Listen AIPAC – You do NOT speak for American Jews!
This image is of a previous JVP advertising truck
Send AIPAC a message.
Cecile Surasky, Deputy Director Jewish Voice for Peace
On March 3-6, thousands of AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) supporters will gather in DC for their annual policy conference billed as “three of the most important days affecting Israel’s future.” President Obama, Newt Gingrich, Prime Minister Netanyahu and most members of Congress will be there, thinking they are talking to America’s Jews.
But you and I have a chance, right now, to let them know that’s not true.
I won’t be in the room. And neither will you. In fact, most American Jews, our friends and relatives will not be in that room—and with damned good reason. Because AIPAC doesn’t want us there. AIPAC wants the leaders they’ve assembled to think that their support for bombing Iran and unconditional aid to Israel is the Jewish point of view. We can’t let that happen.
That’s why I want you to join me in showing the world leaders attending the conference a message, loud and clear. “AIPAC doesn’t represent me. It doesn’t represent you. And it doesn’t represent millions of Jews who can’t bear the increasing violence perpetrated in our name.” Here’s how:
Starting Monday, March 5, Jewish Voice for Peace has rented a giant truck so that when members of Congress go to the AIPAC Gala, or when their staffers show up for work the same morning they are flooded with thousands of volunteer AIPAC lobbyists, they’ll get our message:
AIPAC speaks for AIPAC, not for the Jews.
AIPAC supports war with Iran. American Jews don’t.
The truck driving around the conference grounds will make it clear that AIPAC doesn’t represent us. Not when they bang the drums of war with Iran, not when they support Israel’s occupation, not when they intimidate members of Congress, and not when they ask for unconditional military aid for Israel.
I want your name on that truck. We only have 75 hours to gather as many name as possible to leave no doubt that there might be a few thousands AIPAC supporters inside the conference, but there are hundreds of thousands outside of it, in every way. Will you add your name?
I’m sending this March 2 and we’re hoping to get 1,000 names by 1 pm on Monday, March 5. Please, click here to join us, and please circulate this request.
Truck-owner backs out of contract to carry anti-AIPAC advert
Cecile Surasky, JVP, by email
After signing contracts and paying in full for a mobile ad to carry your message to the AIPAC Policy Conference today; after letting 100,000 of you know about the truck; after nearly 5,000 of you signed the ad and let all of your friends know; after hundreds more chipped in for the ad; after sending a press release out to the media….After all that, the owner of the truck changed his mind at the last minute and decided not to let our ad run.
Why? What was so terrible about the ad that no one could be allowed to see it?
Its main message was: “AIPAC speaks for AIPAC, not for the Jews. AIPAC supports war with Iran and settlements, Jews do not.”
But the company let slip that they have other business with AIPAC, and didn’t want to upset them. I’m angry, but I can’t say I’m surprised. While I can’t say for sure if the truck owner got a call that scared him or if he simply got cold feet, I do know this is pretty much business as usual when dealing with matters related to AIPAC.
In fact, I started a blog called Muzzlewatch years ago when an AIPAC staffer threatened to get the funding for a Jewish youth leadership program completely pulled if I was allowed to speak to the students alongside the AIPAC representative.
Back then, the threat of losing that much money meant the people who ran the youth program folded, even though they knew it was wrong. And just last night, the truck owner folded too.
And now there’s the spreading story about AIPAC’s new and unprecedented policy of yanking press credentials from “unfriendly” reporters including Inter Press Service journalist and former Jewish Voice for Peace staffer Mitchell Plitnick, Mondoweiss’ Phil Weiss and Alternet’s Adele Stan.
So much for the free exchange of ideas in an open democracy.
After some very difficult conversations with the Jewish Voice for Peace board and lawyers, I spoke to the owner who said he’d try to fix things this morning. But it’s pretty clear his decision is made, so now I’m letting you know:
There will be no truck ad.
I’m really angry. But you can be sure of this—we will not be silenced. In fact, now we are committed to doing something even bigger to make sure our critical message gets out—so that our elected officials know that AIPAC doesn’t speak for us, and they don’t speak for millions of American Jews.
It’s going to take some time. But we’ll make sure our voices—your voices—are heard loud and clear by Congress. And once we’re up and running, we’ll let you know how you can help. To those of you who chipped in for the ad—every penny will go to this new effort.
In the meantime, we’re not sitting on our hands. We’re making sure the voices of the millions of Jews who are not represented by AIPAC are being heard loud and clear. In the image at left [see video link in article below] is Liza Behrendt, a leader in Young, Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace. She’s shouting from the stage at the AIPAC youth conference yesterday: “I will not be silenced!”
Liza, a participant in OccupyAIPAC, walked onto the dais, stood right next to the CEO of Hillel, Wayne Firestone, and told the story of how his McCarthyite guidelines kept her Brandeis Jewish Voice for Peace chapter from being accepted in Hillel.
And this morning, Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council also released this historic letter [Jewish Statement about Attacking Iran, March 5, 2012 opposing war with Iran]. Read the letter and share it with all the rabbis and rabbinical students in your circle—we need them to sign on to this powerful message.
These actions—representing your values— are already being magnified in the national and international press including the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, +972magazine, RT Television and many more.
Stay tuned. You will not be silenced.
WATCH: Jewish activist disrupts AIPAC breakout session
Roee Ruttenberg, +972
WASHINGTON – Liza Behrendt, a 22-year old Jewish-American activist, accused the American pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC and its supporting organizations of stifling debate on Israel and particularly on settlements.
On Sunday, the first day of the 2012 [AIPAC] Annual Conference, Behrendt attended a breakout session called “The Struggle to Secure Israel on Campus.” Wayne Firestone, CEO of Hillel (the largest Jewish organization on American campuses) was among the speakers at the session. Behrendt accused Firestone’s organization of denying membership to her group (which criticizes Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the presence and construction of settlements on that land) while she was a student at the predominantly-Jewish Brandeis University in Boston. She said she was not allowed to speak about Israel at Hillel. The event was filmed and broadcast on youtube: Jewish activist to AIPAC: Stop Silencing Dissent!
According to the group OccupyAIPAC, last year Firestone “issued controversial guidelines barring Hillel groups from partnering with organizations that support any facet of the BDS [Boycott, Divest, Sanction] movement or that lack a specifically Zionist stance.” After the incident, Behrendt told OccupyAIPAC:
“I felt it was necessary to confront Wayne Firestone, whose condescending guidelines barred my Brandeis University chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace from joining Hillel last spring. Hillel’s guidelines are part of organized efforts to enforce an ideological status quo among young Jews on Israel, but they are completely out of touch with what’s happening among young people.”
Disruptions of AIPAC events by activists – even Jewish ones – are nothing new. However, the outbursts are usually reserved for big headlining events, like the speeches of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. AIPACers have gotten so used to the interruptions that they now collectively respond by instantly rising in applause to drown out the yelling activist. At the 2011 Conference, a number of activists who were critical of Israeli policy interrupted Netanyahu’s address before the AIPAC gathering, but were immediately escorted out — in a matter of seconds — by security. This footage I filmed last year shows one such incident:AIPAC Heckler Removed May 23 2011
The smaller breakout sessions are rarely interrupted, presumably for two reasons. First, admission to the AIPAC conference is relatively pricey. A ticket to the 3-day event costs about $400 per person, so if one is going to make a splash, one would likely want to do it in front of as many people as possible and as visibly as possible. There’s only one chance! Second, the interruptions at the keynote addresses are so frequent that, as a result, there is an abundance of security on-hand ready to drag the heckler out, much to the amusement of AIPACers. Im comparing the two clips above, one can note that Behrendt had a much longer window of time to state her case before security arrived. Even the small number of people in that particular breakout session were caught off-guard by the action.
Sadly, most of the people at AIPAC who saw this incident or, more likely, heard about it from someone else, will completely ignore the point of what Behrendt was saying. Namely, the American Jewish community is defensive when it comes to tackling the real moral issues facing Israel. These debates are frequently happening within Israeli societies and, of course, on websites like +972, but most American Jews are made uneasy by outbursts like these. They find themselves under attack, which, ironically, feeds into the narrative they are being fed.
One may disagree with the tactic used to raise such an issue, but that does not negate the subject or its merits. As 972′s Ami Kaufman pointed out, missing from President Barack Obama’s speech on Sunday was any real recognition of the more urgent issues facing Israel. Syria was practically a non-issue, and the word “Palestinian” was only uttered by President Obama five times. And this isn’t new: Iran has been the top issue on the AIPAC agenda for the last half-decade. So why are American Jews not demanding these conversations? Why are they not insisting that these issues be addressed by their leaders? So long as that continues to happen, activists like Behrendt are vital. Even if you don’t like they way they are saying it, at some point you have to at least try to listen to what they are saying.