While many Oregonians have never heard of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Fortune Magazine rates it as the second most powerful lobbying group in Washington DC, and some analysts consider that an understatement.
Known for writing pro-Israel legislation, AIPAC pushed support for Israel even while it was committing last year's massacre of Gazans, even while Israeli forces killed a thousand people in Lebanon, and even while it imprisons thousands of men, women, and children under a military "legal system" that has incarcerated 40 percent of Palestinian males, many of whom were never even charged with a crime.
It is currently promoting the kind of crippling sanctions that killed 5,000 children under the age of five in Iraq each month for many years against the people of Iran, with considerable success.
Today's 4-6 pm event, at Portland's Mittleman Jewish Community Center, is one of many across the country in which local politicians are expected to attend, declare their loyalty to Israel, and in return avoid the kind of pro-Israel campaign that managed to throw Atlanta's popular anti-war African-American Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney out of office a few years ago. (Afterward, McKinney tried to visit Gaza in a Free Gaza boat, which was rammed by Israeli forces. She was then kidnapped in what, according to international law, was an act of piracy by the Israeli navy, and held for a number of days before finally being released.)
Today's protest is organized by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), a diverse Portland-based peace group committed to justice and peace in the Middle East. Other groups and individuals from around Oregon are expected to participate.
The ideology embodied in the Israeli system, Zionism, has been declared racism by numerous international bodies and individuals, including South African anti-apartheid leader Bishop Desmond Tutu. South African jurist, Richard Goldstone, recently headed up a fact-finding investigation into the Gaza violence that has been strenuously opposed by AIPAC. As a result of this organized and well-funded effort a large majority of US Congressional representatives from both parties voted for a resolution calling for the US to veto any UN efforts to implement the Goldstone Report's recommendations.
Both Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are expected to attend the AIPAC event. A flier being distributed around the Portland and Eugene announcing the protest calls on local politicians not to attend the function and to "stop funding Israeli apartheid." The flier calls on people to "tell our politicians that we want humane, moral, and practical policies that bring a safer, more peaceful and just world," and quotes former President Jimmy Carter on AIPAC:
"For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.
"It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians."
The FLIER directs people to IfAmericansKnew.org for more information on the issue.
There are varying predictions about how many protesters are expected to show up today and whether or not there will be any actions of civil disobedience. Last year celebrity attendees such as Wyden and Merkley slipped in the back way, reluctant to confront constituents.