Blogging AIPAC: part one of two

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DC on a Sunday is about as exciting as Butler on a Thursday. So with press pass in hand, Bwog contributor Armin Rosen attempted to stave off the ennui the only way Washingtonians know how: with a couple strong shots of special interest politics.

My first thought upon arriving at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference’s first plenary session: should I feel inspired at being in a football-field sized room with more Jews than I’ve ever seen in one place in my entire life, or disgusted that we were watching a panel moderated by a former higher-up in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq? Failing to reconcile the two, I condemn them to a queasy coexistence, made worse when the panel, which included former CIA director James Woolsey expounded upon the existential threats posed to the Jewish state by various Islamist entities. Six humungous jumbotrons behind him shuffle through images of a maniacal-looking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and an impotent-looking Syrian president Bashir al-Assad. Israel advocacy is a high-stakes business, they beam at me.

How sinister is this scaremongering? I’m willing to write off Woolsey’s claim that preventing Iran from getting nukes is a “job for American diplomacy and the American military” as a convenient (albeit wildly irresponsible) turn of phrase, since packaging trumps substance at any “policy” conference like this one. The AIPAC conference seeks to prove that the American-Israeli alliance is worth defending. Saber-rattling aside, beginning the conference on a bleak, pessimistic, existential note sells that idea brilliantly. Manipulative? Sure. Alarmist? Probably. On point? In this blogger’s opinion, you better believe it. 

After another hour of hardcore pessimism—espoused this time at a panel of policy wonks arguing that political instability in the Palestinian territories makes it impossible for Israel to reach a stable peace—I happen upon a nondescript gentleman from Illinois claiming to be a Republican candidate for president. After chatting with him for a few minutes I decide that there’s something profound about a plainspoken middle-American elevating himself to populist messiah status and endeavoring to redeem a corrupt and dishonest electoral system. But there’s something equally profound in the inevitable electoral defeat that will prove that system utterly irredeemable.

Crazy or not, the candidate provided a raison d’etre for AIPAC that would have resonated were I there as a delegate rather than a journalist representing various campus rags: Israel advocacy among young Jews, he said, comes from powerful feelings of personal identity and association. For Jews, identity translates into obligation—so too, he reasoned, should American identity translate into a greater sense of civic consciousness for a feckless generation of teenagers hypnotized by MTV dating shows and bad rap music. This was an profound statement, especially coming from a nutjob, and especially, especially coming from a presidential “candidate.”

The evening plenary revealed maybe the sharpest tension within AIPAC’s attempt to sell strong bilateral ties to Israel, as the nightcap was dedicated to de-Judaizing the Israel lobby—always problematic, since an overly non-Jewish Israel lobby reinforces the images of Israel as an American strategic outpost or the fulfillment of evangelical eschatology. Middle East expert Michael Oren spoke on the prevalence of a kind of Zionism in 18th and 19th century American thought, arguing that the perception of America as a promised land for persecuted Christians gave rise to “restorationism,” the idea that Christians given safety from exile by an American Israel had the responsibility to help Jews realize the biblical promise of the literal, Palestinian Israel. Oren convinced me that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman were all restorationists—but Oren seemed to completely miss the way in which restorationism objectifies Jews as pawns in the fulfillment of nationalistic and theological objectives that couldn’t have less to do with Zionism or Israel in their modern manifestations. “Zionism” as an amalgam of Christian theology and the Puritanical conception of America as a literal holy land is as old as America itself. But apply such ideas to our current dialogue on Israel and the fact that Jews are given almost no agency in their own national upkeep—bearing in mind that the “restorers” in restorationism were invariably Christian—is one of the least of your problems.

As if to accentuate the most rankling aspects of Oren’s speech, AIPAC tactlessly followed his talk with 20 minutes of evangelical bombast, during which evangelical pastor John Hagee rambled through reductive World War II comparisons (Ahmadinejad is Hitler, Gaza the Sudetenland, etc.), repeatedly used the Bible as proof of the eventual triumph of Israel and the Jewish people over Islamic extremism, claimed 2007 as a “year of destiny,” and called the alliance between 50 million evangelical Christians and 5 million Jews a “match made in heaven.”

He received about a half dozen standing ovations. Slightly nauseous, I sought out LionPAC president Ari Gardner, C ’08, at a post-session student meet-and-greet and asked him what he thought of the pastor’s speech. “I think having someone stand on the podium and say that 50 million people of any race or religion support Israel is breathtaking,” Gardner answered. “I don’t think we’re in a position to turn down help freely offered.”

Looking around the Washington convention center at pro-Israel black, white, Jewish and Christian students from every geographic region and placing them in my mind alongside 50 million fanatical Christian pro-Zionists brought back a glimmer of inspiration. But it might take a good night of sleep to make the disgust go away.

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  1. a certain hopeful

    BWOG! i need your help! i'm revising my essay to the admissions committee after being deferred and i mentioned that bwog makes me want to go to columbia. is it safe to assume that the admissions officers would know what bwog is?

    i love you. i didn't get in and i still read you daily. and if i dont get into columbia, i'll probably still read bwog anyway because it's so awesome. please help a brother out. i'd be ever so thankful!

    • Paul Listen

      Dear 047-89-7342,

      This is Paul Listen from the admissions committee of Columbia University in the City of New York.
      It was recently brought to our attention that you have been taking actions to ensure your acceptance at our prestigious University in the City of New York. To answer your inquiry, we are aware of Bwog's existence. For purposes of improving on your original application, we would like you to know that each reference to this garbage publication in your personal essay has earned you 3 demerits from your total score, a numerical system we use to determine whether an applicant is qualified for acceptance at our presitious University in the City of New York. In short, your excessive reference to the Blog has not been an especially promising indication of good character.

      Normally, were you to be audited by the normal acceptance committee, there would be a formal process, like a mock trial, to determine the appropriate action to be taken. You could prepare a little speech, the student paper might write a blurb about it if you won, you could even get your peers to sign a piece of paper saying that you're a nice person.
      The moment I smelled your stink on the letter Mr. Dandito gave to me, I crumbled it up and threw it in the fire place, whereupon Dr. Dantido knew exactly what I meant.

      We will not be able to reconsider your application until you pray fifteen hail marys and one pence of a holy ghost, five times a day in the traditional muslim wear. You also have to also read a boring book, BY TOMORROW. Cut your tongue off and swallow every drop of blood. If you vomit, you lick it up. I have your diploma here with me by my shitty ass which will soon be a sparkling ass when I turn your diploma to glitter and sprinkle it all over. Jam your finger against a


      Robert Di Donato,

      Honor Columbia Admissions League

  2. bwog fan

    I love bwog. the snark is great, the coverage is almost always on point, etc... but armin rosen sucks. the kid oozes 'full of myself douchebag' no matter what he writes about. the line between snarky and douchey is perhaps fine, but armin has no gauge on it at all.

    it's funny, i don't usually post like this, and find it douchey itself that bwog comment-ers use every post to assess the relative merits of bwog and bwoggers, but this time i finally felt compelled. rosen needs a little humility.

    • more or less agreed

      though this is actually one of Rosen's better blog posts. he's full of himself, and, unfortunately, he's been given reason to be - a Spec column and a Bwog column as a freshman? you'd think that would require being exceptionally talented, but he's only a decent writer and what he has to say is rarely very thought-provoking.

  3. Alright

    so, to step in, I'm not sure what everyone's so hard on the guy about. Last week he was a right-wing nut job and this week he's a pretentious git and I haven't quite picked up on where either's coming from. To be honest, I find this stuff kind of interesting, not profound, but give the kid a break.

    • rosen???

      Having read many of Rosen's pieces, it is my opinion that he constantly complains and is skeptical about everything. There is no group he is for and he overscrutinizes things to an alarming degree.

  4. to paul listen:

    you're witty, but you have too much time on your hands.

  5. Robert Di Donato

    To whom it may concern (Sirs, Madames, Other:)

    We are not exactly sure what you mean by calling us 'witty.' This is not a joke, and if it were a joke it certainly would not be witty one. As an administrative department you won't find the Columbia Justice League listed on the Columbia University website, on the List of Useful Numbers for Freshmen, on the Prospective Handbook, or (so you couldn't hav; the organization purposely maintains a low profile as it was created to handle cases of student criminality and misbehavior too serious or notorious for the ordinary channels.

    in these dangerous, turbulent, and umpredictable times, we have to protect ourselves against our foe before he has a chance to attack and harm innocent civilians. As we know from History, civil rights can be replaced, but people cannot (be replaced). With that in mind, and in your dumb little head, we've followed the Nation's lead in making up secret trials to declare evil foes guilty. We had a trial for you and you are of course a guilty evil foe.
    The Columbia Justice League was given the power to expel students from the university with no notice and at any time of their choosing. They were given this power because sometimes it is necessary. But all expulsions require presidential approval.

    We are sorry for this mixup, but we are mostly sorry for you.

    In conclusion, you are no longer a student in our presitigous place and you are now on your own wherever you are. If you tell anyone you're a student at our university, you are being a bitch. DONT DO IT.

    The President

  6. AIPAC

    AIPANIC at the disco!

  7. ugh

    rosen sucks. he's a sensationalist except he doesn't make any clear sensational point. he makes statements like:

    For Jews, identity translates into obligation—so too, he reasoned, should American identity translate into a greater sense of civic consciousness for a feckless generation of teenagers hypnotized by MTV dating shows and bad rap music. This was an profound statement, especially coming from a nutjob, and especially, especially coming from a presidential "candidate."

    but before you can get irritated at the fact that he labels such a cliche "profound", he starts ranting about christian fundamentalists. awful, awful writing.

    stick to what you're good at, spicy specials.

    • Armin Rosen

      A point of clarification: The profundity here is in his viewing Jewish identity as a model for instilling a sense of civic responsibility in non-Jewish American youth, and not in his characterization of American youth as feckless.

      • what does

        he or you mean by "civic responsibility" amongst non-jewish american youth? to answer that question: what specific sorts of behavior/actions has jewish identity led to amongst jewish american youth?

        even if we get past the vagueness of this suggestion, the comparison's still off. how does he (or you) compare the relationship between jewish american youth (of a diaspora community) and israel and that between non-jewish americans and america? (actually, i'm not sure why you don't include jewish americans in the second relationship as well.) and what would this comparison even tell us? that we should encourage american youth to embrace some ethnic identity in order to instill a broader "civic sense?" ugh.

  8. Jimbo

    Dear Armin,

    It is time to wake up and realize what you've been hiding from all your beautiful sheltered idealist life: Israel is not the paragon of virtue you were brought up to believe in, it is the moral equivalent of John Hagee.

    He is a nutjob who believes that 3,000 year old books should dictate what choices we make today about social, educational, and political issues and Israel is a state that believes these very same books should dictate that millions of Palestinians should be ethnically cleansed and remain oppressed because we need to set up a theocracy there.

    If you support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, regardless of what that means to non-Jews in historic Palestine, then the only morally consistent thing to do would be to support Falwell, Dobson and Hagee's demand that America becomes a Christian nation, where only Christians can own land and arrive as immigrants; regardless of what that means to non-Christian Americans.

    • Actually...  

      it'd be more like supporting a all Native-American country, given your logic.

      Conflating anti-evangelical feelings with the rights of Israel to exist as a Jewish state doesn't follow logically, nor help dialogue nor find solutions.

    • Anonymous

      dear jimbo,
      your grasp of the complex and delicate situation of israel in the middle east is as mature as an 8 year old.
      israel, while ceding to religious authorities minor regulation, is a largely secular state. this infuriates the ultra-orthodox in israel to no end. it most assuredly does not utilize the bible (whose age you incorrectly identify as 3000 years old) to make policy decisions. if you are referring to the notion of "Greater Israel," that foolish notion was discarded long ago.
      america should not be a "christian" state. the vast majority of americans believe this. however, christians are not and have never been treated as a "national entity," whereas the jews, over history, have been. this is the fundamental (haha) difference. if the jews are to be treated as a nation, then they need a nation state for their own good. as a non-nationalist jew, this is not ideal, in my opinion, but it seems to be necessary on a pragmatic level.

  9. ummm.....

    There's one problem to comparing 17th and 18th century America to Israel. The problem is that you cannot give palestinians casinos as compensation for their land.

  10. 1234

    please stop talking about things you don't and can't ever completely understand. this is why politics is so frustrating.

  11. Bleakman

    Who cares? We're all dead. If not now, soon.

  12. Anonymous

    Armin Rosen whoever he is sounds like a sniveling shitter - though of course, I'm sure he's actually a nice guy.
    He's "disgusted" by Hagee's joining the coalition. Wonder how "disgusted" he is by the fanatic mullahs and their millions of followers who want to behead or nuke everyone who doesn't believe in their apocloptyc blood-drenched stream of Islam?

    Last time I checked, Hagee and his ilk don't behead anyone, blow up discos, chucrhes or mosques etc...and aren't salivating for a nuclear holocaust to bring back their messiah like the Iranian mullahs do...
    all Hagee does is preach and love Jesus -- why do you give a shit?

    Rosen, get over you're anti-Christianity bigotry which is all just an expression of your twisted politics. And show a little backbone when it comes to legitimate criticism of the Islamist menace...

    And have a blessed day.

  13. Anonymous

    The type of people who get pride in taking personal shots and calling writers far more talented than them names need to get a life. Get off Armin's back; don't make it personal if you don't know the man.

    Also, Go Tigers. The Women's NIT is ours.

  14. Anonymous

    no pride in Armin bashing....just a moral duty.

    though Armin seems to have fun bashing others with impunity -- just read is blogs...

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