Sunday, May 3, 2009

AIPAC Policy Conference: Words of Howard Kohr

These are highlights from the speech given by AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr at the Afternoon Plenary.

The war of words has entered a different phase.

The campaign is not simply to defame or denigrate Israel, but to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of its allies. The campaign may start in the Middle East, but it extends to capitals of Europe, to organizations that claim brotherhood and partnership in their names and is now extending to the United States, to the college campuses.

It's no longer confined to the ravings of the far left or the far right, but is becoming mainstream.

It's reached the point where a former president of the United States can accuse Israel of apartheid.

What makes these attacks different and more dangerous today is that these attacks come amidst the gathering clouds over Israel. This is more than a simple expression of hatred; this is an attempt to shift policy, to change Israel from a state that deserves our support to a state that deserves our disdain.

These attacks have not been accepted, but they have become acceptable and have been laying the groundwork to deprive Israel of the most basic right of all nations, to the right of self-defense.

Iran understands this campaign is creating an opportunity.

At Durban, for the few who walked out, there were scores who remained and greeted Ahmadinejad with thunderous applause, and those who walked out then came right back in. This is not enough.

"We must urge people of good will to stand up and say this campaign is an outrage; it is an affront to all that is right and it is wrong."

We need to recognize this campaign is about more than mere rhetoric; it's a battle for the hearts and minds of the world. It's a key element in the softening up of the target. Gone unchallenged, it will work. It is already working on the international stage, but it cannot, it must not work in this city.

America and its allies can agree on one thing; this is a critical moment.

This is a moment of change of administrations in the United States and Israel; Israel's enemies look at this change as an opportunity of which they can take advantage.

We must not let this campaign take hold in the halls of Congress and the Administration.

We have a story to tell, a story that's often overlooked, the remarkable story of the real Israel. That truth will defeat the deformed vision of hate.

To those who accuse Israel of being a bastion of Western democracy in the Middle East, I say yes, it is.

Israel's cause is our cause. Her contributions to the world in just sixty-one years is breathtaking.

There is a battle for basic perception underway and the stakes in that battle are nothing less than the survival of Israel. In this battle, we are the firewall.

We must add to our ongoing dialog with America's leaders. We must talk explicitly about that which we hope they understand implicitly. We must add context and help America's leaders understand the rightness of our cause.

Those who go to Israel almost without exception return with a new understanding of the foundations underlying the Jewish state. Our lofty goal is that every leader take a trip to Israel sponsored by our educational foundation. It's up to us to take our Congressional representatives on a virtual trip to Israel.

On Tuesday, talk about the Israel that compelled you to ignore a thousand reasons not to come to Washington this year. In so doing, you will transform the debate here in Washington.

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