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The Next Occupation Is At AIPAC

CODEPINK, Just Foreign Policy, ‘The Nation’ endorsing conference protest

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Protesters outside the 2011 AIPAC conference.(Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been fascinating—and, for some of us, disheartening—to see the broad Occupy Wall Street movement be channeled into protests against Israel and Israeli policies, as when Occupy’s Boston contingent marched on the consulate or when an Occupy Birthright direct action was staged (I interviewed Liza Behrendt, an activist for that). Occupy AIPAC, which aims to disrupt the annual AIPAC confab this March in Washington, D.C., is an example of an older movement re-invigorated—or at least re-branded—by the events that began last September in Zuccotti Park. According to Rae Abileah, one of Occupy AIPAC’s main organizers, there was a disruption at last year’s AIPAC conference, too; it was called Move Over AIPAC. They held a summit, and they famously sent in protesters to disrupt Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the conference and even one who managed to shout out in protest during his speech to Congress. Actually, Abileah told me, that was her (she says she was subsequently assaulted by a man whom she believes to be a pro-AIPAC lobbyist).

Abileah is a co-director of CODEPINK Women for Peace, one of dozens of left-wing groups endorsing Occupy AIPAC, which also includes Just Foreign Policy, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Muslim Student Union at UC-Irvine (much in the news), U.S. Boat to Gaza, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and even The Nation. (A recent addition, the magazine has confirmed it is co-sponsoring the conference, though its involvement is limited to promoting it). “The mission,” Abileah told me, echoing the group’s website, “is to expose AIPAC as a lobby not representing the best interests for the American people, putting the Israeli government’s agenda before most Americans—a lobby that is in opposition to what the 99 percent want. To show that they’re pushing for military aid to Israel when we need cuts to our military budget given the austerity. And to show it’s pushing for war with Iran, and we absolutely can’t afford another war in this country.”

It’s not a new argument—you might call it the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis (the authors spoke at last year’s gathering). But it’s clearly gained resonance (along with that 99 percent rhetoric) from Occupy Wall Street. “We did something similar last year, and we felt this year there was a lot of momentum to expose lobbyists,” Abileah said. In an email, she clarified: “Occupy is focusing on ending corporate personhood, economic justice, and fair/real democracy where corporate and one percent cash doesn’t drive politics, election, and legislation; AIPAC is a natural target within those demands/issues as a huge K Street lobby with a stranglehold on Congress.” (“A typical example of a one percenter,” she noted, “is Sheldon Adelson.”) She also cited Kalle Lasn, the editor of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that put out the initial call for an occupation in Manhattan’s Financial District, and who told the left-wing blog Mondoweiss, “I’m hoping that a lot of people of like mind from this Occupy movement will move into this area, and we will be as aggressive as AIPAC, as aggressive as some of these neocons have been, and fighting back against them. What I’m saying is, we need a hashtag, #occupytheneocons, we need a hashtag, #occupyAIPAC.”

Here is one area where folks like me have a problem. Because, as Michael C. Moynihan reported in Tablet Magazine, Lasn’s magazine has a long history of trafficking in conspiracy theories of Israeli perfidy and outsize Jewish power. It pains me that I don’t have a great rebuttal right now to Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin’s claim that “The occupiers and the Israel-haters are natural allies” (although he is incorrect to make Occupy AIPAC synonymous with BDS—according to Abileah, not all endorsers advocate boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel). But I don’t.

Which is not to say Abileah would classify herself as an “Israel-hater.” And, as you could probably guess, most of Occupy AIPAC’s organizers are Jewish. Abileah grew up in a Reform community in the Bay Area, and while the Iraq War drove her into anti-war activism, it wasn’t until Operation Cast Lead, three years ago, she said, that she became passionate about the Palestinian cause.

So is this a legitimate harnessing of the Occupy cause? “Having a movement for justice for some people and not others seems absurd,” argued Abileah. “Occupy was inspired by the Arab Spring. We need global solidarity with the 99 percent.” Perhaps this is a damning indictment of those like me, who want to shout Occupy’s economic message from the rooftops but strongly back away from criticisms of Israel and AIPAC that unfairly single them out.

Or perhaps this is a damning indictment of the Occupy movement itself.

Related: Busted [Tablet Magazine]
‘It’s Time To Stop the Bully’ [Mondoweiss]
Occupy AIPAC Next Step for Leftist Group [Commentary Contentions]
Earlier: The Pro-Palestinian OWS Offshoot
The Problem With OWS’ Palestine Association

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Author strongly back away from criticisms of Israel and AIPAC that single them out because he see it as an unfairly criticism.

He belongs to group of people with cognitive dissonance called Progressive except for Palestine.

It takes a very formidable blinkers to see criticism of Israel as unfair, in view with what is happening in that country.

There’s a huge difference between supporting OWS’ claimed political positions (fuzzy and confusing as they were), and supporting the OWS movement. Political positions speak for themselves, and anyone is free to agree or disagree with them as they please, in isolation. (Indeed, I wish more people did exactly that.) Movements, on the other hand, are collections of people engaged in political action, and they inevitably come to embody the shared collective beliefs and goals (which, as often as not, ends up matching the selfish interests) of their members, rather than any particular narrow, principled political statement or position.

As a blogger, Marc (and by now a quite-widely-read one, I might add), you are free to embrace and express your positions with all the care, precision and specificity you can muster. If you like some of OWS’ initial political positions, but don’t like the direction that the movement has taken lately, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with expressing that completely consistent point of view. Indeed, one can hope that perhaps others will follow your example, and choose their politics on grounds of principle and preference, rather than group loyalty and social conformity.

More proof that OWS is antisemitic. As Rev King said, when you say you are an anti-Zionist, it really means you don’t like Jews. He understood all this anti-Israel rhetoric was really antisemitic. When will people like Tracy wake up to the truth about OWS.

shavit says:

“We need global solidarity with the 99 percent.”

how does “jew” (or “israeli”) mean “part of the 1 percent?”

Bill Pearlman says:

Eva, whose pissed off that she wasn’t at Jedwebne killing Jews like the rest of her family.

And Abileah, not an Israel hater. Then what is she. Next you’ll tell us that Josef Mengele was a stickler for the hippocratic oath.

What about Tibetans?

Obviously it’s hypocritical and almost definitely rooted in anti-semitism to focus on the plight of the Palestinians and ignore every other oppressed group on the planet.

Every day there is a story in the news about Muslims massacring other Muslims somewhere in the world. If Israel disappeared tomorrow it would do absolutely nothing to relieve anyone of political or economic misery.

How many of these stories do we really need to read in the Tablet. We have so many other more important issues and creative people that need to be previewed. This women is a Hater. Hater of Jews, Israel and anything to do with Democracy and Capitalism. Spare us all her reasons and excuses. Hitler and Stalin wrote the book. She is just a cheap imitation.

ralph melnick says:

How sad to see a segment of what is self-labeled as “the left” once again devolving into an unequal application of standards of what it conceives as just and unjust. What ever happened to universally applied values? Or are those correct who see this singling out of Israel and a portion of the American Jewish community as another instance in a growing history of “leftist” antisemitism. Perhaps these folks ought to Occupy Themselves more thoughtfully when it comes to such matters rather than allow themselves to be trapped by rhetoric that is far worse than merely ideologically tainted.

For Zlota says:

If I’m part of the one percent controlling… everything… where is my damn piece?

Ethel Carol says:

The occupy people are the destructive 1% of humanity who drag down the productive 99%. Last year the 1/2 of 1% (at most)
Occupy AIPACers were like annoying gnats; easily brushed off and dismissed as the disease causing/ hate filledpests they are.
No different this year no matter what new tactics they may try.

Salomon Mizrahi says:

What amazes me is that the people of the “occupy x, y, z” have nothing else more productive to do? Looking for a job, working as klapper, selling falafel sandwiches…what a lack of imagination!
It seems to me that what is occurring is a kind of Homo sapiens involution, within the American Jewish community, that uses to be so inventive and original. That´s a pity some people go so low in intelligence and reflection.

Jacob T Chachkes, M.D. says:

Occupy AIPAC is not ‘left wing’. Zionism is left wing! Occupy AIPAC is anti Jew, anti Israeli, so-called antisemitic [arabs are Semites]. Those who favor socialism are left wing, and not necessarily anti Israel or anti Jew.

Ebenezer says:

The affinity of left-wing thinking to collapse into antisemitism is well-documented and is evident from the start of modern leftist ideology, e.g., already in Karl Marx’s writings. Antisemitism is not “just the socialism of fools,” but often even of the intelligentsia whose leftism is too often merely a contempt for ordinary people and society, symbolized by “the Jews” who allegedly control them all and make all their decisions. The first antisemitic political parties in Europe were mostly left-wing; in fact, we should recall that the full name of the Nazis was the National Socialist German Workers Party, proving that left-right oppositions are often highly simplified, ESPECIALLY at the extremes. Totalitarian simplistic thinking is ever the same, whether Fascist, Leftist, Islamist, or whatever.

On modern versions of such antisemitic simplifications and scapegoating now found even in liberal left circles, see the linguistic philosopher Bernard Harrison deconstruction of left-liberal anti-Zionist/antisemitic rhetoric in Britain, The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion (2006), and Robin Shepherd, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel (2009), and for refutations of the standard libels, Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (2003); Bernard-Henri Levy, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism (2008); Ben Cohen, The Ideological Foundations of the Boycott Campaign Against Israel (2007 – available on-line at the American Jewish Committee website); David Meir-Levi, History Upside Down (2007), etc.

Matt Friedman says:

I am a 99% and I am a long time proud member of AIPAC. The author states that the Occupy AIPAC people dislike AIPAC because it supports the policies of the State of Israel. This is true. It is in their mission statement! AIPAC’s purpose is to support the government of Israel.

Keith David Reitman says:

I am surprised by the plagiarism used by “Eva” (she was the first comment).

She has stolen, word-for-word until the last word, and reversed, a very salient argument used by Israel supporters against the the so-called “Left” when she said: “He belongs to group of people with cognitive dissonance called Progressive except for *Palestine*.” (Replace w/ *Israel*)

The truth is so many “Progressives” (her word) ignore and deny anything positive related to Israeli democracy and legitimacy while ignoring or dismissing the crimes and war crimes of the murderous, supremest regimes surrounding it.

Michael Santo says:

“The strategic questions they raise now, particularly about Israel’s privileged relationship with the United States, are worth debating.” —David Remnick. The New Yorker

Cicero says:

I visited the Boston Occupy site and when I asked why they had become essentially an anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian movement one organizer screamed, “Because the Israeli occupation is the worst human rights violation in the world.” When I the Occupy movement was losing its focus and the claim about the Palestinians was grotesquely exaggerated I was told I was a “dirty Zionist” and I should “get out.” It’s clear there’s no line between the anti-Israel component and the anti-Semitic one, and the loony left will find common ground with the loony libertarians who are now showing up increasingly at the Occupy sites. This development, however, should not surprise the Jewish community. Having made “Tikkum Olam” inseparable from leftist politics it was inevitable the day would come when it would be hoist on its own petard. There is now effectively an alliance between Jew-hating Muslims and the Jew-hating left. That alliance is being aided by the likes of Joe Klein and Tom Friedman. It would be an excellent conclusion if the Jewish community were capable of learning from the experience, but I doubt it’s capable. The lesson: the left is not your friend, and while spurning friends in the political center and center right, you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places. However much you try to ape them — they don’t want you. “Get out, Jew Zionist.”

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The Next Occupation Is At AIPAC

CODEPINK, Just Foreign Policy, ‘The Nation’ endorsing conference protest

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