I am just back from the National Summit to Re-Assess the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship and will file reports of compelling remarks from speakers in days to come.
But I want to convey the importance of the conference here. The crowds were impressive. There were close to 300 people inside the National Press Club to hear a wide range of speakers denounce the role of the Israel lobby in our politics.
The speakers were largely from a US national-interest point of view. Many of them were conservative. When I say wide range, it did not include Palestinians– though a couple spoke from the floor.
But a concern for Palestinian human rights ran through many speakers’ remarks. Cynthia McKinney said she was standing up for “dignity and human liberty.” Steve Walt repeatedly cited the “moral” weakness of the Israel lobby’s argument for a state that privileges one group over another. Justin Raimondo spoke of the power of reading They Were Human Too, a book on Palestinian refugees published by the conservative publisher Regnery in the 50s (a point I have made myself). These pictures could be from Gaza today, Raimondo said.
And Lt. Col., retired, Karen Kwiatkowski told a gripping story about going to work in the Pentagon in a room that was the birthplace of the Office of Special Plans, the secret neoconservative unit that stovepiped bad intelligence on Iraq to the Bush administration to push the war. Early on, a colleague gave her a warning, “If you have anything nice to say about Palestinians, don’t say it here.”
Kwiatkowski identified herself as a libertarian-leaning Republican, very typical of the military. Yet when I met her next to a table filled with leftwing books about Palestinian human rights, she said that many in the Pentagon were actually concerned with Palestinian freedom. A point that was underlined by Paul Pillar and Mark Perry.