I was delighted to read M.J. Rosenberg’s column today about IPF’s high-level lobbying effort on Capitol Hill this week:
We met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, and Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Sununu, Murray, Cantwell and Hagel and newly elected Senators Webb, Brown, and McCaskill. The next day, we focused on House Members from the Pacific Northwest and Nita Lowey, the new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations, and the first Muslim to serve in Congress, Keith Ellison.
These meetings (with the legislators and usually a top aide) left our delegation feeling that this is a new day on Capitol Hill. Each of these legislators understands that progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to securing US interests throughout the Arab and larger Muslim world. Each recognizes that ending the conflict is critical to the security of the State of Israel. Each knows that resistance to vigorous US diplomatic activity is just about the worst approach for those of us worried about America’s standing in the world and Israel’s security as a nation.
We have had these conversations with legislators many times but this week’s conversations were different. This time there was a clear sense of urgency that America needs to play its historic role as honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians and offer the leadership that will advance both America’s and Israel’s security while simultaneously relieving Palestinian suffering and moving toward the establishment of a viable Palestinian state…
[A] Senator said that he would guess that 90 of his colleagues agree with him [that the final settlement will follow the lines of the Taba plan negotiated by Bill Clinton] although many feel constrained about saying that aloud because of the “pressure groups.”
The “pressure groups” the senator and Rosenberg are obliquely referring to of course are AIPAC, and to a lesser extent ADL and the AJCommittee.
But what’s critically important here is that AIPAC’s staff and volunteers are no longer the only force prowling the halls of Congress for votes to stymie progress in settling the conflict. There’s a new kid on the block. Hopefully, even though the new kid is smaller than the old one, congressional representatives will realize that IPF and other American Jewish peace groups are the real deal; that they know something the other guy doesn’t. Namely, that only negotiation and compromises on both sides will resolve this conflict.
Rosenberg also highlights a throwback to the bad old days of AIPAC dominance: a Congressional hearing sponsored by Gary Ackerman, Next Steps in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, which featured three speakers representing an Israeli center-right perspective and NO ONE representing either the Israeli peace camp OR the Palestinians. One of the speakers was the nattering ideologue, Daniel Pipes, who said this gem:
“Victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy by compelling him to give up his war goals. Wars usually end when one side gives up its hope of winning, when its will to fight has been crushed.”
In other words, Israelis should fight Palestinians until the end of time.
Rosenberg correctly notes the damage such a hearing does to the U.S.’ standing abroad, but particularly in Arab/Muslim nations:
although the Middle East Subcommittee hearing got no play in this country, it was widely covered in the Middle East (by Al Jazeera in particular) and will damage America’s ability to play a productive role.
Although few Americans outside the Congressional hearing room heard Daniel Pipes spew out his hatred for Arabs and describe the need to crush the Palestinian people, millions of Arabs and other Muslims heard him throughout the Middle East and Muslim Asia.
Every one who did, every one who saw an official Congressional hearing that banned the Arab point of view was either hurt by the spectacle or angered by it. And that damages the interests of America, and of Israel.
Rep. Ackerman, it’s a new day. We don’t hold Congressional hearings anymore which are patently one-sided. The goal should be for the U.S. to be more of an honest broker than a partisan favoring Israel. I guess Ackerman hasn’t gotten the memo, he’s still reading from the old AIPAC version.