AIPAC speakers focus on Iranian nuclear threat
By Paul Haist
article created on:
Last November’s U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which discredited Iran as a nuclear threat, “was a disaster” for the ability of the United States and Israel to confront Iran.
Ambassador Marc Ginsberg made that claim in remarks before the more than 300 people who attended the Annual Community Dinner of the Oregon State American Israel Public Affairs Committee May 21 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
Ginsberg was the U.S. ambassador to Morocco from 1994 to 1998, when he also served as the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for Mediterranean trade, investment and security affairs. Now he is a senior vice president with APCO Worldwide, a public affairs and strategic communications firm, and managing director and CEO of Northstar Equity Group, an APCO affiliate.
Ginsberg contends that Iran’s nuclear program is still a threat and that its continuing support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza is the equal of that threat.
Compounding the Iran problem, he said, is the waning patience of the American public in relation to the Middle East.
“There is no doubt that the American people want to turn their back on the Middle East…bring the troops home,” said Ginsberg.
He suggested that many in America do not understand the existential threat posed by Iran.
“Yes, they support Israel, but they will not support Israel in a confrontation with Iran,” he said of those here who do not grasp what is at stake, which is considerable, he added.
“The American people will lose their ability to protect their interests abroad if they don’t act now,” said Ginsberg.
Those interests can be protected, however, if Americans can be made to appreciate the risk their nation faces, according to Ginsberg, who said that the AIPAC members and supporters to whom we was speaking play a key role.
“You are emissaries in convincing the American people that America has much to lose if Iran becomes a nuclear power,” said Ginsberg, adding that Israel cannot do this job alone.
“AIPAC is able to galvanize the support of Congress and the American people from the grass roots up,” he said. “You all are so important, so essential, so crucial to the future of Israel.”
Speaking prior to Ginsberg, AIPAC Western States Director Elliot Brandt agreed with Ginsberg’s assessment of Iran’s continuing nuclear threat.
He said that everyone heard the NIE claim that Iran had halted its nuclear program, but no one heard the Feb. 5, 2008, clarification of that estimate to the effect that what it intended to convey was that Iran had stopped work only on the warhead, but that all the rest of the program continued.
Observing that what America does in regard to Iran will “test the fabric” of its relationship with Israel, Brandt spelled out a litany of opinion makers in America who are conducting public information campaigns against Israel. He pointed to former President Jimmy Carter, scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and activist Ralph Nader.
The efforts of such people are of concern, Brandt said, because they believe that Israel motivates U.S. policy and they oppose that.
There remains, however, he added, strong support for Israel across America and in Congress.
“America’s relationship with Israel is not about Jewish support, but American support,” said Brandt, who attributed that support to the work of thousands of people like those in his audience.
In calling on those present to continue their support he said, “We are blessed to live in a time when our nation stands with Israel like no other country has, but we also live in a time when no resident of Israel lives in peace.”
Noting that this year marks the modern state of Israel’s 60th anniversary, Brandt concluded, “Give Israel a present that means something for Israel.”
Co-chairs for Oregon’s annual AIPAC gathering were Diane Solomon and Marshal Spector, both of whom paid tribute to Israel on its birthday.
“For the past 60 years Israel has been a sanctuary of freedom and democracy,” said Spector.
“I am proud that our nation has stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel over the last 60 years,” said Solomon. “AIPAC is the one organization that most assures that relationship.”
In addition to many veteran AIPAC supporters, many young people also attended the event, including contingents from Portland State University and the University of Oregon.
UO student Deborah Elizabeth Bloom said of her experience that evening, “Attending the AIPAC Dinner did more than just provide me with useful information regarding Israel’s history with America. This event offered me an atmosphere where hundreds of people, like me, shared my appreciation and love for my homeland. Now, not only am I prouder than ever to be an American Jew, but I am prepared with useful, sound information to bring back to my campus.”
Many political leaders were in attendance, including Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene), Sen. Ben Westlund (D-Tumalo), Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) and Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie).