Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ariel Sharon Booed! To the Right of Most American Jewry but Far to the Left of AIPAC Style Radical Extremists

Israeli PM faces restive U.S. Jews - (United Press International): "Israeli PM faces restive U.S. Jews

By Philip Turner
Washington, DC, May. 23 (UPI) -- After being booed by right-wing Jewish activists at a rally to promote his Gaza withdrawal plan Sunday in New York City, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is scheduled to conclude his U.S. speaking tour Tuesday evening addressing to the annual policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

Sharon's plan to evacuate 25 Jewish settlements in Gaza has angered religious-nationalists in Israel and the United States. Prior to giving a speech to a crowd of 1,000 supporters at Baruch College Sunday, he was heckled by activists protesting what they feel is his weakening stance in Gaza.

One heckler interrupted Sharon's speech by tearing open his jacket to reveal an anti-withdrawal T-shirt. Sharon told the crowd, "I usually handle these things myself," as the protesters were whisked away by security.

Sharon is on a private trip to the United States. He will not meet officially with the Bush administration during the visit.

Experts predicted a generally supportive reception from AIPAC contributors and activists during their annual high-profile policy meeting that ends Tuesday. They said Sharon needed the support of pro-Israeli American political groups as the Aug. 15-16 withdrawal dates draw nearer.

Sharon has said his plan is the best way to open up a peaceful dialect with Palestinians. His current trip to the United States is an effort to galvanize support from what Sharon recognizes as the important pro-Israeli Jewish groups in American politics.

Alon Ben-Meir, professor of international relations and Middle Eastern studies at New York University, said he expects Sharon's withdrawal plan to be positively received by AIPAC despite the disunity he faced in New York City. "For decades now, you can see that AIPAC has always sided with the Israeli government in power," he said.

That does not mean the reception as a whole will reflect all the attitudes within AIPAC.

"Some people within the leadership in AIPAC might have personal views that differ with the leadership. But their credibility is at stake and they have always shied away from going against the official Israeli position," Ben-Meir said.

Judith Kipper, director of the Middle East Forum at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Sharon has handled the criticism of his controversial plan properly and also expects a receptive crowd at the AIPAC conference.

"AIPAC is a large group that only comes together once a year -- they are likely to be supportive. Prime Minister Sharon comes from a democracy and we are a democracy -- he took it (the heckling) well," said Kipper.

"He is doing a difficult thing," she said. "It is a tough time for Israel moving Israeli's from settlements and he needs American support and understanding. He has taken the time to come across the world, obviously in a posture to seek the support of the Jewish community and organizations like AIPAC."

AIPAC has recently been under controversy as two high-ranking officials, former research director Steve Rosen and Iran analyst Keith Weissman, face the possibility of indictment for allegedly receiving classified information about attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq from Lawrence Franklin, a Pentagon analyst.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former top adviser to President Clinton, said that while it is an important speech, Sharon's imperatives go far beyond AIPAC. "The problem with AIPAC is its most influential (former figure) may face indictment. Rosen has quit, but it is under something of a cloud," said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal said the Gaza-withdrawal issue is becoming increasingly important among Jewish groups around the world. "The withdrawal from Gaza creates schisms in Israel and the American community and potentially among supporters of Israel of all kinds," he said. "Right-wing supporters are split on whether they support Sharon or the settlers."

Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, said he expects Sharon's stance on the Gaza withdrawal will be met with some skepticism by AIPAC. "It will probably be as divided as much as Israel society is right now," said Preble. "It is important for Americans to recognize that Israeli society is bitterly divided over the withdrawal plan."

Sharon's speech is to follow one by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. The annual meeting features more than 4,000 pro-Israeli activists from all 50 states and speeches from leadership in both houses of Congress. More than a dozen forums will be held to discuss matters such as Iran's nuclear capabilities, the struggle with Islam and whether or not the Palestinians are ready for a state.

"One of Sharon's major purposes is that he wants to jointly consolidate support with the Jewish community, Congress and the administration," said Ben-Meir. "He knows he has problems with some, but he wants to have support from the most important segments of the population."

Blumenthal said the Gaza withdrawal was just heating up. "This issue will become more prominent and divisive not only in Israel but here in the United States as the date for withdrawal approaches," he said."

AIPAC Moves Away From American Jewish Community and Sharon to Embrace Far Right PositionsDespite Spy Scandal

As AIPAC Meets (by James Zogby) - Media Monitors Network (MMN): "As AIPAC Meets
by James Zogby
(Monday 23 May 2005)

'.As AIPAC Meets
by James Zogby
(Monday 23 May 2005)

"...as they gather in Washington AIPAC's continuing power will be on display. But after the cheers have died down and the Congressional pledges of support for AIPAC and Israel have been recorded, the growing debate within the organization and the Jewish community will continue to unfold."

Despite recent controversy, the thousands of pro-Israel activists gathering at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual policy conference will find official Washington appearing to be as receptive as ever to the organization and its cause. But there are clouds over AIPAC and a persistent debate within the Jewish community that must be noted, as well.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will deliver the Administration's policy address. The Republican and Democratic leadership of both the US Senate and House of Representatives will speak and will be joined at the event by almost one-half of their respective bodies.

All of this, however, occurs against the backdrop of an FBI investigation into charges that a senior AIPAC official passed to the Israeli government classified reports which he is alleged to have received from Larry Franklin, the Pentagon official who has been indicted and arrested for his role in the affair. Steve Rosen, the lobby's political mastermind for over two decades, though not yet charged, has been forced to resign from the organization after his offices were searched by law enforcement and he was called to appear before a Grand Jury.

As the Franklin-Rosen story unfolded, some questioned whether AIPAC would weather this storm. It appears that the organization has. But there are repercussions especially within the Jewish community.

Recent reports appearing in the Jewish press suggest a sharpening debate on several fronts.

We have known, for years, that a substantial majority of American Jews support a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along the lines of the 2003 Geneva Accords. While several Jewish organizations have embraced such a progressive peace agenda, AIPAC has claimed to support the policy of the Israeli government in power. At times, however, AIPAC, not wanting to be outflanked by more rightist elements (within the Jewish community or the Christian right) has taken positions even more hardline than those publicly stated by the Sharon government. As a result, the group has been slow to embrace the "Road Map" and Sharon's plan for "limited disengagement." When President Bush pledged an increase in US aid to the Palestinian Authority, AIPAC, working with hardline members of Congress, supported placing humiliating conditions on that aid.

What has emerged, then, during the last decade-and-a-half, is the presence of two competing pro-Israel lobbies in Washington: one supporting hardline positions, the other, pro-peace.

The debate this has both reflected and helped spur within the Jewish community is both real and, at times, sharp, but it has not erupted into a public divide. Nevertheless, it is there, with both sides pressing their case within the Jewish community and on Capitol Hill.

There is another troubling debate just beginning to brew within the Jewish community, more directly tied to the Franklin-Rosen affair and that is the nature of the relationship that American Jews ought to have with Israel.

Some AIPAC staffers and pro-Israel activists interviewed in recent months have reported how the "affair" has caused them to question the matter of "dual loyalty," long a dangerous and loaded issue for American Jews. What these activists have reflected upon was their growing awareness of the dangers inherent in defining their work by Israel's agenda.

Now the issue of "dual loyalty" is not uncommon in the US, which after all is a nation of immigrants, many of whom, especially those most recently arrived, retain strong ties to their countries of origin. Recent events in the Ukraine, Cuba, Iraq and Lebanon, and the impact those events have had on US immigrants from these nations, are cases in point. As an example, at a recent rally organized by a US-based Lebanese group, in support of a US Congressman's effort to introduce yet another piece of anti-Syrian legislation, the Lebanese in attendance carried not US flags, nor even the Lebanese flag, but the flags of the political faction in Lebanon with which they identified.

While this is a troublesome, though commonplace phenomenon among recent immigrants, American Jews have long been wary of being seen as having dual loyalty, both because of the persistence of still virulent anti-Semitism, and because as Americans of many generations they do not see themselves as an "exile" community. For that reason they have projected their support for Israel as coterminous with their support for American policy and interests.

The Franklin-Rosen affair and the disconnect between some of the hardline lobby's positions and those of the Administration have, therefore, fed this sense of unease.

But with all this, the power of AIPAC is still quite real and will be in evidence this week. Part of this power rests in the assumption that the group speaks for all American Jews (which it does not) and the carefully cultivated perception that the lobby can influence (indirectly, they maintain) substantial sums of campaign contributions to defeat those who oppose their positions or to assist those who embrace their agenda.

The recent defeat in the 2002 Congressional elections of Representatives Earl Hilliard (Alabama) and Cynthia McKinney (Georgia) are pointed to as evidence of this power. But, here, too, the picture is less than clear. After all, McKinney returned this year and won back her old House seat and a Virginia Congressman, James Moran, targeted for defeat by a well-funded opponent, won reelection.

Some American Jews have grown increasingly troubled by the heavy-handedness of this approach to electoral politics and the "strange bedfellows" created by an "Israel first and only" electoral agenda. Polls show that the Jewish community remains socially liberal and, therefore, is not in sync with the support provided by pro-Israel PACs to some Congressmen who, although they are strong supporters of Israel, are extremely conservative.

So as they gather in Washington AIPAC's continuing power will be on display. But after the cheers have died down and the Congressional pledges of support for AIPAC and Israel have been recorded, the growing debate within the organization and the Jewish community will continue to unfold."