When the Obama administration seeks to establish its pro-Israel bona fides, it’s no critics allowed

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Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, who heads the department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, delivered a humdinger of a speech yesterday to the AIPAC derivative “think tank” Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). 

During her speech, Brimmer recounted the Obama Administration’s multi-pronged efforts to increase Israeli participation in multilateral forums, bragged about its quest to undermine UN efforts to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions, and equated Palestinian efforts to seek their long-denied rights at the UN with the “delegitimization” of Israel.

Missing from her speech completely was any reference to the many UN resolutions or provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention that Israel so regularly violates with abandon with the diplomatic support of the United States.  Presumably with a straight face, she told the assembled crowd that “Our human rights efforts across the UN System have focused on defending the oppressed against oppressive governments.”

Had I been there, I would have challenged Brimmer on the hypocrisy of her claim that the Obama Administration defends the oppressed while it openly acknowledges propping up Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.   
Alas, that was not the case, as WINEP denied my registration for the event.  Forget your civic lessons—this is how Washington really works. In an effort to shed some light on the rarified, self-contained, and sanitized-of-dissent policy circles of DC, here’s how a public challenge to the Obama Administration’s policies was thwarted.

On Tuesday, the State Department invited me to attend the event.  The invitation arrived in my inbox at 5:21PM. 


Here’s the email I received back from WINEP confirming that I had registered online for the event by 5:57PM.  Notice that it is “pending approval.”


At 10:03AM yesterday morning, I received this email from WINEP:


So apparently within the 36 minutes it took for the State Department to invite me to this event, WINEP had already filled their spacious conference room. After having my “registration denied,” I called WINEP and asked an employee there why they were taking online registrations if the event was already full.  Oops, it must have been a “database error,” I was reassured to find out. 
I’m sure that Brimmer’s speech enjoyed hale and hearty applause from the self-selected Israel lobby crowd at WINEP.  Happily stuck inside their inside-the-Beltway bubble, both the Israel lobby and the Obama Administration fail to realize how little their rhetoric resonates anymore and how much the discourse has shifted. It’s only a matter of time until the façade crashes down.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

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