The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, April 28, 2002  

"Americans Had Really Better Be On Our Side"

"Galvanized by visions of a worldwide assault against Israel and Jews, the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse known as AIPAC assembled some 5,000 of its members here this week for a yearly convention that turned into a massive show of Jewish political force."

The lunatic, paranoid ravings of some fringe anti-Semitic crank?

Nope. That sentence comes directly from the April 26 edition of the Forward, a prominent Jewish weekly newspaper.

According to the report, the conference, "America and Israel Standing Together Against Terror," assembled by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, saw numerous speakers praising the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy and their unequivocal support for Israel. "There has never been a greater friend of Israel in the White House than George W. Bush," former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told attendees in what was either a keynote or a campaign speech.

The message was clear: Everybody line up. " 'There's a dual message here,' said veteran delegate David Mallach, director of the community relations committee of the United Jewish Federation of MetroWest, N.J. 'We're 100% on America's side, and Americans had really better be on our side.' "

It's not clear whether Mallach was speaking about American politicians specifically or American citizens generally, but his remarks sound like those one would expect from the terrorists of the Jewish Defense League, not a "mainstream" political organization that already has Congress in its pocket.

"[T]he mood was undeniably militant," reports the Forward. "On...the last day of the conference, the delegates fanned out over Capitol Hill for hundreds of meetings with senators and representatives, clutching talking points calling for 'additional defense assistance for Israel' and new, tough sanctions legislation against Syria and the Palestinian Authority."

That, presumably, being the same Palestinian Authority whose nascent civil and political structure was all but completely destroyed during Israel's recent three-week military assault on the West Bank.

The Forward happily reports that Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, "scored a telling victory" when AIPAC's executive committee signed on to his proposed amendments to the lobby's "Action Agenda." Klein's amendments include one that calls for the Bush administration to refer to the occupied territories as "disputed territories."

Great. That should help the administration's effort to be at least a superficially impartial broker of any possible agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is clear and convincing evidence that AIPAC has no intention of supporting a reasonable settlement of the 50-odd-year regional conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu, apparently swinging through Washington on his campaign for the prime ministership, "received one standing ovation after another in an impassioned speech that called for worldwide U.S. military action to impose democracy on nations 'infected with the disease' of 'militant Islam.' "

Among those giving the standing ovation were half the members of the U.S. Senate and the "dozens of ambassadors" who attended AIPAC's April 22 banquet, according to the Forward.

The conference was marked by a hostile reaction to dissent from the party line. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, speaking at the banquet, called for "a normal life for Palestinians trying to provide for their families" and "two states, Israel and Palestinian living side by side."

"Both statements were greeted by the crowd with stony silence," according to the report. "And when [Card] boasted that Secretary of State Colin Powell, during his recent Middle East trip, had 'obtained from Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority a clear statement in Arabic strongly condemning all attacks against Israeli civilians,' there was audible hissing from the audience."

As in West Jerusalem, no moderates in Washington either.

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