Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death?

by James M. Wall 

Two events arrive next month on the American political calendar: The annual AIPAC Policy Conference, and the ninth anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death.

These two events are related the way yin relates to  yang, a concept from Asian philosophy which “is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn”. (Wikipedia)

I have referenced this connection before, and it continues to resonate, for me, in the complex interconnection of contrasting approaches to political action.

Rachel Corrie was killed March 16, 2003,  by an Israeli soldier who drove an American-built Caterpillar bulldozer over her. When she died, Rachel, a 23-year old American from Olympia, Washington, was wearing a clearly visible orange vest. She was shouting at the driver through a bull horn, asking him  to stop.

She was crushed to death by the bulldozer. Mother Jones reported what happened next:

The Israeli government, which rarely acknowledges the deaths of Palestinian civilians killed during its military operations, went into damage-control mode. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent investigation.” Later Israel declared the killing a “regrettable accident” and blamed it on overzealous Corrie and the other activists working as human shields.

Subsequent calls for Congress to investigate Rachel Corrie’s death were ignored. A  civil lawsuit brought by her family against the Israeli military, has been in Israeli courts since March 15, 2005. A final verdict on the suit is expected this spring.

UPDATE: Since this posting was initially posted, I received this Youtube video from Debbie Menon. The interview is with Rachel Corrie. It was conducted in Rafah, Gaza by the Middle East Broadcasting Company, two days before her death.  

Before this year’s ninth anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, will hold its annual Policy Conference, March 4-6, 2012, in Washington, DC. These two events recur every year.

The annual gathering of AIPAC receives considerable media attention, while the anniversary of the death of  a young American working for peace through a non-violent protest, registers hardly a blip.

The difference is easily explained. AIPAC is the power center lobby engine that drives American foreign policy. It reaches, rewards, and where needed, threatens, members of the US power elite.

This year AIPAC has Iran on its mind, prompted, of course, by Israel’s obsession over Iran. Enabling that obsession, Senate leaders sprang into action. Atlantic blogger Robert Wright writes:

Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran. The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate.

As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.”

The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.”

Israeli leaders Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli President Shimon Peres will attend this year’s AIPAC gathering. They are also expected to speak.

The partial list of the American power elite invited by AIPAC to speak during its March 4-6 conference, includes President Barack Obama.

From the US Congress, invited speakers include Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

Senator Levin, a Democrat, is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent who votes with the Democrats, is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Senator Johnny Isakson, is a Republican from Georgia.

Among media notables invited to speak are CNN contributor and former advisor to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala, Democratic Party strategist Donna Brazile, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney, and Jane Harman, former member of Congress, from California, now President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Cheney is the daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Harman, since the death of her husband, is an owner of Newsweek magazine. She is a longtime AIPAC loyalist.

From a political power standpoint, that is a lot of fire power. Which brings us to the question, which matters most, AIPAC’s political power or Rachel Corrie’s witness for peace?

Two Protestant denominations will soon face that question in a most pragmatic and public fashion. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church, USA, will hold national decision-making meetings, starting in April and June.

At those meetings, delegates representing United Methodists and Presbyterians will be asked to instruct their leadership to divest or not divest their denominational funds from corporations that are currently supporting Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian population.

It is times like this, for these two church bodies, when the rubber really hits the road. To be specific,  decision time for AIPAC or for Rachel Corrie, will come for United Methodist General Conference delegates, between April 24 and May 4, in Tampa, Florida, and for the Presbyterian Church, USA, General Assembly delegates, in Pittsburg, PA, from June 30 to July 7.

The 2012 United Methodist conference was originally scheduled for Richmond, Virginia, until it was discovered that Richmond violated a United Methodist church policy “regarding meeting in cities that are home to professional sports teams with Native American names”.

According to the United Methodist press office:

At the time of the initial selection, commission members were unaware that Richmond is home to the Richmond Braves, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves.

These United Methodists have their standards, which they adhere to closely, John Wesley would expect no less.  This could portend something about how they will vote between April 25 and May 4, depending, perhaps, on whether they go with their yin  or their yang.

The Presbyterian Church USA, General Assembly in Pittsburg, PA, will consider resolutions on divestment from corporations involved in Israel’s occupation.

Like the United Methodists, the Presbyterians will target three specific corporations, Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard.

The Presbyterians will be asked to vote for or against a resolution instructing the denomination to stop investing in the three companies “until they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful activities in Israel-Palestine.”

In their two national assemblies, United Methodists and Presbyterians will choose between the way of AIPAC , and the way of Rachel Corrie.

When the Presbyterians meet in their General Assembly, they will have as a biblical theme for their deliberations, Isaiah 40:31 (NIV):

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the name of all that John Wesley and John Calvin held to be holy and sacred, why is the choice between AIPAC and Rachel Corrie so difficult to make?

The picture above, of Rachel Corrie, is taken from a poster produced and distributed by If Americans Knew, a program and web site, developed and directed by Allison Weir. Copies of the posters and other material related to Rachel Corrie, may be ordered from this site.

About James Wall

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Presbyterian Church USA, Religion and politics, United Methodist Church. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death?

  1. Fred says:

    AIPAC, is an organization that supports what the Israeli government tells them to support, and is now pushing hard for the US to attack Iran. It will reach a fever pitch of warmongering at its convention this weekend. Many of our congresspeople will be present, as well as many from the administation. They will be fawning in their support for the apartheid state of Israel, and will be joining the chorus for another disastrous, war to begin.
    They dole out lots of money and can destroy careers, that’s why they have such power.

    Until we get this system of money buying votes and buying campaigns, out of our government,, things won’t change. Those supporting justice and peace will remain with little influence. This is the awful state of affairs that we live under. We must work to have meaningful campaign financing reform. It is critical for peace and justice groups to compete with the money and power of the warmongers. This would be a gift to the memory of Rachael Corey.

  2. Roy Hayes says:

    Jim,

    AIPAC’s power is slowly being eroded. And it’ s writings like yours (and others) that are making it happen.

    Peace,
    Roy+

  3. Mike Jackson says:

    @ Roy. Wish it were so, but on what do you base AIPAC’s power erosian?

  4. Dwain Epps says:

    Many thanks, Jim, for bringing the courageous and conscientious Rachel Corrie back to mind. Little more needs to be said about AIPAC than you and followers of this blog have said repeatedly, but apposing military, industrial, religio-ideological and narrow ethnic power to this unarmed woman who was in that place solely out of solidarity with Palestinian families whose homes and orchards were being constantly and unjustly razed was a welcome reminder of the balance of forces. Thanks too for reminding us of the courage of two US Protestant denominations whose numerical and political influence has waned in recent years as the the bulldozers of AIPAC and its offshoots continue to roll over their congregations. We can thank God for the courage of the leadership of these churches who have refused to abandon their Palestinian partners with whom they have been in ecumenical solidarity relations for more than a century. This is the kind of costly witness of which Bonhoeffer spoke and which deserves our deep appreciation and encouragement.

    Dwain Epps

  5. The Rev. Daphne Grimes says:

    I pray with gratefulness for your truth telling as opposed to the sledge hammer tactics of AIPAC, and I pray even more that more of the populace will listen and act constructively. I pray too for all, who like Corrie take action, however risky, in the cause of justice.

  6. Ruth Neff says:

    It is very sad to see the names of the people that are our leaders in our government and media etc coming out in support of the government of Israel.
    Presently Prime Minister Benjamin Nentanyahu and the Israeli Government are conducting warfare against the Palestinian people. Our government, with our ongoing support of the government of Israel is putting us in the role of war criminals.
    How much we appreciate Rachel Corey and now the Rachel Corey Foundation.
    We appreciate the many American Jewish people that are learning what is happening with the cruel Occupation of the West Bank and now leading the effort to wake us all up! See http://rabbibrant.com/

  7. Roy Hayes says:

    Mike…. Good question. The International Community is better informed now than it used to be. More and more people are talking about the Holy Land issues, and cracks are appearing in AIPAC’s WALL. Cheers, Roy

  8. Patricia Pynchon says:

    Unbelievable that our congress would bow to the dictates of AIPAC rather than represent their constituents by effectuating moral justice in their
    choices of policy and behavior. Have they no self respect or real patriotism? Why do they always go along with the criminals?

  9. Pingback: Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death? | My Catbird Seat

  10. C.Jones says:

    It seems that “the place to be at the AIPAC conference”. Our government leaders should be attending to the needs and safety of the United States and our media should be attending to “truth in reporting what is actually going on in Israel/Palestine”. Shall we shut down our government to attend the AIPAC conference?

  11. Samuel Jones says:

    As a another poster noted, campaign contributions and the influence of the Israeli lobby (and other lobbies) on Congress unfortunately means that we cannot rely on our “public servants” to advocate for and protect the American public at large, including those like Rachel Corrie and her family. This is why it is imperative that our church leaders and pastors at both the national and local level lead this struggle. It is time to stop using “interfaith dialogue” among Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders as a fig leaf to prevent these same leaders from taking action for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel. Rachel Corrie sacrificed her life for a Palestinian family whose home was going to be demolished simply because it was “built to close” to a newly-designated “closed military zone” in Gaza. Our Presbyterian and Methodist brothers and sisters can honor her memory through their vote for divestment against the company that made her death possible (Caterpillar). Alternatively, they can choose the path of Congress whose cowardice will consign Palestinians to an ever-growing apartheid regime, while simultaneously enabling the Israeli government to drive itself off a cliff.

  12. Noushin Framke says:

    Here is the latest on this front:
    Progressive Democratic hero Elizabeth Warren enlists to serve AIPAC’s pro-war agenda, By Max Blumenthal
    QUOTE: With AIPAC leading the push for war at the height of an election campaign, there is no better time to demand accountability from candidates like Warren. Who does she serve? The liberal grassroots forces that made her into a populist hero or the lobby seeking to drag the US into a dubious, potentially catastrophic war? It is far better for progressives to grill her on her foreign policy positions before the campaign is over than after the next war begins.
    http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/gadfly/progressive-democratic-hero-elizabeth-warren-enlists-serve-aipacs-pro-war-agenda

  13. Loren McGrail says:

    Jim, as always you invite us into those complicated places of complicity and conscience. I appreciate both the scary update about APIAC–the guest list and the pairing with Rachel’s death and witness. Ever since her death, the Presbyterians have been after Caterpillar to change its policies. The divestment is the result of not being able to make a difference through “corporate engagement.”

    While serving in the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program last Spring I was able to attend part of Rachel’s trial in Haifa. Your readers might find my observations and commentary interesting in light of your recent blog. What stood out for me so horribly was the commanding officer’s casual admittance that he didn’t want to set a precedence of stopping the bulldozing for a human being. My blog also includes some more details about why she was at this particular location. The blog is archived at April 12. (Editor’s note: To reach the blog page, click here.)
    Again, many thanks for your insights.

    Rev. Loren McGrail
    Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine and Israel
    Team 39
    http://agarmentofdestiny.blogspot.com/

  14. Marilyn Sutton Loos says:

    We should all be asking our candidates for office whether they stand for diplomacy to clarify Iran’s actions (which some in our government say do not include nuclear weapons) or whether they rather stand for military action, which might well lead to World War III?

  15. Pingback: Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death? | Friends of Sabeel UK

  16. Pingback: Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death?

  17. Pingback: Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death? | Veterans Today « Who's Making You?

  18. Pingback: Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death? | SHOAH

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