Transcending the Israel Lobby
At home and abroad
March 4, 2021 Gala Speakers Dinner and March 5, 2021
Conference at the National Press Club
EXTRA! webinars through December 2020!
Since 2015 the annual IsraelLobbyCon at the National Press Club explores the latest research, innovations and tactics for countering the Israel lobby’s damaging policies in the U.S. and around the globe. View details about the all-day March 2021 event at the National Press Club on the Speakers page.
For more information, speaker updates, and student tickets, check back at this conference website, https://IsraelLobbyCon.org
IsraelLobbyCon Extra! is an online initiative created in 2020. It advances IsraelLobbyCon’s mission and provides key expertise, analysis and global outreach opportunities between our annual National Press Club conferences. EXTRA! connects those concerned with creating better policy in government, media, education and communities.
As'ad AbuKhalil is a professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New 'War on Terrorism' (2002) and The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power (2003).
The Israel lobby and U.S. mainstream media both hail the recent "normalization" between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan as major accomplishments. Not so, says Professor AbuKhalil. Sudan, "long a battleground for Cold War intrigues," agreed to recognize Israel in return for Washington lifting debilitating sanctions. Key regional powers, such as Saudi Arabia with its 2002 peace plan, long demanded that Israel withdraw from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in return for full normalization. Now that the Kushner "deal of the century" has failed, the "alternative was a quick scheme to bolster the sagging fortunes of the Trump" administration with "normalization." The real architect of normalization, AbulKhalil argues, was none other than Binyamin Netanyahu.
But what about public opinion in Arab countries? Does it favor normalization before justice for Palestinians? Will a Biden administration continue the policy of coerced normalization? Would the promised "economic relief" to Arab countries signing recognition deals with Israel ever arrive? Will burgeoning U.S. arms shipments pave the way for a new arms race in the region?
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American journalist Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada and author of "One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israel-Palestine Impasse'' and "The Battle for Justice in Palestine." He discussed post-election administration policy on key issues. Will the administration demand any pause to illegal Israeli settlements? Will Israel be successful in continuing to use the coercive power of the U.S. State Department and other key agencies to demand Arab nations establish formal ties with Israel? Will the drive to label human rights organizations as "anti-Semitic” prevail?
Abunimah also discussed growing social media censorship of Palestinians and their allies. Facebook has repeatedly shut down the Gaza Health Ministry even as the COVID-19 pandemic began taking its toll. In addition, Facebook colludes with the Israeli occupation authorities—including appointing an Israeli government spokesperson to its "oversight board"—to shut down the accounts of dozens of Palestinian publications and journalists "on the Israeli-supplied pretext that criticism of Israel and its crimes against Palestinians constitute ‘incitement.’”
Meanwhile, Facebook has given free reign to Israel lobby influence and disinformation campaigns across its platform. But Americans can successfully fight back. Abunimah discusses his own winning tactics and strategies for pushing back against censorship by American social media giants, and takes questions from webinar attendees.
Grant F. Smith is the author of seven books about the Israel lobby, and research director of IRmep. His most recent books are "Big Israel: How Israel's Lobby Moves America" (2016) and "The Israel Lobby Enters State Government: Rise of the Virginia Israel Advisory Board" (2019).
Continuing an election year tradition, Smith presented his most recent research findings about Israel affinity organization legislative, executive agency and state government lobbying initiatives. He discussed in depth the trajectory, roles and relative importance of Jewish establishment lobbying (such as AIPAC and the Zionist Organization of America) vs. relatively more recent Christian Zionist lobbying.
Smith also explored the Israel lobby's latest major program—importing and subsidizing Israeli companies to compete with domestic U.S. companies. As a case study, Smith gave an update on recent initiatives and the cloud of corruption enveloping the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.
Walter Hixson is the author of a half-dozen books on the history of U.S. foreign relations. He has taught history for 36 years and is currently distinguished professor of history at the University of Akron. His most recent books are "American Settler Colonialism: A History" (2013) and "Israel's Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict." (2019).
Hixson answered cross disciplinary questions about foreign policy, the Israel lobby and settler colonialism. What are the core objectives of settler colonialism? Why must the population targeted for removal be the object of hatred and portrayed as primitive, uncivilized and "savage?" Massacres can exist without genocide, but can genocide exist without massacres? Are indigenes ever allowed to avail themselves of the colonizer's means of communications and justice system to argue their case? What Is perpetrator trauma?
What systemic purpose do concepts such as the "Doctrine of Discovery," "Manifest Destiny" and "chosenness" serve in settler colonialism? Is settler colonialism always a "zero-sum-game?" Why was ongoing settler destruction of Indian crops, buffalo, horses and burning homes such an important strategy? How does this compare to Israeli attacks on Palestinian electricity generation, bulldozing homes, and cutting off access to fishing? What roles do the major Israel lobby organizations such as AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, ADL, etc. play in the ongoing colonization? Are there any opportunities for American redemption by cutting off official and nonofficial U.S. support for Israeli settler colonialism?
Rev. Donald E. Wagner, is the author of “Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land.” Until recently, historical and political accounts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have ignored or understated the influence of Christian Zionism in British and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Reverend Wagner examined Christian Zionism in relation to Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration during the British Empire and how “Manifest Destiny” and settler colonialism have influenced attitudes about Middle East policy in the United States.
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) has proclaimed itself the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States. With its intimate partnership with AIPAC and various Zionist think tanks and lobby organizations, Christian Zionism’s political profile has been elevated to new heights during the Trump-Netanyahu alliance. But who is really setting the agenda? And at what cost? Have Christian evangelical leaders been a force on Capitol Hill, beyond urging its adherents to the ballot box? How do Christian Zionist lobbying expenditures stack up against Jewish Zionist organizations? What was Secretary of State Pompeo trying to accomplish by speaking to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem?
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace, described Jewish Zionism as a failing ideology for many younger American Jews who reject Israel’s oppressive occupation policies and bellicose actions toward Iran, as well as the relationship between U.S. and Israeli militarism. But how will this impact their future as activists in electoral politics? Will they remain mostly captive to the Democratic Party, voicing opposition while accepting candidates captured and mentored by AIPAC?
Allan C. Brownfeld, American Council for Judaism, discussed the growing disillusionment of American Jews, and some Israelis, with the Jewish state and Zionism. Young American Jews who champion civil rights at home, including the right to vote, freedom of movement, due process and equality, realize that Israel is denying those same basic rights to Palestinians. Peter Beinart, Seth Rogen, Marc Maron and other Jewish Americans who are urging Israel to dismantle its apartheid policies face bitter attacks from the Israel lobby and Jewish Establishment organizations, charging they’ve “crossed a line.” Brownfeld offered some suggestions about how progressive Jewish voters can influence both the Democratic and Republican parties.
University of Massachusetts Professor Emeritus Sut Jhally presented key findings from, and comments on, select clips shown from his 2016 documentary, "The Occupation of the American Mind," which analyzes pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. Featuring leading observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. media, the film explores how the pro-Israel lobby shapes American media coverage of the conflict in Israel's favor. From the U.S.-based public relations campaigns that emerged in the 1980s to today, the film provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel's human rights violations and military occupation. Jhally also analyzed whether the news media have been getting better—or worse—since the documentary was produced, and whether election-season news coverage is likely to cover—or cover up—growing challenges to standard pro-Israel narratives and politics.