American PEPs (Progressives Except for Palestine) Facilitate Israeli War Crimes – Alternet

American PEPs (Progressives except for Palestine) Facilitate Israeli War Crimes

It appears the Mayor De Blasio is establishing himself as a PEP: progressive except for Palestine.

“City Hall will always be open to AIPAC,” said Mayor De Blasio, in what he thought were private remarks. “When you need me to stand by you, in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call, and I’ll answer it happily, ’cause that’s my job.”

I appreciate that the job responsibilities of New York City’s mayor are myriad and complex, but blind defense of AIPAC and pro-Israel hardliners shouldn’t be among them.

That’s why I added my name—along with 57 other prominent Jewish residents of New York—on an open letter to Mayor De Blasio saying that AIPAC doesn’t speak for me.  A new petition started by Jews Say No echoes that sentiment and calls on Mayor De Blasio to reconsider his allegiances in light of the many nuances of the situation in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, it appears the Mayor De Blasio is establishing himself as a PEP: progressive except for Palestine. Many political leaders maintain a special blind spot where Israel—and especially AIPAC—is concerned.

No people is properly served by a government that willingly closes its eyes to reality—especially when that reality involves war crimes and human rights abuses. Today’s world is too big and too dangerous for the United States to barrel forward into the Middle East with a hardline stance that refuses to recognize nuance and truth.

Comments like these from Mayor De Blasio—and similar comments from President Obama and countless other American politicians—allow Israel to continue rampant mistreatment of Palestinians with no accountability.  Violations of the Geneva Conventions, the establishment of an apartheid system, and systematic harassment of Palestinians through the region are all excused by America’s insistence on supporting Israel, right or wrong.

For example, a recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions was met with opposition by many college presidents, and even more ominously with a bill by the New York State Senate that would ban public institutions of learning from directing state funding to groups supporting a boycott of Israel for any reason.  The bill passed the Senate with overwhelming support, but stalled in the House because of grassroots lobbying—from education groups, legal groups, and civil liberties groups—against this clear infringement on academic integrity and first amendment rights. This type of legislation remains a threat and similar bills have been introduced on the federal level.

Such a response makes it clear that many New York politicians join Mayor De Blasio in scrambling to curry favor from big dollar contributors like AIPAC.  But it’s wrong to pledge blind support and refuse to acknowledge the failings of Israel to gain access to those coffers or secure votes.  No lobby should be powerful enough to sweep war crimes and humanitarian crises under the rug. By pledging unqualified support to Israel, our politicians are acting as far-from-innocent bystanders and facilitating war crimes.

But politicians may have the wrong idea about the actual strength of AIPAC and the pro-Israel lobby.  In addition to the fight in New York State, AIPAC is now openly opposed to the policy goals expressed by the Obama administration regarding sanctions on Iran.  This deviation from AIPAC’s stance creates room for disagreement with the hardliners and opens the door to holding Israel accountable for its treatment of Palestinians.  That’s a door that Mayor de Blasio, and other American politicians, should walk through.

 Video Link Mayor De Blasio’s AIPAC endorsement

Open letter text:
An Open Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio:

We are Jewish residents of New York who read, in the leaked transcript of your private speech to a meeting of AIPAC leaders, the following:

“City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.”

We understand that the job of mayor of New York is a complex one that often calls for your participation on the international stage, and we would not presume to define your job for you. But we do know that the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and that no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.

Sincerely yours,

Ruth J. Abram
Karen R. Adler
Arlene Alda
Anita Altman
Esther Ann-Asch
Emanuel Ax
Peter Beinart
Andrew Berger
Loren Bevans
Martin I. Bresler
Kenneth David Burrows
Howard Clyman
Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Barbara Deinhardt
Barbara Dobkin
Eugene Eisner
Laurel W. Eisner
Daniel Engelstein
Eve Ensler
Danny Goldberg
Sally Gottesman
Linda Gottlieb
Laurence Greenwald
Jane Hirschmann
Erica Jong
Peter A. Joseph
Alice Kessler-Harris
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Gil Kulick
Martha Weinman Lear
Bobbie Leigh
Jonathan Leigh
Alan H. Levine
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark
Donna Nevel
Kathleen Peratis
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Bertrand B. Pogrebin
Michael Ratner
Anne Roiphe
Betty Rollin
Al Ruben
Marlene Sanders
James Schamus
Dan Silverman
Beverly Solochek
Carla Singer
Rabbi Felicia Sol
Alisa Solomon
Gloria Steinem
Herbert Teitelbaum
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Rabbi Burton Visotzky
Peter Weiss
Jack Willis
Eugenia Zukerman
– See more at: