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While the mainstream media acknowledge that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) continues to be a broad-based and powerful lobbying organization on behalf of Jewish and Israeli concerns, the just-completed AIPAC conference in New York and Washington, DC, was surprising in its non-diversity.
An ancient people, with roots hailing from hundreds of areas of the world once the Diaspora was upon them, Jews encompass people of all ethnographic stripes and religious observance, yet the 5,000-strong attendance at the D.C. Conference Center this week were notable for their vanilla, one-stop-shopping coloration. Of Orthodox, judging by the absolute desert of head-coverings, there were amazingly few. Can it possibly be a representative throng when arguably the most ardent segment, surely the fastest-growing segment, of the Jewish polity is noted only in absentia?
Indeed, there appeared to be more Gentiles present, from a quick series of one-on-one conversations in the pit before the talks began, than there were Observant Jews.
The focus at the conference, it was evident this year, as at prior AIPAC outings this author has attended, was on the homogeneous middle-middle. This seemingly unquestioning assemblage greeted Senator Hillary Rodd Clinton, accordingly, with rapturous applause at her position-spearing presentation at the Conference. Surely a galvanizing figure, with as many detractors as adherents, there was only the ecstasy of receipt in the acclaim and applause Senator Clinton received at the podium. She spoke clearly of her support for Israel and the current situation, less stentoriously than on many of her microphone opportunities in New York, evincing a newfound assurance and confidence no doubt borne of her hard work of late as the junior senator from the not-undemanding state of New York. Staking her claim to the Jewish vote in her 2008 run for the Presidency, without a doubt.
Howard Freedman, the incoming president of AIPAC, interestingly, brought up the portion of the week at the opening of his remarks, which made the only reference to Jewish historicity and Biblical foundations in the speakers on Tuesday preceding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
For his part, P.M. Sharon, who got as thunderous an ovation as one could get without a certified rock band in attendance, appeared the avuncular Uncle Arik in his prepared remarks to the congregated faithful. He made a highly inconsequential joke about his visit to Crawford some weeks ago, where he saw that he, "a 'farmer' in Israel," saw that he had far more head of cattle than did the American President. Although the Disengagement plan to separate longtime residents of Gush Katif and environs is anything but a no-lose proposition, with multiple voices raised in distress and protest against its probable terror-abetting fallout, the hands and voices at AIPAC seemed unanimous in their adulation and unquestioning support. We all admire unanimity--but the issues on the table are anything but the rubber stamp approvals-getter of the past.
This rabid support for Ariel Sharon could be seen as the representation of the...for want of a better term... know-nothingism of many of the unaffiliated Jews of the United States.
Can they be informed of the consequences of this peculiar, Osloid-in-the-making, unilateral suicidalism? Or it could represent the strange and sad recall of the political posture many Jews throughout history have had: Meek, bend-the-head, pray that we are not harmed judaism that may have marked one of the low points in the WWII destruction of one-third of the Jews in the world, as so many notable Jewish 'leaders' chose to go through back channels and 'quiet diplomacy' that netted Jews nothing but corpses scorched and acid in the yards of Polish and German crematoria?
The voices of the loyal opposition, outside the Conference Center, wearing modest, unlettered orange buttons, and raised at the Capitol Hill offices of many state senators and representatives by groups of Jews and Christians making the case for hearings before further treasure or troops are squandered in the selling of the Sharon's Squander Disengagement enterprise, spoke to those not rapturous in support of the once-great Ariel Sharon's plan for his disenfranchised Gazan and Judea and Samaria residents.
Security arrangements at the DC Conference Center were as surprisingly taut as could be expected, and more so. Possible oppositionists were identified early in the day and eagle-eyed, much as one might see in the Leftist-dominated precincts of the Israeli press. Still, the efforts of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), and Jews & Christians Against Terror (JCAT) made themselves felt, and gained some traction, especially in the offices of Senators Boxer, Voinovich, Landrieu, Lieberman and Coleman, where aides took meetings with contingents of constituents advising hearings on these matters: Cessation of further tax monies dedicated to the expulsion of Jews from their decades-long homesteads, and the inadvisability of committing troops to support of the forthcoming disengagement incivilities foisted upon the 8,500-some citizens of the area being rendered Judenrein.
Is it the middle-of-the-road Jews attending AIPAC that are out of touch with the writing on the wall -- of certain increased terror from a crowd not even quelled in the slightest by their putative leader, Mahmoud Abbas -- or is the Pollyanna instinct still so strong among Jews that they bury their questioning minds in the headstands of Sharon, without focusing on the dire consequences of the disastrous Disenfranchisement moves he is committing in public?
Marion Dreyfus is a writer and traveler; she has taught English in China on the university level. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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