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Why I protested AIPAC (and what brought me to that point)

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I’m not anti-Israel. I’m not a self-hating Jew. When Israel launched the Gaza war in 2008, I was a member of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. We were committed to working politely within the Jewish community, promoting a two-state solution, stressing our pro-Israel credentials, refusing to do street protests.

The Gaza war was a wake-up call for me, and for thousands of other Jews. I was jarred by the sight of white phosphorus exploding over Gaza – the most densely populated place on earth. White phosphorus shells made in the USA, fired by the Israeli army. White phosphorus – the incendiary chemical weapon that burns flesh down to the bone – banned for use against people, even against soldiers. Now it was being used against Palestinian children. An illegal weapon. A terror weapon. Right on my TV screen – video evidence that Israel was committing war crimes.

Someone in Louisville called an urgent meeting of concerned Jews. We adjourned the meeting without doing anything. There was no Jewish group in town that was willing or able to organize a protest demonstration (although Jews were joining protests organized by others.)

As the death toll of Palestinian children killed by the IDF rose to almost 400, a group of right-wing Jews and Christian Zionists staged a demonstration in downtown Louisville waving Israeli flags and cheering the IDF on – and blaming the children’s deaths on the Palestinians. (‘Blaming the victim’ taken to a new level of chutzpah and absurdity.)

We started a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) chapter in Louisville so there will be a Jewish peace group here to stand in protest across the street from those cheerleaders next time, to stand with the other peace groups in town, and to make it clear that most Jews don’t support war crimes.

The Torah says, “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” Those 400 Palestinian children were my neighbors. Joining Jewish Voice for Peace was a mitzvah for me. Starting a JVP chapter in Louisville was a mitzvah. I did it for the children, and for the Torah. We did it to save Judaism from being hijacked by war criminals who use it to drum up support for their crimes. I did it to save my own soul. Because “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” (Bishop Desmond Tutu). And “If not now, when?” (Rabbi Hillel).

50,000 people added their names to the JVP email list during the Gaza war. Now the Jewish peace groups in America have more supporters than AIPAC. JVP chapters are popping up spontaneously in various cities. Below is the latest press release from Louisville JVP. We organized this protest because AIPAC, which lobbied in support of the Gaza war, is now lobbying for war with Iran.

Press Release

Louisville Jewish Voice for Peace

(Louisville, KY) Louisville Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) organized a Demonstration Against Another War on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm on the sidewalk in front of 21c Museum Hotel, 700 West Main Street.

This demonstration was in response to a fundraiser being held in the hotel at that time by AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as the Israel Lobby).

The money raised at that fundraiser will be used by AIPAC to lobby against JVP’s efforts to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. AIPAC routinely lobbies Congress to support everything the Israeli government does, regardless of whether it undermines peace.

AIPAC’s lobbying provides political cover for pro-war elements in Israel to pursue destructive policies like the invasion of Lebanon, the Gaza war, and the continuing expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. These all undermine prospects for peace. They all advance AIPAC’s view that the only way to ensure Israel’s security is to use pre-emptive war and violence as a first resort.

The money raised at the fundraiser also will be used by AIPAC to lobby the US government to start a war with Iran. AIPAC is claiming that war is the only answer to Iran’s nuclear program. AIPAC is pushing for the US to bomb Iran or give Israel the green light to do it.

JVP was not demonstrating in support of the current Iranian government or President Ahmadinejad. JVP was demonstrating against AIPAC’s proven track record of supporting war and violence as the first solution to problems.

JVP believes the real solution to Iran’s nuclear program is comprehensive negotiations between America and Iran that will guarantee Iran’s security against a US invasion (which was threatened by George W. Bush) and that will guarantee the security of Iran’s neighbors.

Any country that was threatened with invasion by the United States might be motivated to want a nuclear bomb for self-defense and deterrence against that invasion. The solution to this problem is not to start the very war that Iran fears, but to negotiate with Iran.

JVP believes an American or Israeli attack on Iran would be disastrous for Israelis, Americans, Iranians, and the world.

The attack could kill or injure many Iranian civilians, including the 30,000 Jewish citizens of Iran who are currently safe and enjoying the protection of the Iranian government and do not want to leave Iran.

The attack could trigger violence and retaliation that could engulf the Middle East. This would harm Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, especially US troops stationed in the region. It would harm many other innocent people as well.

An attack on Iran could trigger retaliation against Americans and Jews throughout the world. For many reasons, war is not the answer. It would cause many more problems than it would solve.

For all these reasons, Jewish Voice for Peace organized this demonstration against another war, and invited many other peace groups in Louisville to participate.

About Russ Greenleaf

Russ Greenleaf is a Jewish peace activist and a member of Louisville Jewish Voice for Peace. He is a member of a Reform Temple in Louisville, Kentucky.

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