July 09, 2008

Love, Money and Power at the AIPAC annual convention

Phillip Weiss goes to the AIPAC convention and is stricken by how much love is in the air. He is also stricken by how much power and money are in the air.

I wish Weiss would think more deeply about the way these three connect. And Weiss does drink a shot of Kool-Aid when he imagines AIPAC and the Olmert government working for peace. Nevertheless, Weiss goes were few if any American journalists have gone before. That's welcome. He even said 'colonization'. GASP!

here are some choice bits:
...the first surprise was how blatant the business of wielding influence is. The conference makes no bones about this function, the most savage expression of which is the Tuesday dinner at which AIPAC performs its “roll call,” where the names of all the politicians who have come to the conference are read off from the stage by three barkers in near auctioneer fashion. The pols try to outdo one another in I-love-Israel encomia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surely won the day when she teared up while dangling the dogtags of three Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah and Hamas two years ago.

The second big surprise was that apart from coverage of the headline speakers, the AIPAC conference is a media no man’s land. It would be hard to imagine a more naked exhibition of political power: a convention of 7,000 mostly rich people, with more than half the Congress in attendance, as well as all the major presidential candidates, the prime minister of Israel, the minority leader, the majority leader, and the speaker of the House. Yet there is precious little journalism about the spectacle in full. The reason seems obvious: the press would have to write openly about a forbidden subject, Jewish influence.

...At most conventions, people gather out of self-interest. Therein lies my admiration: the AIPAC’ers didn’t come for selfish reasons. They are devoutly concerned with the lives of people they don’t know, very far away. Yes, people with whom they feel tribal kinship. ...

AIPAC makes sure the Israeli line is America’s line by cultivating politicians before they reach the national scene. Victor ...warned the audience that 10 percent of Congress will be new next year because so many seats are open: “Do we know them? Do they know us? Have they been to Israel? Do they understand the issues we care so deeply about? ..... Ladies and gentlemen, the success or failure of the pro-Israel community rests on three words, our personal relationships.” And people accused Walt and Mearsheimer of fostering a conspiracy theory.

....AIPAC’s change of heart cannot be ascribed to the good thinking of American Jews. They’re not thinking at all. They have passed on their full powers of judgment to the Israeli government. In that sense, the Zionists in that hall might best be compared to Communists of the ’30s and ’40s, .... On my train ride back to New York, a little rich kid of about 14, traveling with his uncle in the seat behind me, called his parents to complain that Obama’s views on Israel seemed “tailored” and “he’s never really stood up for Israel.” Indoctrination, pure and simple.

The great sadness here is that American Jewry is the most educated, most affluent segment of the public. Yet on this issue there is little independent thinking. The obvious question is whether they don’t have dual loyalty. As a Jew, I feel uncomfortable using the phrase, given its long history, but the facts are inarguable. Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic speaks of everything “we” should do to make peace with the Palestinians.... and when the national anthems are played, one cantor sings the “Star Spangled Banner,” but the “Hatikvah” has two cantors belting it but, with the audience roaring along. (The American Conservative, June 30th, 2008

One more thought about the love. Perhaps this advice to a young lady attributed to Scott Fitzgerald would help Weiss understand AIPAC better: "don't marry for money, go where the money is, then marry for love."

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