Out of curiosity, I stopped by an AIPAC lecture last week in Westport, Connecticut. To my surprise, AIPAC national president Michael Kassen was in attendance and took questions at the end of the event.
“Why,” I asked, “do you think that Israel boycotted last year’s planned international conference on establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East which was based on a proposal made by Iran in 1974? What is the downside of a WMD Free Zone as an alternative to war and sanctions against Iran?”
“I barely consider myself knowledgeable about American policy let alone Israeli policy. But I think that Israel felt that it was…it was…they would be…uh…in a very, very small minority…uh…at…at…such a conference. I think that Israel felt…that…that…the…the…the region in which they…they are thrust…is…is…uh…um…you know…”
Event staffers had to come rescue him. They said the question-and-answer session was suddenly off-the-record. Although I’m not a journalist, AIPAC staffers followed me outside and tried to make me delete the video from my phone.
One would expect the president of AIPAC to coherently answer what’s wrong with a peaceful alternative to sanctions and covert war hurting innocent Iranians. His organization lobbies for “strangling” sanctions (AIPAC’s words) and a “military option” against Iran. Their website celebrates that because of the sanctions, “[y]outh unemployment is over 28%” in Iran and “Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost eighty percent of its value since 2011”. “Iran’s GDP is falling by the largest margins in the past 25 years, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.”
As a precondition to negotiating a WMD-Free Zone, Israel demands that “peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region”. The Israel Atomic Energy Council’s Dr. Shaul Chorev reiterated this bold demand to the IAEA last September. AIPAC defends Israel’s precondition on one hand while on the other hand it chastises the Palestinian Authority for “Refusing to Negotiate, Demanding Preconditions“.
If Israel and AIPAC were minimally serious about avoiding war, they would support talks regarding peaceful alternatives instead of lobbying for “strangling” sanctions and a “military option” against Iran. Why couldn’t Mr. Kassen answer a simple question? Because his job is to defend the indefensible.