Reporters notebook: A lack of conflict, a lack of diversity

Reporting from Washington, Jerusalem Post correspondent Maya Shwayder shares insight into the AIPAC annual conference.

March 4, 2014 04:00
1 minute read.

AIPAC 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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There is a distinct lack of any mention of Palestinians at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. At the major plenary sessions with the high-profile speakers, the focus seems to be mostly on Iran, Syria, even on Crimea. In the two days I’ve been here, the only public mention of a non-Jewish population living under Israeli control was by two young girls who attend the Peres Center for Peace’s Twinned Peace Sports School. In their promotional video, a girl was briefly seen wearing a scarf in the colors of the Palestinian flag.

There are some breakout sessions talking about the history of the conflict, easy to miss in the pile of sessions about Israeli innovation; the Israeli relationship with the US, India, China, and Canada; the threat of Iran; the crisis in Syria; how social media has affected the Middle East and others.

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As a first timer at AIPAC, I don’t have past experience in the conferences to compare the frequency that the “Palestinian territories” or the “Palestinian people” were mentioned. Maybe this is standard operating procedure for AIPAC. But still, it seems odd that AIPAC president Robert Cohen, US Treasury Secretary Robert Lew and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona would not even allude to the ongoing peace process at the largest convention of pro-Israel Americans in the US.

At his speech in Sunday evening’s plenary session, Cohen spoke about how proud he was that this was going to be the most diverse conference in AIPAC’s history.

Walking through the halls of the conference, there are Jews of all ages, shapes and sizes. Some wear yarmulkes and long skirts, some don’t.

Some speak Hebrew, some don’t. Here and there is a face of an African American. Two Black religious leaders have been featured prominently onstage at the massive plenary sessions, preaching in their signature, rousing style about the rescue of the Ethiopian Jews and the need for the Jewish and African American communities to come together to fight racism.

Yet walking through the halls, the vast majority of the non-white faces still belong to the security people and convention hall staff.

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