Jewish Journal

Blogging from AIPAC: Times Change, the Cause Remains

by  Larry Greenfield

May 3, 2009 | 1:04 pm

Larry Greenfield is vice president and fellow in American Studies at The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy

I started attending AIPAC national policy conferences while a law student in Washington, D.C. I had little money, and with minimual security risks in those days, I even sneaked into a session or two. I hope I have made up for it with loyal support of the pro-Israel leadership and activist community for over two decades.

In those early days, the mid 1980’s, Ronald Reagan was President, and the modern day pro-Israel movement was just gaining steam. 

The issues of the 80’s included saving Soviet Jewry, the Arab boycott of Israel, and first Intifada,and helping Israel with her economic growth.  And terrorism.  Always terrorism.

AIPAC had a total of perhaps 30 staffers nationwide, and I helped out as a part-time legal intern while a law student at Georgetown.  I actually worked on some important matters, including an arrest warrant for PLO Chief Yasir Arafat, which made its way to the desk of the Attorney General and helped to deter Arafat from visiting the United Nations.

I recently remembered these good old days with my friend, Hon. Ed Meese, at a law luncheon that my organization, the Claremont Institute, sponsored.

Partisanship did not seem so raw, in those days, and it was meaningful to help plant seeds of bi-partisan support for Israel amongst Jews from all walks of life, and in the Chrisitian and ethnic communities too.  It has been wonderful to build friendships with a wide range of pro- Israel supporters. 

I am considered a “big tent” pro-Israel leader—all aboard!  Political differences take a back seat to our shared common cause of standing with Israel and standing for an American foreign policy that strengthens our special strategic and moral relationship with the Jewish state.

I have been very happy to build friendships and coalitions with anyone and everyone in defense of liberty, and in opposition to those in the Arab world who abuse women’s rights, religious rights, human rights.

In the years since, I have made it to DC for most of the conferences, and I always enjoy seeing old friends and making new ones.  There have been mentors and colleagues and now mentees, political allies, and wonderful relationships with my fellow Californians who fly across country in increasingly large numbers.  Maybe even a girlfriend or two over the years.  It is a great time.

The 1990’s saw the failed Oslo peace process—it was never clear to me why some did not understand Arafat was saying one thing in Arabic and another in English. Read:  The Oslo Syndrome, by Ken Levin.  Superb discussion of Israeli political thinking amidst a sea of enemies.  And read too:  Jews and Power, the excellent primer by Ruth Wisse, who explores as well the psychology of Jews and the meaning of having to defend a Jewish state after 2000 years of diaspora.

The 1990’s closed with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu helping to unleash the Israeli economic miracle, and America standing alone as the sole superpower after the fall of the Former Soviet Union.

Today, 2009, things are much more intense and complicated.  The rise of Radical Islam, and globalization, and China, and the empowered political left in the USA, all create a much more diificult context for confronting evil, promoting human rights, and standing by our allies like Israel.

My recent post explains the need for our generation of pro-Israel advocates to take the next step and lobby for Missile Defense. 

Israel’s last 2 wars were defensive responses to the modern Arab missile war against her, and this has become THE issue of our time.

I lecture widely now about national security and American foreign policy, and my continuing studies take me into increasingly rich detail on the meaning and power of America.  Without a strong America, freedom, and therefore Israel, will perish.

I am deeply concerned about Obama-Biden.  Their many foreign policy moves to date have been troubling:  several unkindnesses to Israeli diplomats by the Obama administration already; the appointment of senior officials who detest Israel (Chas Freeman,et al.); repeated expressions of hostility to the elected Likud government of Israel; significant pandering to Arab tyrants and anti-American autocrats around the world (the bow to the Saudi King…);
pressure on Israel not to pre-empt Iran; re-naming the war on terror “overseas contingency operations” against “man made disasters;” budget cutting on missile defense and other projects (many of whose technologies assist Israel)....the list goes on and on. 

Commentary magazine has a new, powerful piece by lifetime pro-Israel American writer Norman Podhoretz, entitled How Obama’s America Might Threaten Israel, raising many of these concerns.

Obama is at best neutral between our democratic ally Israel and her Arab enemies. 

He is inexperienced and “off the charts” radical in his approach to the true nature of freedom’s enemies. 

Barack Obama is the anti-Ronald Reagan.  Mr. Obama is unrealistic about a dangerous world, and without deep convictions and principles to guide him.

So, here I am again, helping to leverage a successful pro-Israel community to help the United States remain strong as well. One cannot be pro-Israel without coming to understand that America needs to be strong and successful.  Obama has us going in exactly the wrong direction on national security issues.

We overcame Jimmy Carter.  We shall overcome Barack Obama as well.  We had better, because the missile threats are a unique marrying together of terror states and proxy stateless terror groups with modern technology.

Israel still needs a big tent coalition of sophisticated American leaders and grassroots supporters. Now, more than ever.

Wolf and Kemp

Waiting for my red eye flight to DC, I chatted with an old friend, CNN’s respected anchor. Wolf Blitzer.

Interestingly. Wolf (whom I have jokingly long nicknamed Dances with Wolf Blitzer) got his journalistic start covering the Middle East, and his book Between Washington and Jerusalem was an important early book chronicling the US - Israel relationship.

Anyway. Wolf told me he had just heard about the passing of Jack Kemp. The longtime GOP Congressman, former Buffalo Bills Quarterback. and 1996
Vice Presidential candidate was a longtime champion of the Jewish state.

My own Jack Kemp story was when we first met formally at the 1996 GOP convention. I told him that he had pretty daughters and he said….thanks but remember they are shiksas!

I told him it was all good and we would laugh about that moment many times over the following years. I last saw Jack Kemp a year ago at his beloved Pepperdine University in Malibu where he supported entrepreneur programs.

Jack Kemp was a longtime friend of the Jewish commmunity since his days as a high schooler at Fairfax High.

Sportsman, American patriot, conservative icon, friend of Israel, beloved and popular statesman: Jack F Kemp, rest in peace.

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