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Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Palestinian’

What the Syria Crisis Tells Us about the Israel Lobby

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Barely minutes after the news broke earlier this month that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was planning a major effort on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Obama administration’s plan for a limited military operation against the Syrian regime, the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

As always, it’s instructive to note how the notion that American foreign policy is a prisoner of organizations like AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group in America, is an idée fixe on both the far left and the extreme right. Juan Cole, a left-wing academic with a strong online following, grabbed the opportunity to argue that AIPAC, in advocating for what he described as “attacking Syria,” is out of touch with the opinions of most American Jews, who are not evil neoconservatives but solid progressives. The anti-Zionist Jewish blogger M.J. Rosenberg ranted about how “AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war.”

Not to be outdone, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, wrote that in supporting military action, AIPAC was endangering the lives of Syrian Christians, whom he believes are better off under the Assad regime.

Such concern for the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East is touching, but also a tad disingenuous, as The American Conservative has never shown much sympathy for the fate of those Christian communities, from Nigeria to Pakistan, who suffer from Islamist atrocities. When you bring Israel into the equation, however, the magazine suddenly finds its voice.

The combined message here is clear: Syria is Iraq Redux, another “endless war” America is being pushed into by a shadowy Jewish cabal.

Critics of these conspiracy theories have rightly pointed out the anti-Semitic pedigree on display here. The idea that Jews are powerful enough to manipulate their governments from behind the scenes is a staple of modern anti-Semitism. Still, let’s for a moment take the Israel Lobby thesis on its own merits. Is the charge that the “Lobby” is the real authority when it comes to U.S. foreign policy empirically verifiable?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, what the latest developments on Syria demonstrate is that rather than the “Lobby” running the administration, it is the administration that runs the “Lobby.”

AIPAC, along with mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, had been largely silent on the atrocities taking place in Syria. In that sense, they were no different from the other influential groups and individuals who were either undecided on the issue of a limited military operation or firmly opposed to it. It’s no secret that Obama always faced a rough ride in Congress, especially as some of his traditional supporters, like the MoveOn.org PAC, actively opposed any intervention in Syria.

Similarly, the Jewish left is uncomfortable with the prospect of taking on the Assad regime; J Street, a group that once ludicrously claimed to be Obama’s “blocking back” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue, has deserted the president over Syria.

Rather than pushing for war, then, AIPAC and similar groups were drafted in at the last minute to boost support for a president who was looking dangerously isolated. The irony of an administration that includes Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary who famously bemoaned AIPAC’s influence, running to groups like AIPAC to secure backing shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Even so, away from the political point scoring, what this shows is that the influence of pro-Israel groups is something this administration values. Equally – and this is key – these groups will wield that influence when the administration requests that they do so.

Importantly, this is not the first time the administration has turned to the “Lobby” for support on Middle East-related matters. Part of the reason Secretary of State John Kerry was able to galvanize support and publicity for his efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was that he turned to American Jews, whose principal organizations dutifully trumpeted his message. The fact that Kerry’s diplomacy has yielded few results isn’t really his fault, nor is it the fault of American Jews. The stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front is the consequence, as it always has been, of rejectionism among the Palestinians, whose leaders remain distinctly queasy about doing anything that might smack of accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

Any worry about all of this on the part of American Jewish organizations should relate not to accusations of outsize influence but to association with failure. So far Israel has little to show for its decision, under pressure from the Americans, to release Palestinian terrorists ahead of the talks; meanwhile, the Syrian intervention proposal is mired in confusion because of widespread concern that an American-led operation will be too little, too late.

If the Obama administration can be confident of anything, it is that its American Jewish partners will never go so far as to openly criticize the president. Far from being the war-crazed cabal depicted in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, the “Israel Lobby” is in reality an oasis of calm reliability for a president who may just be on the cusp of his biggest foreign policy failure.

Gabriela Shalev: Israel’s First Female UN Ambassador

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Speaking at the Stand With Us International Women’s Conference in Jerusalem, Shalev described serving as a woman in the male dominated United Nations. She said that whenever she was called into the UN Security Council to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she was surrounded by men in black suits with grim looks on their faces. It was an uncomfortable feeling for her, yet these experiences inspired her to become even more Zionist and feminist.

During her post between 2008 and 2010 there were only 25 female ambassadors in the UN and only one female ambassador in the UN Security Council.  Despite the challenges, Shalev shared that the advantage of being a woman was that she was able to reach out, quickly bond, and form lasting friendships with the other female ambassadors.  She also said despite public speeches showing the contrary,  Arab ambassadors were more friendly, including ones from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties.

“Arab men respected women ambassadors more than male ones,” she emphasized.  Shalev stated that while Arab ambassadors continued to be anti-Israel publically, in order to comply with directives given by their respective governments, privately they displayed to her their admiration of Israel and even urged Shalev to report back to the Israeli government that they should finish Operation Cast Lead and defeat Hamas.  She also said that following the flotilla incident with Turkey,  she met with UN officials who respected Israel’s position but who were forced to side with the Arab block to ensure their political future.

Although proud of her service to the State of Israel during those two years she expressed that she would have preferred to have had more time to focus on women’s rights and Israeli humanitarian aid to Africa (a project that began under the leadership of Golda Meir), but because the fact that two-thirds of UN members are anti-Israel and that she served during both the Goldstone Report and Israel’s incident with the Turkish flotilla, she did not have much time to focus on issues other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Shalev expressed the importance of Israel’s participation in the UN, promoting agenda items that Israel has in common with the UN, and concluded that while “the UN is not a perfect place, neither is the world that we live in and the UN merely represents our world. We must bring the voice of Israel to the world!

Visit United with Israel.

StandWithUs Responds to Anti-Israel Ad on NC Buses

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

The pro-Israel education group StandWithUs on Aug. 17 launched a one-year campaign that will feature pro-Israel advertisements on the interior of 98 buses in Chapel Hill, NC. The campaign counters an anti-Israel ad placed on Chapel Hill buses by the Church of Reconciliation. The church’s ad campaign, which also ran for one year, will finish at the end of August.

The Church of Reconciliation’s ad stated “Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. military aid to Israel.” The ad “confuses and deceives the public,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs.

“The ad’s words suggest that the U.S. should stop financial assistance to Israel, implying that only Israel is to blame for a lack of peace,” Rothstein said in a statement. “The message is deceptive, and uses velvet-gloved rhetoric to try to influence unsuspecting commuters who may not know the facts.”

The StandWithUs ad, launched in partnership with NC Triangle Voice For Israel, shows Israeli and Palestinian boys with their arms intertwined, along with the text, “Imagine Peace… in a Middle East where Israel and her neighbors share technology and resources to create a future of peace and prosperity for generations to come. The possibilities are endless.”

In July, StandWithUs responded to anti-Israel advertising by placing pro-Israel ads in San Francisco’s Muni bus system and pro-Israel billboards in Montana. Next month, the group will take out ads in Seattle.

Cantor: Peace Progress Requires Palestinian ‘Cultural Mind-Shift’

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Majority Leader, said while leading a trip of 28 congressmen to Israel that he doesn’t envision progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until there is a Palestinian “cultural mind-shift.”

“Until that point comes, I don’t think that there will be much progress,” Cantor said at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the Jerusalem Post reported.

In the midst of renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations, the Facebook page of the Presidential Guard of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas recently featured a photo illustration with the PA flag superimposed on the Western Wall, Palestinian Media Watch reported. Additionally, Palestinian Authority TV (PA TV) recently offered $100 prizes in man-on-the-street interviews with Palestinians who identified Israeli territory as part of “Palestine.”

Regarding Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement on Monday that the U.S. views all Israeli communities located beyond the pre-1967 lines as “illegitimate,” Cantor said the “discussion of territory, lines, towns and settlements is predicated upon the Palestinians first agreeing” to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Cantor also criticized celebrations held by the PA for the first 26 terrorists released this week in the first phase of Israel’s prisoner release for Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations.

“If there is a celebration of violence, reverence pointed toward terrorists, that is not something that can fit squarely with the notion of a lasting peace,” Cantor said.

Western Wall with Palestinian Flag on Abbas Facebook Page

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In the midst of renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations, the Facebook page of the Presidential Guard of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas recently featured a photo illustration with the PA flag superimposed on the Western Wall, Palestinian Media Watch reported.

The photo included a young Palestinian man giving a two-finger peace sign, next to an Orthodox Jewish man facing the Western Wall. Above the two men, the PA flag featured the text “The Al-Buraq Wall,” which is the Muslim term for the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, and text above the flag read “Palestinian youth know their rights.”

Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations resume Aug. 14 in Jerusalem.

ScratchGroup: Terror in school

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

ScratchGroup (“Srutonim”) writes: This animation vid was created in response to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our view is simply that Israel has the right to defend itself. I liked their South Park style approach to political punditry. Enjoy.

Visit their Facebook page (Hebrew).

Romney’s Remarks On Peace Prospects Draw Muted Response From Jewish Groups

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney’s less than optimistic take on Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects drew some media attention but not much noise from centrist Jewish groups.

Only groups on the right and the left ends of the communal spectrum issued statements in response to the revelations of Romney’s remarks, respectively praising and strongly condemning the Republican presidential nominee’s comments suggesting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved at present and the best that could be done was to “kick the ball down the field.”

Romney’s remarks were greeted quietly by the centrist organizations. But some centrist Jewish communal leaders stressed that the pursuit of peace should not be postponed, though they were not inclined to criticize Romney.

“To let it fester is not in the best interests of Israel,” said Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, adding that he believed Romney “meant well” in his remarks at a May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla.

Israel’s government “wants to pursue peace and they want to believe there is a partner,” Foxman said, citing the little noticed but successful ongoing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “It’s not in Israel’s interest to kick it down the road, not only in terms of self-interest but in terms of its relationship to the civilized world.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee declined to comment on Romney’s remarks.

Some have noted that the Republican nominee did not rule out the possibility of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace in the future. The initial portions of Romney’s remarks that were released by Mother Jones magazine, which had obtained the secretly recorded video from the Florida fundraiser, were truncated. The full video was released shortly thereafter and included what could be seen as Romney’s vision of how the U.S. can foster the conditions for an eventual peace by being a resolute ally of Israel.

“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, ‘There’s just no way,’ “ Romney said in the remarks as first released at the $50,000-a-plate dinner.

“And so what you do is you say, ‘You move things along the best way you can,’ “ he continued. “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”

Left out of the original reporting was his conclusion to the thought: “So the only answer is show them strength. American strength, American resolve, and the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them. Then it’s worth having the discussion. So until then, it’s just wishful thinking.”

Daniel Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice president, said he understood Romney not to mean that he was abandoning peacemaking, but that he was acknowledging other crises had superseded its importance in the Middle East.

“Events have pushed the issue to the outside,” said Mariaschin, citing Iran’s acceleration of its nuclear program and the unrest in much of the Arab world, particularly Syria. He noted renewed Palestinian plans to push for statehood recognition at the United Nations that have frustrated the Obama administration, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Romney’s remarks on the peace process were criticized by Democrats. “This guy wants to be president of the United States?” asked Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee who is retiring this year. “There are problems between Jews and Muslims and this Mormon throws a Hail Mary?”

In a series of interviews with media outlets, Dennis Ross, the former Middle East adviser to President Obama and the administration’s most frequent interlocutor with Israel, seemed to suggest that Romney’s remarks were not helpful.

“I’m a big believer in not creating a false set of expectations, but I’m also a believer in that if you think something is stuck, you come up with an approach and try to change the dynamic,” Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Huffington Post. “If you basically just say it’s all hopeless, you just make hopelessness a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/middle-east/romneys-remarks-on-peace-prospects-draw-muted-response-from-jewish-groups/2012/09/25/

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