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AIPAC: Telling a Whopper

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Message Stephanie Westbrook

Following Tony Blair's speech the morning of the third and last day of the conference, the AIPAC lobbyists made their way to Capitol Hill, where a reported 500 meetings with Congress had been set. We arrived early to beat the crowd and delivered thank you letters to the 36 members of the House who had voted NO on the resolution condemning the Goldstone Report.

'Netanyahu and the Settlements' had arrived by the time we finished and were there to greet the AIPAC lobbyists as they lined up to enter the Rayburn building. Holding a gigantic check made out for 'Endless Illegal Settlements' signed by Barack Obama, we called out on the megaphone, "Bank of Israel, otherwise known as the United States Congress. Nothing is too much for Israel." There were a number of groups of young people on the Hill the same day lobbying for education and jobs programs. As we passed, I told them, "Sorry, no money left for your school or jobs. Congress wants to give it to Israel."

We then walked over to the Senate side of the Hill. Two senators, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Charles Schumer of New York, had spoken the previous day at the AIPAC conference. Senator Graham quickly dismissed the pesky problem of East Jerusalem: "Jerusalem is not a settlement. No government in Israel will ever look at Jerusalem as a settlement! No government in the United States should ever look at Jerusalem as a settlement! It is the undivided capital of the State of Israel. It is the eternal home of the Jewish faith. And it is now time to move onto other issues."

We paid visits to the offices of both Senators Graham and Schumer, as well as those of Senators Lieberman and Kyl. Donning tunics that said 'Settler' and waving a flag that read 'Mine,' we moved in, occupied the office, set up a rode block and began moving the furniture around to our pleasing. Again playing the part of a Palestinian woman, I pleaded with the staff, who were, not surprisingly, alarmed at what was happening, for their help in removing the settlers from my family's land. In three out of four cases we managed to secure a meeting with a member of the staff; at Sen. Graham's office Capitol Police arrived and promptly removed us!

This year's AIPAC conference couldn't have been scheduled during a more interesting period, with unusually high tensions between the US and Israel. Holding signs saying 'Israel Endangers Peace' during the Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on March 16, we heard General Petraeus state clearly that "the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of US favoritism toward Israel." On CNN recently, there has been unprecedented talk of an Apartheid state in Israel and calls for cutting off US military aid. And just one day before the AIPAC conference began, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated during a tour of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, "Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped."

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Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy.
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