represent a credible, persuasive and strongly expressed perspective that competes successfully with Aipac’s. “May it come soon and in our day.”