The counter lobby: Occupy AIPAC to press Congress on war with Iran, US military aid to Israel

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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Hundreds of protesters from Occupy AIPAC massed outside the Washington Convention Center, where the AIPAC conference is held (Photo: Alex Kane)

Washington, D.C.–Before this year’s American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference ends, thousands of Israel lobbyists will blanket Capitol Hill, pressuring elected officials to sign onto a hawkish Senate resolution on Iran. But they won’t be the only group lobbying on Israel and Iran.

Occupy AIPAC, the Code Pink-organized counter summit challenging the Israel lobby, will have their own legislative asks. On Tuesday, activists plan to bring their anti-war message to meetings with Congressional members of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees.

I picked up a copy of Occupy AIPAC’s legislative agenda yesterday. Number one on the agenda is opposing the Lieberman-Graham resolution in the Senate that “confuses U.S. ‘red lines’ and significantly lowers the threshold for going to war,” according to the National Iranian-American Council. Occupy AIPAC is also urging support for the Ellison-Jones letter on Iran urging diplomacy (J Street is also promoting the letter).

“The [Lieberman-Graham] resolution is a blank check for war,” Occupy AIPAC states. “By moving the goalposts for war, and ruling out diplomatic alternatives to war, this resolution could be used by the current or future president as justification for war without further Congressional authorization.”

Tensions with Iran aren’t the only issue on activists’ minds. US military aid to Israel is also criticized in the legislative agenda packet because the aid has been used to “commit grave and systemic human rights abuses against Palestinians, a direct violation of the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.”

Specifically, Occupy AIPAC will push for the following amendments to the 2013 budget: restricting the use of US weapons to Israel’s sovereign territory; promoting a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements; ending the blockade of Gaza and more.

Fat chance any of those asks will be taken seriously. Still, they’re laudable goals.

I asked Rae Abileah, the Code Pink activist who disrupted Benjamin Netanyahu last year and was assaulted as a result, about Occupy AIPAC’s legislative agenda.

“AIPAC is bringing 13,000 people to lobby the hill, and over 1,000 of those are students, and 200 of them are student body presidents. So they’re really a well-fund, well-oiled operation,” said Abileah, as protesters near her chanted against a potential war with Iran. “We’re seeking to kind of put a cog in the wheel, disrupt business as usual, by trying to get reality inserted in that discussion on the Hill…In terms of legislation, we’re in a really dire spot. We don’t have any illusions that we’re going to shift Congress this weekend. We just have the hope that we’ll change public opinion about the threat of a war with Iran.”

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