We all know of AIPAC's size and influence, but NORPAC is another "Jewish mission to Washington" who sent 22 buses filled with 980 Jewish professionals, students and rabbis to a DC conference in early June, after saturating Congress with thousands of requests for meetings.
Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) spoke at the conference, as did Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and "Bush Democrat" Eliot Engel (D-NY) though director Ben Chouake boasted that they had already met with 97 of the 100 members of the Senate, half of whom visited NORPAC members homes!
What were the meetings about? A call for increasing foreign aid to Israel, plus "three pieces of legislation to impede the financial ability of Iran to complete its nuclear weapons program, and funding for the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act."
The director explains they convinced Sen. Jack Reed to sponsor their legislation by describing Iranian President Ahmadinejad as a Hitler copycat. They also got assurance from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer that Congress would find a way to boost the Israeli aid package by $150 million.
Chouake bemoaned just one Senator as being unmalleable - Virginia Senator Jim Webb - though they successfully procured 491 meetings with other members of Congress during the campaign.
The result? A fast-tracked bill moving through the House and Senate that imposes naval blockades on Iran, interpreted by many as an act of war.
Though I find it commendable that so many American Jews take such an active role in reaching out to our leaders, I find it unfortunate that the message they bring is so aggressively pro-war, unrepresentative of the fuller picture in Israel, itself a country ideologically divided.
The call for aggression against Iran is eerily reminiscent of the march to war in Iraq, based on allegations of imminent danger unsupported by our best intelligence. Repeating earlier U.S. foreign policy blunders, the pro-war PACs efforts are hinging more on the dislike of incindiary statements made by Iran's President then credible reports of any capability to do harm to U.S. interests in the near term.
The lobbying and activism seen above is attempting to turn the U.S. into a pro-active surrogate for Israel's military, when Israel has repeatedly shown they can ably fend for themselves. Alas, international war hawks tied into major energy holdings are finding U.S. politicians all too easy to sway.
What to do? Vote the military-industrial stooges out - a new national campaign calls for nomination of candidates for office to replace the do-nothing members of Congress who have allowed the war to continue and ignored violations of the Constitution. It may not happen in '08, but only by matching the activism and intensity of the war hawks can the direction in the U.S. be changed.