My mother’s generation might have internalized the notion that AIPAC was all-powerful. But if the protests this week were a sign of anything, it is that America’s Israel lobby is not omnipotent.
Watching the scenes from this week’s AIPAC protests, I was reminded of another, more amiable stand-off — this one with my Palestinian mother. I have tended to cite her more often since the last American election, not least because she is now on Facebook and has developed a habit of sending me short chat lines, like scribbled notes, reminding me to “please tell your children about the Lap Top” (a reference to the latest American travel restrictions) and other assignments I am not to ignore.
“Hands on” could not begin to describe this Palestinian woman’s parenting style, though that quality seems more endearing to me now than it did in my youth. When I was 18 and on my way back to college, she slipped away from the usual family goodbyes to secretly line my suitcase with bagged reminders of home — semolina date cookies, dried figs, and just enough stalks of tea-grade sage to offset the intestinal indignities of both.
But then, she found the book.
Anticipating my mother’s snooping, I had placed my copy of Paul Findley’s “They Dare to Speak Out,” face down, between stacks of neatly folded shirts, hoping that, if she found it, she might at least miss its incendiary subtitle: “People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby.”
She didn’t. And just as sure as she read the cover of the 1985 bestseller — about “the pervasive influence of the American-Israeli [sic] Public Affairs Committee on American politics” — my mother from Bethlehem switched from stealthy to seething, losing her temper as only a Palestinian mother can.
“Samer!” she called out to me from my bedroom.
“What is this book?”
She wasn’t looking for a summation, of course. I was about to get a dressing down — about the dangers of wearing your politics on your sleeve, about never underestimating the gaze under which we Palestinians are held, and above all, about the futility of questioning the only thing more powerful than America: what she called “The Jewish Lobby.”
That was then. Today, a quarter-century later, I sent my mother a video of young Jewish-American activists disrupting — peacefully, boldly, beautifully — the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. And this time,...Read More