About eighty protesters in Portland yet again protested the annual Oregon American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) gathering on April 29th. This year's event was marked by an even greater amount of paranoia and secrecy by AIPAC: the event was not widely announced, the keynote speakers were not promoted, the media was not invited, people who tried to attend were arbitrarily refused entry, and the guests were subjected to searches of purses and metal detectors after passing checks by police and AIPAC security.
AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobby organizations in the United States and promotes right-wing hard-line policies in support of Israel. Former Israeli Knesset member Avraham Burg described AIPAC as "a kind of a filter which filters only darkness through it, rather than light through it. And I would like to see the alternative American Jewry, which is expressed through the liberalism and humanism and civil rights and a total commitment toward peace, as the one which expresses me." AIPAC is currently promoting aggressive sanctions and support for military action against Iran.
According to one of the few websites promoting the event, the keynote speaker was Eli Groner, Israel's Minister for Economic Affairs to the U.S. Eli Groner gave up his U.S. Citizenship to work for his true love, Israel. He is a big supporter of the Bush's neo-con "war on terror" saying of Bush "here is a man who understands that the price of liberty is, indeed, eternal vigilance." Groner also lives in Gush Etzion, a block of illegal Israeli settlements that are built on Palestinian land. In short, the perfect poster child for AIPAC: An American born Israel loyalist, in favor of aggressive neo-con ideology, living on stolen Palestinian land.
We were encouraged by the many expressions of support we received from cars passing by. Even a city bus honked in support. The few that cursed us and gave the finger were usually coming into the event.
Many protesters commented that even fewer people and politicians seemed to be attending the AIPAC event. Unfortunately, because the media refuses to cover the event or do any investigative reporting, we will probably never know of all the politicians who attended, what speeches they gave, or what AIPAC was telling them.
We do know that Senator Ron Wyden attended and spoke to the crowd and so did Congresswoman Susan Bonamici. We know that Oregon Secretary State Kate Brown, a regular, also attended. We know that Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz attended and so did the Mayor of Beaverton Denny Doyle. We also know that many Oregonians would like to know who else attended and what Wyden and Bonamici said to the audience. Unfortunately, a veil of secrecy hides their remarks.
One visibly angry member of the AIPAC crowd tried to get police to take down our largest "tower of peace" sign which proclaimed "No War On Iran." He claimed the sign blocked traffic. The police informed him that they had looked at the sign and determined it wasn't a problem.
The annual AIPAC meeting is a direct expression of what is wrong with powerful special interest lobbies, how politicians fail to meet the real needs of their constituents, and how the media continues to fail to work for the public interest and inform the public on these politically important lobby events.
The protesters also noted the large number of luxury cars with people coming to fete AIPAC: pearlescent Buicks and dark bodied Lexuses. If ever one wanted to get a sense of the 1% working against the legitimate needs and moral compass of the 99%, this event gave it. Why do supposedly progressive politicians like Kate Brown insist on going to events showcasing right wing ideology? Perhaps that is why American politics keeps drifting right.
Eli Groner, A statement of American values ,http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=243311
Facts on Gush Etzion
Amy Goodman interview with Avraham Burg, http://www.democracynow.org/2009/2/12/former_speaker_of_the_israeli_parliament
Photo 3 The Tower of Peace
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