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Biannual Newsletter - Sixth Edition
Sixth Edition
The Constitution
Introductory Bulletin
The Constitution - Introductory Bulletin
UN Resolution 1325
UN Resolution 1325
Date posted: July 29, 2006
By Laurie Goodstein

With Israel at war again, American Jewish groups immediately swung into action, sending lobbyists to Washington, solidarity delegations to Jerusalem and millions of dollars for ambulances and trauma counseling, just as they always have.

Several days later in Los Angeles, supporters of Israel gathered outside a Jewish center in their own protest.

But this time there is a parallel mobilization going on in this country by Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans in support of Lebanese and Palestinian victims of the war. These Americans, too, are sending lobbyists to Washington, solidarity delegations to the Middle East and boxes of lentils, diapers and medicine to refugees.

Both sides are worried about friends and relatives under bombardment or driven from their homes. Both are moved to act by the scenes on television of their suffering kin. The world in which I live is filled with people who are deeply connected to Israel, said Rabbi Steve Gutow, a New Yorker who is executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella group for 125 local councils and 13 national groups. For almost everyone I know, theres no distance. Its hard for me to turn the TV off at night, and I wake up in the middle of the morning and turn the TV on to find out how things are going. Although people in both diasporas are glued to their television screens, the parallel ends there. While the American Arab and Muslim groups say they are better organized than ever before, they say they have not made a dent in American foreign policy. Their calls for an immediate cease-fire by Israel have been rebuffed by the White House and most legislators on Capitol Hill. Im devastated, said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, in Washington. I thought wed come further. Were doing well, so far, in terms of our capacity to deal with everything from the humanitarian crisis to identifying families and working to get people out. What is distressing is the degree to which this neoconservative mindset has taken hold of the policy debate. Its like everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid. Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said, This is probably the only issue in Washington where theres no real debate. Jewish leaders say there is surprisingly little debate even inside usually contentious American Jewish circles about Israels decision to bomb Lebanon and send in troops to rout the militants of Hezbollah, who are launching rockets into Israel.

The most coordinated dissent by American Jews so far is a campaign by the liberal Tikkun magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, both founded by Rabbi Michael Lerner in Berkeley, Calif., to raise money for newspaper advertisements calling for a cease-fire by both sides and an international peace conference.

Any criticism of Israel is very marginal, said William Daroff, vice president of public policy for United Jewish Communities, an umbrella organization of 155 Jewish federations in the United States. Mr. Daroff said he had also found an astounding degree of consensus among American politicians.

Last week he helped organize a Washington lobbying blitz by more than 40 Jewish leaders who, he said, spent the day essentially expressing their thanks to officials in the White House and the State Department and on Capitol Hill. From Nancy Pelosi on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to Rick Santorum on the conservative wing of the Republican Party, I have literally heard unanimous approval and support for Israels right to defend itself, Mr. Daroff said. Certainly there are concerns by all parties about civilian deaths in Lebanon, he said, but theres also great understanding on the Hill that when Hezbollah uses civilians as shields and folks have a rocket launcher next to their dining room table, it makes them a target in addition to it being a violation of international law by Hezbollah. Arab and Muslim American leaders say they have tried to meet with the White House and many legislators but have been rebuffed.

Ahmed Younis, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said he had finally succeeded in arranging a meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, for next week. While Jewish groups field 40 lobbyists, Mr. Youniss Muslim group is sending one Muslim leader, one rabbi and one Christian minister to meet the senator.

Jewish groups have also excelled at emergency fund-raising. United Jewish Communities, only one of several major Jewish groups, has raised $21 million in the past two weeks for its Israel Crisis Fund.

Another group, American Friends of Magen David Adom, which supplies ambulances and emergency medical care in Israel, initiated a fund-raising effort it calls Code Red.

The organization has raised $38,000 a day over the Internet for the past 10 days, said David Allen, the executive vice president, several hundred times more than it usually raises in a day. Mr. Allen said he was in talks with 10 donors who were considering giving enough for 10 ambulances in the next week, at a cost of $80,000 to $100,000 each.

Arab and Muslim groups have been raising money for humanitarian aid for Lebanese who were trapped in cities shelled by the Israelis and for those who fled.

The Council on American Islamic Relations is encouraging American Muslims to send boxes of lentils, powdered milk and diapers rather than money to Life for Relief and Development, a charity based in Southfield, Mich. It is discouraging direct financial contributions because many American Muslims fear they will be investigated by the American government if they donate to a Muslim charity.

Khalil Jassemm, chief executive of the organization, said the contributions had amounted to a bit less than we had really hoped, worth no more than $3 million. The reason, Mr. Jassemm said, could be donor anxiety about giving to Muslim charities. We need to fully analyze whats going on, he said, but we think that donors are asking themselves, If I do help, am I going to be in trouble? Both sides are also working to sway public opinion. Jewish groups have held rallies in almost every major American city, Mr. Daroff said.

The Council on American Islamic Affairs has sponsored news conferences around the country in which Lebanese-Americans and others recount traumatic stories of escaping from Israeli bombardment. People cant believe what theyre seeing, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the council. The United States is actively supporting the systematic destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, a friendly nation, using American weapons. Not only do they not seek to stop the destruction, they actually provide the bombs to accomplish the destruction. The pro-Israel lobby has held sway over American policy, Mr. Hooper said, but that could be changing. The American Muslim community has reached a point where it has a little more political maturity, a little more ability to speak out, to reach out to elected officials and to opinion leaders, he said. I dont think its going to be that American politicians can get away with making speeches pledging allegiance to Israel and nobodys going to challenge them. I think those days are over.

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Source: New York Times, 28 July. 2006
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