AMERICANS FOR A SAFE ISRAEL/AFSI; 1623 Third Ave., Suite 205, New York, N.Y. 10128; Tel: 212-828-2424; Fax: 212-828-1717; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; May 23, 2000
LOOKING AT THE AIPAC 2000
CONFERENCE THROUGH AFSI EYES
By Helen Freedman, Executive Director, AFSI
It was at the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy) Conference 2000 on Monday, May 22, that Israel's Ambassador and Member of Knesset Uri Savir called me a "racist." The morning forum discussion in which he was a featured speaker was entitled, "Status Check: A Survey of the Final Status Issues." The bulk of his talk presented an unbelievable moral equivalency in regard to Israel and the Arabs. He described two peoples with equal claims to the same land - two peoples who must agree on how the land must be 'shared' - as per the Oslo Accords which Savir is so proud to have crafted. In the Savir formula, Israelis have no more right to the land than do the Arabs, nor do they have any rights to more of the land, their sovereign statehood being a non-factor.
Savir minimized the problem with Arafat and the PA, as though the violence, shooting, firebombing, stoning, hatred, and threats of destruction aimed at Israel by the Arabs are all insignificant. He attempted to divert the audience to the "real physical danger in the Middle East and globally - the rise in fundamentalism, fed by hunger and despair, encouraging rogue nations to use unconventional weapons." And then Savir mumbled, "We have our own fundamentalists to deal with - like the murderer of Yitzchak Rabin." This reference to Yigal Amir was later enlarged to include Baruch Goldstein.
What diabolical mind would create an equivalency between global, state-sponsored Arab fundamentalism and two Israelis who many believe were set up as scapegoats to take the rap for the killings in which they were involved? Savir surely knows that Avishai Raviv, planted by the Shin Bet to incite right wingers so as to discredit them, was implicated with both Amir and Goldstein. He knows Raviv is on trial now for his role in the Rabin assassination. But still he fans the flames of Jew hating Jew by perpetuating the lies and drawing the equivalency between Arab fundamentalists and Jews.
Continuing with his duplicity, Savir spoke about the cooperation that was necessary between the Arabs who see "all Jews as potential beaters of their parents," and Israelis who see every Arab as a potential suicide terrorist ready to blow up buses. Even if this were true, are beatings comparable to body pieces being scraped off sidewalks and lamp posts? In Savir's equation they are the same.
When asked about PA violations of the Oslo and Wye agreements, Savir brushed aside the hundreds of well documented violations committed by the Arabs, and announced, "Both of us didn't keep our agreements." He blamed Israel for not redeploying in 1996, making Israel the culprit in the conflict. Pitying the Arabs he declared, "The Arabs feel humiliated; we feel rejected." Again, he created the balancing act and the sameness.
It was in the question and answer period that I asked Savir how Israel could contemplate removing 200,000 Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria, and 18,000 Jews from the Golan, creating new Jewish Displaced Persons. He had no answer except to say that it was an unfortunate problem. It was my question on the Knesset vote on Abu Dis that elicited his condemnation of me as a "racist." I asked how the Jewish state could engage in a vote on the giveaway of parts of Jerusalem without a majority vote of the entire 120 Knesset members. The absence of 15 Knesset members allowed the 12 man Arab vote to have undue power.
(At the Sunday forum on Jerusalem, where Savir had also been the principal speaker, he had declared the vote on Abu Dis "unimportant" because it "merely changed status from Area B to Area A." This was a dishonest presentation since there is a world of difference between the two areas, with even the IDF unable to enter Area A's in search of terrorist criminals who run there for safe haven.)
After calling me a "rascist," Savir launched into a rhapsody on the virtues of a democracy and announced that he'd rather not live than live in an undemocratic state. As we filed out of the forum room, many in the audience spoke about the macabre possibility of an epitaph describing the Jewish state, "HERE LIES THE STATE THAT CHOSE DEMOCRACY OVER SURVIVAL." Undoubtedly that would win sympathy and applause from our enemies. Unfortunately, the well-meaning, but largely unaware Jews who were in the majority at the AIPAC 2000 conference would have made their contribution to that epitaph.
THE MOST TOUCHING MOMENT AT THE AIPAC 2000 CONFERENCE
It was Sunday evening, May 21. The huge ballroom at the Washington Hilton hotel in D.C. was decorated with a montage of black and white photos that made one think one had mistakenly wandered into a Clinton campaign rally. There was a featured blow-up of Clinton with Arafat, Hussein, and Netanyahu; Clinton with Barak; Clinton with Rabin and Arafat. There were some smaller photos of Truman and Chaim Weizmann, Carter, Begin, and Sadat, but they were overshadowed by the concentration on Clinton. In some sort of perverse way, there were times when the video cameras, projecting the dais images onto four huge TV screens placed around the ballroom, caught the speaker at an angle where Arafat's kafiyah framed each speaker's face. The association was unfortunate.
J.C. Watts, Congressman from Oklahoma, was a featured speaker, receiving an ovation when he supported moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Citing apathy as Israel's greatest danger, he credited his great success to the fact that, "I don't live my life as a victim." Was he suggesting that Israel stop acting as a victim? His ringing message about Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat on that December day in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama seemed directed to the Israelis who claim they are "tired" of war and "tired" of the on-going Arab-Israel conflict. He quoted Rosa Parks, "The only 'tired' I was, was 'tired' of giving in." It resonated in my ears. I fear for the Israelis who are giving in to such a degree that they may eventually give up.
It was after a stimulating talk by Senator Patty Murray from Washington that the most moving moment at the Conference occurred for me. Larry Weinberg, an AIPAC member, was being honored for his exemplary work for the organization. A film had been created citing the highlights of his life. His wife, Barbara, was shown telling the story of an experience Larry had while serving in WWII. After confirming that Larry was Jewish, his commanding officer told him that there was a Jew who had been found hiding in the forest who wanted to speak to a Jew. Larry approached him and the dirty, broken looking man asked him in Yiddish if he was a Jew. He replied that he was. The man then spat in his face and said, "You've come too late." As Barbara Weinberg told the story, she cried. I cry re-telling it. Will we once again be "late" in recognizing the truth about our enemies? Will Israel give in again and again until it will be too late to salvage anything? We are reminded of the words, "Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it."
GEORGE W. BUSH BRINGS BALM TO MY WOUNDED HEART
At the Monday, May 21 luncheon session, Barak addressed the AIPAC members by satellite, unable to be present in person as planned because of the crisis situation in Israel and Lebanon. Barak repeated the platitudes of the "peace" camp and reiterated his "greater reliance on a bi-partisan Congress" of the United States to rescue him. He declared his expectation that the UN would support Israel's pullout from Lebanon, somehow missing the point that the UN is Israel's enemy and would never come to its defense. He boldly declared that Israel "cannot continue serious steps with Arafat while Israelis are being shot." Translated, that means that as soon as Arafat turns on the red light for a brief time, all "serious steps" leading to Israel's demise will resume.
My emotional pain continued as Dennis Ross, U.S. Ambassador to Israel spoke about "peace" and "reconciliation." He spoke about the "brittle" Syrian "peace" process and the "very resilient Palestinian track." With the bombs bursting in air around Israel, Ambassador Ross sees a great "promise of success today in negotiating with the PA." He reminded the audience that "no one gets 100% of what he wants," creating the moral equivalency again that Israelis and Arabs have the same right to demand 100% and should have the same realization that they must lower their sights. Warning that "confrontation" will occur without an "agreement" Ross concluded his remarks. I wondered whether he thought the present day violence could be considered a "confrontation." If so, what could his warning possibly mean?
And then, balm came to my heart in the form of Governor George W. Bush. Speaking without notes, he quickly got to the essence of his message on Israel. Stating that his support for Israel is not conditional on the outcome of the "peace process," he affirmed that the U.S. tie to Israel precedes Oslo, and that "PA firing on Israel is no way to make peace." At last there was someone speaking the obvious. At last someone identified the emperor without clothes. Bush didn't hesitate to state that Washington, meaning Clinton, has interfered in the Israeli elections bringing Barak to power. The GOP candidate received a standing ovation when he promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as one of his first actions if he were to become president. Speaking out in behalf of the 13 Iranian Jews now being tried in Shiraz for espionage, Bush said, "Iran will be judged by its treatment of the 13 Jews." This was especially welcome in the face of the IMF approval of millions of dollars in loans for Iran which occurred just last week. I loved the governor's remarks on the size of Israel. He spoke about his fly-over Judea and Samaria with Ariel Sharon, and how Sharon explained to him that before the 1967 war, Israel was only nine miles wide at some points. Bush exclaimed, "Why in Texas, there are driveways that are longer than that." There was something refreshing about a speaker who had some concept about the distances involved in Israel. Something refreshing about a man who could openly say that America has "tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables, but this is not the path to peace." Knowing that candidates often say the things they know people want to hear, it must be noted that this candidate said some things that might have been unpopular in that setting, so similar to a Clinton campaign hall. However, the AIPAC audience gave Governor Bush a standing ovation, and I joined them enthusiastically. At least for a moment some fresh air had blown in. May the winds of change prevail.