Over the next three days, journalist Simona Fuma will be guest blogging from the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. This is the largest gathering of the American-Israel political action committee, where the organization’s direction is decided, steered, and reengineered.
On Monday afternoon, a dozen or so pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the conference in anticipation of the gala dinner. They blocked the path that the well-heeled AIPAC delegates must walk from the convention center to the Renaissance hotel, carrying signs with slogans like â€œFree Palestineâ€ and â€œJudaism against Zionism.â€
Some of the delegates stop to argue with them: â€œIf you lived in Palestine they would cut your throat,â€ says a middle aged Iranian man to the black-hatted Yisroel Dovid Weiss, a Neturei Karta rabbi who said he has met Ahmadinejad several times. â€œHow could you sit with that animal?â€ the man asks.
Weiss replies: â€œThe Torah says that even if you have someone whom you think is your enemy, you should approach him,â€ adding that the Jews should have approached Hitler and that Zionist boycotts against the German leader are what brought out his anger. In other words, Zionism caused the Holocaust.
Aside from the protesters outside the conference, AIPAC has more respectable critics in Washington these days. â€œThere has been denigration in mainstream culture of the US-Israel relationship,â€ Senator John Kyl said in his speech tonight. These critics depict the Jewish lobby â€œas a narrow self-interested ethnic lobby.â€
But in fact, he insisted, anyone at the conference tonight can see that the pro-Israel movement consists of â€œAmericans from many walks of life, ethnic and religious backgrounds.â€
Books like The Israel Lobby and the recent Transforming Americaâ€™s Israel Lobby lay out the critique Kyl refers to in detail. Basically, the idea it posits is that a bunch of hawkish neoconservative Jews with dual loyalties are putting Americaâ€™s best interests and security at risk in order to promote the interests of a militaristic foreign entity that is visiting injustice on the Palestinians.