This morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by video to the Israel lobby group AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in Washington. He bragged about his warm relationship with President Trump to great applause, and said that many states in his region were turning to Israel in the fight of modernism against medievalism. He said it was time for Palestinian Authority to “above all, once and for all, recognize the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu also addressed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement aimed at Israel, saying Israel will defend itself on the “moral battlefield… We’ll defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.”
Last night Vice President Mike Pence was introduced as an enemy of BDS. He told the AIPAC conference, “The president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv,” to huge applause. He then called on the next ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a supporter of settlements, to stand. He also got a warm reception.
Martin Indyk took a jaundiced view of Pence’s promise, saying that George W. Bush had seriously considered the move for eight years, and Trump will still be seriously considering in another four years. “We’re freiers [suckers] to think otherwise.”
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on AIPAC’s followers to opposed the BDS movement. While former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper said that BDS was the most serious threat to Israel and merely the latest form of classical anti-Semitism.
“The third threat to Israel is the one we actually need to take the most seriously as Canadians and Americans, and that is the BDS movement… One can disagree with the Israeli government’s policies in this aspect or that, but the BDS is not about that. The BDS movement is about translating the old ideology of anti-Semitism into something acceptable to a new generation.”
The theme was echoed by AIPAC officials.
Democratic political consultant Paul Begala said this morning on the AIPAC stage that he was thinking of making “aliyah” to Israel because of political developments in Washington but affirmed: “I have never worked for someone who is anti-Israel and I never will… How could I and be true to my progressive values?”
As for progressive values: there was a large demonstration yesterday outside the Washington convention center by the “Jewish resistance,” led by IfNotNow. A few demonstrators from IfNotNow managed to get inside the hall and drop a banner protesting the occupation. While hundreds of others in the resistance group led a march to the convention center in an effort to stop the conference. Ben Norton said it’s the “biggest-ever Jewish-led protest” of AIPAC. Bigger than Neturei Karta.
Here’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin’s thorough video coverage of the demonstration for AJ+.
One organizer says what makes this anti-AIPAC demonstration different is that it’s the 50th year of occupation, and these young people are not going to let AIPAC speak for the Jewish community anymore. Others emphasized the crisis inside the Jewish community. Among the soundbites:
Fifty years is too long. It’s a moral crisis for the Palestinians, it’s eroding our community. AIPAC does not speak for American Jews.
The Trump administration is forcing the American Jewish community to pick.
AIPAC stands for endless occupation. We are the Jewish Resistance.
I’m here fighting for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians, and a Jewish community that stands up for those things.
Jews can’t have liberation if Palestinians don’t.
We refuse as Jews and humans to be part of the American Jewish establishment…. I feel heartbroken that it’s taken our community so much to move…. We have a long way to go.
At Minute 20 you can see a dozen demonstrators forming a human chain outside the convention doors.
Shortly after, a group said to be part of the Jewish Defense League attacked the demonstration.
Some shouted at IfNotNow, “sharmouta,” Arabic for prostitute.
Shihab-Eldin asked why no one from JDL was arrested.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.