At a well-attended panel at YearlyKos on the "Arc of Crisis" in the Middle East, there was a spirited discussion about what, if anything, to do about U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. No dissent was expressed about the nature of the problem: John Mearshimer laid out a convincing case that Israel is becoming an apartheid state, and no-one disagreed. But there was a spirited debate about what could be done about it.
It was acknowledged that there are indeed groups in Washington working to counter the influence of AIPAC on U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians, the most influential being Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Israel Policy Forum, and Americans for Peace Now. But, it was argued, these groups are underfunded and not as effective as they could be.
Not so long ago, it seemed these groups had a practical plan to address these shortcomings. In October, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported:
"A top staffer for billionaire philanthropist George Soros met recently with senior representatives of the dovish pro-Israel community to discuss setting up an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."
What happened to this most excellent plan, I asked my fellow YearlyKos attendees.
Apparently Soros backed out, saying that he didn't feel it was appropriate for him to proceed, since he didn't have a long history of advocacy and involvement in the issue.
This makes no sense to me.
Sadly, I don't have a personal relationship with George Soros, or I would call him up and appeal to him directly. So I will appeal to him here. If you agree, please indicate your agreement in a comment. If there is enough agreement, I will start a more formal online appeal. If such an appeal doesn't move Soros, perhaps it will move others.
Dear Mr. Soros:
I was disappointed to hear that you will not be initiating an alternative to AIPAC, and your stated reason for not doing so, as it was related to me, doesn't make sense. I hope you will reconsider.
We are all aware of your vigorous civic involvement; surely you agree that the people most responsible for doing something that needs to be done are the people who are most capable of doing it. If no-one "perfectly capable" is available, those who are "mostly capable" or "somewhat capable" are next in line.
You fly a lot. I'm sure you've had the experience of being on a plane when there is a medical emergency. The crew asks if there are any doctors on the plane. You look around, no-one stands up. Suppose you're a nurse. Would you say to yourself, well, they only asked for doctors, so I'm not going to offer any assistance?
You know as I do that the majority of Jews in the United States support a two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The majority of Jews in the United States are not Rabbis or Yeshiva students. They are secular, cosmopolitan, internationalist. Who better to represent their interests than you?
Please reconsider your decision. There is a growing body of opinion that Israel is becoming an apartheid state. I'm sure you agree that if that happens, a substantial measure of the responsibility will lie in Washington. Thus, a substantial measure of responsibility lies on people in the United States who could do something to change U.S. policy.
I'm sure you realize that if you made a commitment to help establish an effective alternative to AIPAC, it would be a powerful catalyst for actions by others. Many other Americans would contribute their time, resources, energy and creativity.
I'm sure you also realize that such an effort could do more than reform U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. It could help foster a sane U.S. policy towards Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, supporting the aspirations of people in the region for peace, democracy, human rights, and economic and social development, causes to which you have devoted much of your efforts in recent years.
Surely such possibilities justify whatever risks are involved in undertaking such an effort. Millions of Americans want to see a fundamental change in U.S. policies in the Middle East. They lack an effective vehicle for expressing their will. You have a unique opportunity to help establish such a vehicle.
In hopes of a positive response,
Just Foreign Policy