AIPAC to Lobby for Anti-Peace with Iran

AIPAC is having its big lobby day on Capitol Hill today. Will they be taking advantage of this grand opportunity to lobby elected officials to get behind the Middle East peace efforts of John Kerry? Of course, you think. Isn’t that what you would expect from a group that claims to care about Israel?

But you would be so wrong. Instead, members are planning to pressure senators to support the Menendez-Graham letter to President Obama, which would tie his hand in negotiations, what amounts to a hawkish call to war with Iran instead of negotiations.

It doesn’t have to be, even for those elected officials who want the legendary “Jewish vote,” because AIPAC no longer has a chokehold on Jewish opinion (not that they ever did but you could be forgiven for thinking so because, among other reasons, the media gave them sole status for so long).,

I called the offices of Senators Levin and Stabenow. I was pleased to learn that Carl, Michigan’s Jewish senator, is already opposed to additional sanctions, though I didn’t get a commitment that he wouldn’t sign the letter. Debbie, on the other hand, continues to waffle and has taken no public stand yet, though I can’t imagine that she hasn’t made up her mind by now.

While I thanked Carl’s representative for Carl’s pro-peace stance, I noted to Debbie’s representative that her behavior was highly disappointing. (Yes, her waffling is baffling, two words that would rhyme in a kinder, gentler world.) If she wants the Jewish vote, she won’t necessarily get it by kissing the sandals of AIPAC. There are pro-Israel groups that also happen to be pro-peace and their voices are growing louder in DC and in communities around the country.

One group I recommend highly is J Street.

Ken Observes 9-11 by Calling His Representatives

On this remembrance of 9-11, what better way to observe the unprovoked invasion of our country by one from the Mideast than by not committing an unprovoked invasion of another country from the Mideast by our country?

Called my Southeast Michigan representatives this afternoon:

  • Rep. John Dingell: I told a staff member I opposed war and said there were lots of other options before war became the answer. He took down my name and address but didn’t say where Dingell stood.
  •  Sen. Carl Levin: I said the same to Levin’s staff member. The staff member noted that the senate vote had been pushed back. Levin was looking to see if Syria would be serious about Russia’s offer to put their chemical weapons under international control. Further, Levin didn’t believe we would have gotten to this point without the threat of force. The staff member said Levin is hoping for a diplomatic resolution but didn’t say anything about if or when Levin believed military force would be necessary.
  •  Sen. Debbie Stabenow: I said the same to Stabenow’s staff member. He said with Obama’s speech last night, they’re pushing back the vote. So she hasn’t made a decision yet. He took down my name and address.

I don’t always believe that our representatives are listening to us but in this case I do. But only if lots of voices continue to say no to war and we cry far louder than the neocons and the murder industry.

J Street to Explain Approach to Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Activism

Calling Ann Arbor-area progressives. What can we do to advocate for peace in the Mideast? J Street has ideas. Come and hear them.

Title: Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine: What Are Effective Strategies?
Date: March 25, 2010
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.
Location: Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church, 1717 Broadway Street

Free and open to the public.

Description:  How can people in the faith communities in our area be most effective in advocating for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine?

Presentation will be given on three different strategies being pursued by various groups within the faith community in Ann Arbor.

  1. Building alliances with Israeli-Palestinian peace groups on the ground
  2. Supporting the J-Street “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” approach of seeking to change the direction of U.S. policy and to broaden the public and policy debate in the U.S. about the Middle East, and
  3. Promoting economic sanctions against Israel

Clare Kinberg will be presenting the “J Street approach” summarized by these words taken from recent J Street actions in response to Vice President Biden’s recent trip to the region:

Israel’s national anthem is HaTikva—“The Hope.”  It speaks of the 2,000-year dream of the Jewish people to be a free people again in their own land.  62 years ago, that dream became a reality.

Today, that dream is slipping through our hands—on our watch.  A minority of ideologues more interested in settlements than in securing a democratic, Jewish homeland are putting the future of Israel at grave and imminent risk.

We support the Obama administration in standing firm against provocative actions on any side intended to undermine efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe such a resolution is essential to American interests and to Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish homeland.

The administration is already under attack from those here in the U.S. who seek to maintain the status quo. Help us show the Obama administration that there is broad support for a tough but fair approach to ending the conflict.

Check icpj.net, emai gracek@icpj.net, or call (734) 663-1870 for more information.

President Obama, I’m Your Man for the Supreme Court

Watching Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and the other Republican Judiciary Committee members attack Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a racist last week over her statement that her background as a “wise Latina” would help her decide cases, it suddenly hit me. I am supremely qualified to be the next SC justice if her nomination is rejected or if another SC member retires on President Obama’s watch. I am perfectly qualified because I am a Jew who can say in all truthfulness that I have not been influenced by my background.

Yes, I know that in religious school I learned Hillel’s summary of the Torah: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” But that’s so negative. Isn’t it? Double negative, in fact. Who could be influenced by such a theological position? Anyhow, the better-known version (spoken by another Jew but that’s only a coincidence) is much more positive. That’s probably the one that shaped me.

During my graduate school years, I studied Jewish-American literature, but only because I majored in creative writing and Jews are, after all, “people of the book” so I figured they would be good writers. The tales I read of men and women scrimping for a living in the shtetls of eastern Europe and finding strength in family, community, and tradition had a lasting effect on me: They made me realize that, yes, Jews were good writers.

It’s true that my ancestors fled the pogroms at the beginning of the last century to come to America. As the family genealogist, I heard those stories and, strictly as a writer and historian, recorded them. And, yes, many relatives who stayed behind in the old Austria-Hungary (what today would be Rumania) died in Auschwitz. I judiciously added their names to my family tree even though I never met them. My interest was strictly academic and anal retentive—it would have been untidy and incomplete of me to not include them.

Later I wrote two books about Holocaust survivors, one about a girl from Auschwitz who was invited to participate in Dr. Mengele’s last selection of the entire war and actually spent 18 hours in a gas chamber but survived because the Nazis were more concerned about starting the cover-up than they were gassing another 100 women; and the other about a Belgian Jew who posed as a Christian and fought in the maquis, the French resistance in southern France. But they were exciting stories. Can you blame me? I would have been crazy to pass up those opportunities. Do you think the girl met any of my relatives while she was in Auschwitz? Just curious.

Passover is my favorite night of the year. Any excuse to bring my family together is reason enough to celebrate for me. Every year during the Seder we are reminded that “We were strangers, too, in the land of Egypt.” But there’s no way that has anything to do with my solidarity with the plight of the poor and the dispossessed in America. After all, how many of them came from Egypt?

So I feel confident in saying that I am bias-free. I have what it takes to be on the highest court in the land. Like my hero, Justice Samuel Alito.

[He said what? “When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.” Oops.]

I mean, like my hero, Justice Clarence Thomas.

[He said what? “I believe … that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does.” Oops.]

I mean, I have what it takes because it takes a real man to not be influenced by his background enough to be a Supreme Court justice and I am much more of a man than Sonia Sotomayor. Any day of the week.

Amen.