What role for AIPAC in the process?

aipacRon Kampeas reported on Thursday that AIPAC’s official endorsement of the U.S. push for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is (a) three sentences long, (b) buried on the organization’s website, and (c) appears to have been shared only with those who cared enough to seek it out. Yet back in June, AIPAC’s president gave John Kerry’s diplomacy a reportedly “hearty” endorsement in a meeting with U.S. Senators—and furthermore AIPAC was in the room when Kerry and Martin Indyk briefed American Jewish leaders on their progress, also on Thursday.

What this brings to mind for me is a different Kampeas story, from February: AIPAC’s failure to mention the conflict in its annual legislative agenda. Israel’s special relationship with America? Check. U.S. security aid to Israel? Check. Iran? Check. (Double-check, actually, as the topic of Iran took up two of the four slots on the agenda). The conflict that has defined and shaped Israel since its inception? Quietly buried in a panel discussion.

And of course, there’s this: Twenty years ago, when the Oslo Accords were the newest game in town, AIPAC was outright hostile to Rabin’s efforts, and actively worked to undermine them. In 2007, on the other hand, one of the organization’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson, abandoned ship over a letter calling for increased aid to the Palestinian Authority. And then there was AIPAC’s opposition to the modest (and Potemkin-esque) settlement freeze during Obama’s first term.

Which is to say: AIPAC has a pattern of opposing any movement that might promote an equitable peace, and getting slapped when it fails to do so sufficiently. It might be worth noting, in this context, that the Senators before whom president Michael Kassen heartily endorsed renewed peace talks were all Democrats; would his endorsement have carried the same heartiness if he had been standing in front of, say, House Republicans?

Probably not. Israel’s right is currently canvassing House Republicans in an effort to undo Kerry’s work, and not employing what one might call subtlety in the process: “When [Kerry] fails—and he will fail,” the JTA was told by the “foreign envoy” of Israel’s settler movement, “the fact that the Secretary of State of the United States failed will be noticed very clearly in Tehran and in Damascus and in Moscow and in Pyongyang.” Dani Dayan also told the press that he “would like Congress to explain to the State Department that this is a morally improper way to conduct diplomacy.”

Putting aside the question of whether or not elected U..S representatives ought to meet with an ally’s cut-rate, self-appointed diplomats as they work to make America’s own foreign policy goals unachievable; putting aside whether or not Dani Dayan should be in a position to tell the U.S. Congress what conversation to have with the US Department of State; putting aside who might have a better grasp of America’s best interests (Israeli settlers or U.S. generals)—it’s clear why AIPAC might feel a need to be circumspect about its endorsement, hearty or begrudging.

Which might, in fact, suit John Kerry just fine.

The Secretary of State has made it abundantly clear that he wants this whole process to be as drama-free as humanly possible. He’s made it abundantly clear that he wants no leaks, no rumors, and nothing that might give the naysayers a chance to pull the process down before it even gets to its feet. Having American Jewish leaders over to the White House a week before talks are meant to get underway was a very astute move, giving those leaders a slice of ownership in what Kerry’s doing, while possibly mollifying those who might support the Just Say No crowd. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: John Kerry knows a thing or two.

Whether or not AIPAC’s leaders have changed their spots and are suddenly on board with all that a two-state agreement will entail (national boundaries based on the 1967 borders; a shared Jerusalem; and a mutually-agreed resolution of the refugee issue) is still, clearly, up in the air. I rather doubt it myself.

But if John Kerry can keep AIPAC quiet, I don’t need it to shout support from the roof tops. Saying one thing while signaling another and then perhaps saying something else again is how many, many stakeholders will be playing things in the coming months, and AIPAC and its rejectionist backers have never represented this American-Israeli Jew in any way, shape, or form.

All I need from AIPAC is for it to not aid those who are trying to destroy what may well be Israel’s last chance for peace. Because my home and my people deserve that peace, and they really need it.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

When We Say “Jerusalem,” What Do We Mean?

Up and coming Israeli politician Yair Lapid has said time and again that he will never agree to “dividing Jerusalem” in any possible two-state peace with the Palestinian people; as I have detailed a time or two in these pages, this strikes me as delusional.

But when Lapid or any other Israeli politician (or, for instance, American Jewish leaders like AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr) talk about Jerusalem (as Kohr very likely will at the upcoming AIPAC conference)—what are they talking about, exactly?


It seems a simple enough question, especially to Jews who are active in the Jewish community and/or support Israel. Jerusalem is our holy city, the place to which we prayed to return three times a day for centuries, the only reasonable center for our national and spiritual aspirations. More than a collection of ancient streets and modern buildings, Jerusalem is central to our existence as a people.

I’d venture that this is, in fact, what most Jews think when they hear the word “Jerusalem”—but the simple, and infrequently-stated, truth is that this vision is only part of the story. A fairly small part of the story, at that.

The Holy City of Jerusalem is a very small place. It is, roughly speaking, coterminous with what is today called the Old City, and the holy part is even smaller than that: It’s the Temple Mount, upon which our Temple once stood. When we pray at the Western Wall, or face that direction from our synagogues and homes in Chicago, Johannesburg, or Sidney, we are spiritually attaching ourselves to the edge and memory of that Temple, to the holiness invested in it by our Scriptures and centuries upon centuries of our own prayers and longing.

Of course, Jews have lived outside the Old City walls for a long time (at least since Moses Montefiore built his famous windmill in 1857 to coax them out of its then-fetid quarters), and by the time the modern state of Israel was established, there was a thriving “New City” of Jewish neighborhoods, roughly to the west of the Old City’s walls, an area that in 1948 covered about 15 square miles.

During all those same centuries and more recent decades, there was also a thriving Palestinian Arab presence in the Old City, as well as in outlying areas. These neighborhoods and satellite villages were roughly to the east and north of the Old City. In the post-Mandate/1948 period, they and the Old City were under Jordanian control (and covered about 2.5 square miles); in today’s parlance, we refer to all of it, somewhat inaccurately, as “East Jerusalem.”

Today, the geographic location that is known as “Jerusalem” encompasses all of that—the Old City, the New City, East Jerusalem—and a whole lot more. Within days of the Israeli military triumphantly entering the Old City in June 1967, the government had annexed not only it, but also East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank (including not just satellite villages, but parts of other cities) to create a new Municipality of Jerusalem. The total area annexed came to some 27 square miles.

As Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reports:

These annexed territories included not only the part of Jerusalem that had been under Jordanian rule, but also an additional 64 square kilometers, most of which had belonged to 28 villages in the West Bank, and part of which belonged to the municipalities of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Following their annexation, the area of West Jerusalem tripled, and Jerusalem became the largest city in Israel. 

The annexation of land wasn’t just a formality: In the 1970s and 1980s, Israel expropriated much of the privately owned Palestinian land in the Jerusalem area for the sake of settlement neighborhoods such as Ramot, Gilo, and East Talpiyot, building Ramat Shlomo and Homat Shmuel (also known as Har Homa) in the 1990s, all of them beyond the Green Line in the West Bank but within what is now considered municipal Jerusalem. By 2008, the area governed by the Jerusalem Municipality came to a total of 48.3 square miles, nearly three times the area of all of Jerusalem—West, East, Old, and New—at the time of the Six Day War, and more than a hundred times larger than the city was a century ago.

I am a woman of faith. I pray regularly, and when I do, I orient myself toward my Holy City. My faith, my Scriptures, the history and future of the Jewish people—I hold all of these in my heart when I come before my God, and when I teach my children the same.

I have no question that we belong in Jerusalem. I have no question that the areas that were Jewish before June 1967 are rightfully Israeli, nor do I have any question that whatever the future may bring for Israel and Palestine, the sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Old City and the Temple Mount must be shared equally by the Jewish State. That singular place is, truly, the heart of our faith and our people.

But the modern-day “Jerusalem,” the one to which Lapid and people like him refer, bears only a passing resemblance to the Holy City to which the Jewish people has long turned, and I would argue that the political machinations employed to systematically drive Palestinians from Jerusalem (holy and central to them, as well, after all) and deprive them of civil and often human rights while still within its borders render the entire city (however measured) significantly less holy.

When people say they’re not willing “to divide” Jerusalem, that’s the Jerusalem they’re talking about: A bloated behemoth grown through municipal and national fiat, and maintained through laws and policies that are flatly discriminatory and often shade into xenophobia and racism.

As it happens, the world’s Jews will be reading Parashat Ki Tissa this Shabbat, the Torah portion in which we learn of the folly of the Golden Calf. We will be reminded of the cost of raising something built with human hands above that which our faith demands, the cost of replacing real holiness with our own, poor vision. We will be reminded of the price of idolatry.

When politicians and institutional leaders say that the Jerusalem of 2013 is a sacred, inviolable place, they are practicing a kind of idolatry—an idolatry that denies the legitimate rights of another people, and threatens the very possibility of ever achieving an end to war.

There is absolutely nothing holy about that.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

The delusions of Yair Lapid and AIPAC.

aipacSay this for AIPAC: They’re as delusional as Yair Lapid, the newly arrived king-maker in Israeli politics. Both Lapid and AIPAC appear to believe that if you wish something hard enough, say it often enough, or simply ignore that which doesn’t fit into your wishing strategy: Magic!

On Tuesday, Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz that

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid has ordered more than 10 Knesset members from his party to cancel a Jerusalem-area tour with the left-wing Geneva Initiative organization

Bearing in mind that members of both Shas and Likud (a party ostensibly far to the right of Yesh Atid) have recently gone on similar Geneva Institute tours, this is how Lapid explained himself:

At the present time of coalition negotiations, we cannot join a tour with an organization that supports dividing Jerusalem. After all, we are against dividing Jerusalem.

Which brings us to two different but equally important points: 1) Lapid appears to be of the opinion that if you so much as listen to an idea with which you disagree, you will get cooties, and 2) he continues to appear to believe quite sincerely it will be possible to reach a two-state peace with the Palestinian people without establishing a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both states—despite the fact that this is not unlike believing in the tooth fairy.

Cut to AIPAC, a place where you can call yourself the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and plan your annual conference, an event at which many Serious People will come together for “three of the most important days affecting Israel’s future”—and not place the Palestinian people on your legislative agenda. Not a single mention, as Ron Kampeas reports in JTA.

The same attitude that allows for a dismissal of the Palestinian people from conversations with American lawmakers about Israel’s future can be seen in a planned breakout session about the land’s spiritual dimension: “The Holy Land’s Historic and Religious Significance.”  Not only is there nary a Palestinian on the docket for this conversation, but the entirety of Islam is ignored. You have your Christians, you have your Jews… but those other people, for whom Jerusalem is a place of deep religious resonance, from whence tradition holds their Prophet rose unto the heavens and at the center of which Abraham bound his son for sacrifice? Yeah, not so much. Islam? What’s that?

AIPAC doesn’t entirely forget the Palestinians. There are panel discussions of the conflict, but per Kampeas:

This year’s “AIPAC action principles”… mention the Palestinians only in the context of keeping them from advancing toward statehood outside the confines of negotiations but do not explicitly endorse the two-state solution.

Yair Lapid and AIPAC don’t need to like the Palestinians. They don’t need to agree with the Palestinian narrative of the conflict. They don’t need to like Islam, either, come to that. But if they are to be of any actual service to Israel—the real Israel, the one that has been occupying another people for close to five decades and in which a third intifada is brewing even as we speak—they need to, at the very least, grapple honestly with the fact that Palestinians are autonomous actors, not flat characters in a play we’re writing. And the city of Jerusalem—both holy and secular—belongs to them, too.

The greatest threat to the continuing existence of a democratic, Jewish state is not Iran, and not U.S. budgetary concerns. The greatest threat to Israel is the occupation. If Lapid and AIPAC really want to secure Israel’s future, they’ll stop deluding themselves and their supporters, and start telling the truth.

I’ll just be over here, not holding my breath.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

The best way to achieve nothing.

Here we go.

Some non-Jews have questioned the morality of Israel’s army and are working to undercut US military aid to Israel. And American Jews are losing it.

Major American Jewish organizations said Wednesday they have cancelled talks with liberal Protestant leaders after the churches sought an investigation of US military aid to Israel.

…The church leaders said in an Oct. 5 letter to Congress that Israel was guilty of widespread human rights violations against Palestinians that violated U.S. legal standards for recipients of military aid.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism called the claims “repugnant, regrettable and morally misguided.”


I am of at least two minds (if not five or twelve) on this whole turn of affairs, but let’s start here:

First of all, no, Rabbi Wernick, with all due respect (and I speak as an active member of your movement), there’s nothing “repugnant” nor “morally misguided” in saying that there are “widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians.” It’s factually accurate (if you don’t trust me, ask the United Nations. If you don’t trust the UN, ask Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem. If you don’t trust B’Tselem, ask the US State Department), and there’s absolutely nothing morally misguided about spiritual leaders calling on political leaders to stop abusing the lives and dignity of those under their decidedly un-democratic rule. Indeed, that’s kind of the spiritual leaders’ gig, as I understand it. If you don’t trust me, ask Isaiah.

And just so we’re clear: The church leaders in question also condemned “the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings, [and] the broad impact that a sense of insecurity and fear has had on Israeli society,” adding “each party—Israeli and Palestinian—bears responsibilities for its actions.”

But yes. There is a “regrettable” aspect to the letter: The fact that many American organizations feel comfortable taking issue with Israel’s actions without turning a similar light on abuses perpetrated by other U.S. aid recipients. There is a paragraph that reads

While this letter focuses on U.S.-Israel relations and the Israel-Palestine conflict, these are laws that we believe should be enforced in all instances regardless of location. All allegations regarding the misuse of U.S. supplied arms should be investigated.

But I don’t know: Have there been a lot of letters about military aid to Egypt or any other countries?

In this regard—though I’m certain many of my co-religionists will cry “anti-Semitism!”—I think we’re better served looking at two more positive sources for the focus on Israel: Israel’s openness (Egyptian human rights activists don’t enjoy quite the same freedoms that B’Tselem does), and the close Judeo-Christian relationship.

We Jews forget: The Holy Land really is, actually, holy for Christians, too. Our Scriptures really are their Scriptures. Our cultures are intertwined. And people everywhere tend to register greater anger towards those to whom they are, in some way, close. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m saying it happens.

But if American institutions want Jews to listen when they criticize Israel, they might try applying their opprobrium more evenly—and as Christians in dialogue with Jews surely know, calling for limiting military aid to Israel is exactly the kind of thing that makes Jews very nervous.

Israel’s military serves two different roles, one as the defender of the state from outside threats, the other as as an occupation police force. The former is absolutely warranted, and Israel’s military advantage is a big part of why the Arab League has twice offered a peace plan in the past decade. As American Jews are painfully aware, that advantage is wholly bound up in Israel’s relationship with the U.S., and people hoping to engage with the community need to be honest about this sensitivity.

The IDF’s latter role, however, is a direct result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of land that belongs to someone else, and kicking seven year old children and beating and detaining innocent men is neither defensible, nor in the service of Israel’s security. Investigation of these activities is justified, because they are wrong—and the fact that they are bundled up in the IDF’s larger mission is, frankly, Israel’s fault, not that of American Christians.

Rather than forever leaping to the defense of anything and everything Israel does (an approach that posits an Israel outside of human history, in that, unlike any other nation ever, it can do no wrong), I believe that America’s Jewish leaders would be wiser to engage not only with what’s laudable in Israel, but also with what’s questionable. If we cannot say that beating innocent people is bad, what’s left of our heritage?

I don’t know how to resolve this impasse. I can see too clearly the imperatives felt on all sides (not least, those of the Palestinian people themselves).

But I will say this: As much as I may equivocate on the value of the letter, I’m pretty clear that the one sure way to make sure there’s no forward movement is to stop talking.

And I am very uncomfortable with the fact that my community’s go-to response for people they don’t like is to cut off their mic.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

On Israel & Iran.

I have roughly zero time to post today, but I suspect some folks might be coming by to see what I think about President Obama’s AIPAC speech, or about his talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, or about the whole Israeli effort to lead the world into a cataclysmic war with Iran. The thing is I don’t have time to write about any of that, or anything else! (Though I may have just tipped my hand with the use of the word “cataclysmic”).

So instead, I bring you the opinion of the editorial board of Israel’s newspaper of record, HaAretz:

Obama, who was playing on Netanyahu’s home court at the height of an election year, criticized the excessive talk about war with Iran. Hinting at both Israeli government officials and the Republican presidential candidates, who have been vying with each other in calling for war, Obama said this was causing oil prices to rise, which in turn helped finance Iran’s nuclear program. The president said that excessive public discussion of the Iranian issue not only undermined the security of both America and the world, but Israel’s security too.

The unnecessary statements by Israeli leaders are drawing fire on Israel. The government would be wise to listen attentively to President Obama’s advice and adopt the sage counsel of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” The U.S. president carries the biggest stick in the world.

The government would also do well to internalize another important statement by Obama: “As president and commander in chief, I have a deeply-held preference for peace over war.”

This worldview is also appropriate when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians, which has been pushed aside by the Iranian issue. It must be hoped that Obama will utilize his meeting with Netanyahu Monday to underscore the consequences that a collapse of the diplomatic process and a violent conflict in the territories would have for the American and international effort to halt both Iran’s nuclear program and its terrorism.

I share the opinion of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, that “Iran is a rational actor*,” and thus believe that the real danger to Israel’s future is not Iran (unless Israel should decide to attack, then all bets may be off), but rather the settlement project and the requisite occupation of the Palestinian people.

Unless and until Israel understands that having a “deeply-held preference for peace over war” is the only way to actually end war and make Israel secure, Israel will continue down a path to self-destruction that I believe will ultimately see the Jewish State become just one more disaster on the long list of Jewish disasters.

And anyone (like the men and women of AIPAC) who aids and abets Israel’s efforts to ignore that excruciating fact will be complicit in the disaster.

In my always humble opinion.

*If you’re interested in reading some of the books that led me to the shocking conclusion that Iran might just be a rational actor (no! I know!), here are some suggestions: Iran Reading List.

AIPAC in Hebrew school – it’s just the Jewish way, right?

Lee Rosenberg, national president of AIPAC, spoke at my shul today.

I was in complete and knowing denial, to the extent that I couldn’t even remember the date that he would be coming, not willing to fight the fact or struggle for alternate programming.

Why was I unwilling? Because even though AIPAC spreads lies and half-truths in support of Israel’s suicidal dream that it will be able to hang on to the territories and wear down the Palestinian people to the point that they give up on the notions of nationalism and human dignity (and, I don’t know, go away? Disappear? What’s the long-term game-plan here? I’ve never been clear on that piece of it) — I have given up. They win.

As I recently wrote, while I still advocate for a two-state solution, I believe that the Israeli government and its enablers in AIPAC and the American Congress and White House have created the circumstances in which my advocacy is now hopeless. We’ve reached and passed the point of no return, peace is an unreachable goal, two-states is an unreachable goal, and sometime in the next few decades, the Jewish State will cease to exist. There will be blood, it will be awful, and it will be in no small part because AIPAC won.

Given my denial, then, imagine how gobsmacked I was when I arrived at shul to pick my son up from Hebrew school and found that not only was the presentation today, but the 7th graders had attended. Furious really is a better description.

I spluttered a few clearly unhappy words in the general direction of the Hebrew school director (who told me that they’d sent an email about it), and as we sat waiting for my son’s friend (who had a lesson with the cantor but then came home with us), talked not-quietly with my son about why I disagree with AIPAC and why I’m angry that Hebrew school was given over to listening to the President of AIPAC. And then I wrote a letter*.

Given the way my week went, I can only imagine that I didn’t actually look at the email in question, which, bottom line, is my bad. The simple truth is that if we had realized that AIPAC would be addressing his class, the boy wouldn’t have gone to Hebrew school.

As always, I lead with the bona fides: We’re Israelis — I’m an American-Israeli Zionist, and my husband is Jerusalem-born and –bred and a product of the Israeli school system and an IDF veteran. We speak Hebrew in our house, we travel to visit our Israeli family at least yearly, we keep strictly kosher, study Torah together at home and often attend services (mine are often the only kids at holiday services), and are, generally speaking, active and observant members of the Conservative Movement, raising our children to be fully Jewish and Israeli.

The reason we’re raising our Israeli children in the Diaspora is Israeli policy and politics – in the wake of the second intifada we came to understand that that we weren’t willing to give our family’s life over to the settlement project and continued occupation of the Palestinian people. As a scholar of the region, I am well aware of all of the factors at play, including the history of wars intended to annihilate the Jewish state. Having studied and written about the area for more than 20 years, it’s my considered opinion that AIPAC’s position of unquestioning support of right-wing Israeli policy is a significant piece of what will eventually lead to the end of the Zionist dream. As a family, we support J Street.

And having said all that, the real reason my husband and I are angry that Hebrew school was given over to an AIPAC presentation is not the content of the presentation, but the very fact of it.

AIPAC isn’t Judaism, and neither is unquestioning support of particular Israeli policies (even in the case of policies with which I may agree). We  don’t send my children to Hebrew school for lessons in Middle Eastern politics and the role the American Jewish community plays in those politics – we send them so that they may learn their faith and their community and come to value both.

On the other hand, if the synagogue is going to be introducing the 7th graders to those other things, then why not also bring in the JDF, J Street, and JVP? Why not a range of opinion? I am certainly no supporter of the JDF, and neither do I support JVP, but neither is AIPAC representative of all American Jewish opinion (nor are they objective “experts” on what Israel “needs”), nor should they presented as such.

Though I wish that we’d been on top of things, the entire event has turned into a real teaching moment with the boy, who (I’m pleased to say) had questions to ask about Mr. Rosenberg’s presentation, as much of it seemed questionable to him. His questions included “What should I do if someone is telling me about something, an adult is telling me about something, and I don’t agree with what they’re saying?”

Well, you start by being respectful, and then….

Update: I was so angry yesterday that I posted the actual letter. I had removed all names, but it still felt (to borrow from myself) unnecessarily disrespectful. I’ve since summarized my thoughts, without reproducing what should have been a private communication.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Barack Obama, Middle East Peace, & AIPAC, or: I apparently don’t know how to give up.

President Obama makes his first phone call from the Oval Office, to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Update: If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon or whatevs – please pass this on. The more, the better — there’s world-fixing that needs doing!

I have a small task that I want you to undertake — it’s a small task, but it needs doing by many people.

There are a lot of reasons to wish President Obama would show real leadership on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, put forward his own peace plan, call the Israeli and Palestinian governments’ bluff, and take concrete steps toward of a durable resolution (click here to read J Street on why this is a good idea, and here to read Americans for Peace Now).

There are plenty of reasons, however, to believe that he will do no such thing.

  1. Having started his Presidency with an intense focus on resolving the conflict (Obama’s first phone call from the Oval Office was to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas), he has proceeded to do virtually nothing. There’s been a little more pressure on settlements, and there was a kinda-sorta-not-really settlement freeze in place briefly. He and others in the Administration have said some good things. But that’s it. Not a good sign.
  2. George Mitchell, named Middle East envoy by Obama in the Administration’s first days, was entirely cobbled, and then side-lined by the re-injection of old MidEast hand Dennis Ross into the fray. Mitchell threw up his hands and resigned. Not a good sign.
  3. Every single Administration before Obama’s (other than Eisenhower!) caved and followed the Israeli lead. That’s quite a tradition, and it’s not a good sign.
  4. President Obama has confirmed that he will be speaking at the AIPAC Conference on Sunday, and the AP reports that spokesman Jay Carney has said he “will not deliver a major policy speech, but will instead talk about the deep bond between the US and Israel.” Not even remotely a good sign.


The President is also planning to speak first (on Thursday) to the nation and the world about the events of the Arab Spring — and after yesterday’s Nakba Day events (for a good summary, read this piece by al-Jazeera, or this piece in Haaretz, but suffice it to say: It was bad), there may be some busy re-writing to address the heightened sense of urgency surrounding Palestinian rights. Maybe, maybe not. In the circles I run in, all of the above not-good signs are considered pretty good indicators that we should not be holding our breath.

But M.J. Rosenberg, a man who has watched the scene for a minute or two, and knows a thing or two, thinks that Obama may be looking for help. From the likes of us.

In 2007, the day after Obama declared his candidacy for president, I met with him in his office (I was then working for Israel Policy Forum).

Obama listened carefully while I explained why it was critical that he be an “honest broker” on Israel-Palestinian issues. Nothing I said, including my opinions of AIPAC’s influence, would surprise anyone who reads my columns. My bottom line was that the occupation was terrible for the United States, for Israel and, most of all, for the Palestinians and that he should understand that the status quo lobbyists who defend everything Israel does are not representative of the Jewish community or anyone else.

Obama listened, cupped his ear, and said, “I can’t hear you.”

I didn’t understand; I was sitting right next to him.

He then said: “No, not literally. I mean that I don’t hear from people like you. But I hear from AIPAC {he then named the local AIPAC leader in Chicago} every week. I’m going to be President and, when I am, it is your job — you and all the people who feel the way you do — to make sure I hear that message. You cannot simply rely on the belief that you are right. You need to raise your voice so that I hear you and not just them.”

So maybe, just maybe, the President wants us to shout and holler about, what appears to be, a sellout to AIPAC. After all, he is making no attempt to cover up what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. He only hears one voice.

Maybe Obama’s latest actions are a cry for help.

Yes, it’s just a theory. But it is infinitely better than believing that President Obama actually believes that AIPAC’s status quo is in America’s interest. It just is not possible that this President could believe that.

It’s time to raise our voices so Obama can hear us, whether he still wants us to or not.

(My emphasis).

So here’s what I want you to do:

If you want to see the President of the United States take a stand for a just Israeli-Palestinian peace and (not for nothing) long-stated American policy goals — let him know.

Make a phone call – the White House phone number is: 202-456-1111 (And if you’re Jewish or Israeli-American, make sure you mention it). Send an email – the White House contact page is here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact (you’ll find a sample email after the jump).

And yes — I want you to do both.

But more importantly, it’s possible that the President does, too.

To quote Auden: “All I have is a voice/to undo the folded lie.” It’s time to use your voice.


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