On September 2nd at 7:00pm, Temple Israel in Minneapolis will host Ann Lewis, the former Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton, and former Director of Communications and Counselor to President Bill Clinton, for an AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) community briefing.
Ms. Lewis will speak about “Taking a Stand and Making an Impact: Why Our Votes Matter to the U.S.-Israel Relationship.” The event is free and open to the community and a dessert reception will follow the event.
The flyer for the event states:
Please join us as Ann Lewis shares her experiences from the highest levels of the American political scene, discusses her unique approach to leadership and pro-Israel political activism, and explores how supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship can get their message across more effectively.
Regardless of your politics, this is sure to be a fascinating event.
If you can attend the event, please RSVP by August 28th to AIPAC Minnesota Area Director Jeremy Wynes at (312) 253-8985 or [email protected].
Click here to download the flyer for AIPAC’s September 2nd event, which includes a full bio for Ann Lewis, as well as a description of AIPAC.
UPDATED: I have just been informed that this event is off-the-record so TC Jewfolk will no longer be tweeting live from the event, or summarizing the event in a blog post on September 3rd.
What does it mean that this event is “off-the-record”?
They don’t even want you summarizing the event afterward?
Seems awfully fishy.
ML – Thanks for your comment. I was told that all AIPAC events are off-the-record. I will have a better sense of what that means later this week. I am not sure the rationale for that policy – you would have to ask AIPAC on that one. In any case, I hope to see you at the event.
What real right do they have from keeping a person from blogging about their experience at an event? Just because they’d prefer to completely control their message doesn’t give them the right to do so.
I think being “off the record” means that Ann Lewis is speaking for herself and not officially representing AIPAC at this event. I could be wrong.
Since it’s a private event, I think AIPAC has every right to say that (1) press can’t come, or (2) press can’t cover the event. I still want to go to the event, so I’m okay not covering the event, although I would rather write about it than not. My understanding is that “off the record” means that there is to be no press coverage of Ann’s talk, but I’ll let you know if I hear differently.
It’s listed as open to the community. What’s private about that?
What could or would actually stop an individual from posting their impressions, opinions, etc… about the talk?
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but that’s just me.
When American Israeli Public Affairs are not really public affairs!
I was stunned and flabbergasted just now to receive a call from AIPAC official Brian Abrahams in Chicago and told that they could not “accomodate” my RSVP request to attend this lecture by Ann Lewis. I argued with Abraham that I had attended many AIPAC events in the past: two AIPAC dinners in 2006 (as well as a lecture by Abe Foxman at Temple Israel) and a Norm Coleman talk in St. Louis Park sponsored by AIPAC, among other events, and there had never been a problem raised about my attendance. I also mentioned that the event had been advertised as welcoming and open to the public.
Abrahams did offer to meet with me in private when he comes to the Twin Cities to discuss AIPAC issues which I might do but that is not what I was interested in when I RSVP’d for this event. I was interested in Ann Lewis’ lecture. I just find this terribly odd and disconcerting.
It would seem that the “American Israel Public Affairs Committee” is an oxymoron when it comes to the “public affairs” portion of their name.
I advised Abrahams that my prior experience as a government “Freedom of Information Act” officer has led me to believe that secrecy is never the best policy. In fact I would go so far as to opine as Lord Acton once did, that “Everything secret degenerates… nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.” (Lord Acton, you might recall, is also the smart fellow who realized that power corrupts.)
I am really curious to see what Ann Lewis is planning to say that is so sensitive that the media – old and new-fashioned – is banned from this event. I look forward to attending it as a member of the community (and not as a blogger, per their rules).
Colleen – I agree with you that secrecy is not the best policy here. Yes, some bloggers or reporters would criticize the content of the lecture if they were allowed to report on it. I, however, agree with much of AIPAC’s mission, and would have been thrilled to write about the event in a positive and balanced light, discussing the content of Ann’s speech, and encouraging folks to learn more about the organization and its efforts to show people how Israel and America have common interests and must work as allies in the war against terrorism.
By cutting off media access to the event, AIPAC is hiding to its own detriment.
Great points, Leora. I do write for the Huffington Post and other progressive news and opinion sites but I never asked the AIPAC official to cover the event as a “citizen journalist”. To be honest, I was going to see if I could learn something from Lewis about lobbying Congress as I do that a lot on peace and civil liberties issues.
I understood that I’m not allowed to even ATTEND the lecture even if I promise not to write about it publicly. As if I’m on some kind of “enemies list” even though I’ve been to many AIPAC events and never experienced any problem. (They searched people going into the Foxman one at Temple Israel so it was high security.)
They are just wrong to play the secrecy card as it only makes people more suspicious and that’s what I told Abrahams too.
I just learned about an organized protest taking place outside of the AIPAC event tomorrow, publicized on Twin Cities Indymedia. http://twincities.indymedia.org/2009/aug/demonstration-challenge-us-israeli-propoganda-machine
Ironic it is – the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press are sure to be at the event to photograph the protesters outside, and since the press will not be allowed into the event, the entire coverage of AIPAC’s event in the newspapers the next day will be photographs and statements by the anti-Israel protesters.
Ironic. Short-sighted. Frustrating.
I’ll be looking forward to attending this event and to hearing what Ann Lewis has to say about the U.S.-Israel relationship and why she supports Israel. I’ll try to get a few quotes from her after the event to post on the blog tomorrow.
On second thought, I do understand a bit more – having talked to friends about this – why the event is closed to the media. This event is a private event like a Bar Mitzvah, or a private lecture at a private college, aimed at educating the Jewish community in the Twin Cities about the U.S.-Israel relationship. I wish I could write about it, but look forward to just learning and listening as well.
I stick by Lord Acton. He was one heck of a smart guy about this stuff. And I know all too well from my law enforcement, intelligence and legal background with the FBI that secrecy is what allows so much of the evil to flourish (just think about Seymour Hersh’s lifework exposing all these terrible secrets, i.e. My Lai, Abu Ghraib, etc.).
I’ll be looking forward to seeing what you write about Ann Lewis.
Obviously no one would insist on attending a private Bar Mitzvah but a former high-level public official’s talk to the most important special interest lobbying group in the country about foreign policy is hardly the same, is it?
In any event, I’m now forced to stand outside the event tonight with others, including some of my Jewish peacenik friends. My message at prior events like this has been: “pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-Palestine, pro-justice”. But now there’s reason to add things about the undue secrecy and the suspicion that it generates which is not good. That’s what I tried to tell Mr. Abrahams of AIPAC, Chicago.
In any event, I’ve just left a message for the AIPAC officials in Chicago who organized this Ann Lewis event initially open to the public and then suddenly pulling away the welcome mat and closing it to the public. I’d like to take them up on their offer of further discussion. I suggested that we should organize a panel debate here on the topic of secrecy and foreign policy. I have no doubt we could get some great experts to weigh in on these issues and still keep the event OPEN to the public.
Coleen and AJ – please excuse my editing your comments. This blog really just started up a month ago, and we did not have a comment policy in place until today. You can read the comment policy on the About Us page.
One of the rules on the comment policy is that personal attacks are not allowed. As a result, I have deleted the comments that were of an attacking nature (and their defense), as well as not on topic (another rule in our comments policy). You are welcome to re-post within our guidelines.
So I guess it would be silly to ask, but how was it?
And nice to see Coleen posting here. Wow.
Since the event was off the record, I can’t talk about its content.
I can say that today, like any time that I leave an event about Israel, I am reminded about how easy my life is. And how easy it is to go about my life, my world, my work, here in Minnesota, without thinking about what is going on in Israel and what obligation I have as a Jew to work to ensure that Israel remains a safe place for Jews to be Jews. With the Holocaust a mere 65 years ago, and anti-Semitism raging around the world (including here in the States), that’s not something we can ever take for granted.
The event made me want to sign up for AIPAC’s policy conference in Washington, DC in
MayMarch 2010. It reminded me to make sure that I pay attention to what is going on in the news that affects Israel (like Iran’s nuclear capability) and then call my legislators to let them know that I care.
I also met a great bunch of people. I really am glad I went.
i think the message here is that some people will always think something shifty is going on when there’s a secret meeting that excludes others. now, it just so happens that quite often, certain folks are even more suspicious when jews are conducting said meetings, and conveniently incurious (in spite of taqiyya) when muslims and palestinians segregate and congregate. and considering the genocidal outbursts i endured at a public gathering with palestinian ‘protesters’ last winter at the JCC, i’m literally scared at what they must say ‘amongst themselves.’ but hey, who wants to get sued by a redux of the, ‘flying imams’?
look, i don’t read it everyday, but i doubt the huffington post has even been offered a private meeting with fathima rifqa bary’s father and his crew of imams. are we all familiar with this story?
anyways, i am most interested to see if the transitive property could be employed to ms. rowley’s aforementioned, ‘message.’ in other words, does this work too? “pro-israel, pro-justice, pro-palestine, pro-peace?” yeah, see to me, that has a ring to it. but then again, i haven’t grown weary of hearing jews ‘whine about the holocaust,’ even though we’re talking about israel.
Adam: You are absolutely right about secrecy, especially undue secrecy creating suspicions, even unfounded ones.
So would you join me in asking AIPAC to help organize a fair debate or panel discussion (it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a debate) among experts on secrecy and foreign policy? But one that would be open to the public instead of a closed event as this one was.
I don’t speak for AIPAC, but my understanding of the organization’s mission (see: http://www.aipac.org/about_AIPAC/) is that the goal is not to organization panel discussions about issues (domestic or foreign), but rather to “work to help make Israel more secure by ensuring that American support remains strong.”
“AIPAC works to secure vital U.S. foreign aid for Israel to help ensure Israel remains strong and secure. AIPAC is working to promote strategic cooperation between the two nations, to develop sound U.S. anti-terrorist policies, to share homeland security techniques and technologies, and to stop rogue nations such as Iran from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.”
Personally, I would rather AIPAC be working on those projects than running a policy discussion in Minneapolis.
Well, I understand if you don’t want to get involved with asking AIPAC to help me organize something like this but AIPAC has definitely sponsored discussion panels before. There was the one I attended a couple years ago in St. Louis Park that featured then Senator Norm Coleman, an AIPAC foreign policy guy from DC (if I remember right) and someone else.
And that discussion event was completely open to the public. It was a packed room. And actually there were quite a few hard questions posed by the audience. I recall a certain amount of the discussion did focus on Iran.
Anyway, if the closing of AIPAC events to the general public actually signals a change from their past practices (which seems the case, based on my experience) then it would seem harder for AIPAC to achieve its mission to secure further American support for its objectives. After a while of closed events within any organization, you end up just preaching to the choir as they say. Then you’re back to my Lord Acton quote about “everything secret degenerates…”
AIPAC has been preaching to the choir, if not forever, for at least the past decade. They’ve always been positioned to the right when it comes to Israeli politics and policy, and definitely became more insular during the Bush administration.
Maybe their mission isn’t to foster debate, but it should be!
That’s right, ML. If an idea is thoroughly exposed by being debated, scrutinized and clarified, etc. by lots and lots of neuron pathways, instead of just a few sycophantic ones, it makes the idea stronger and thus obtains more support for the idea. The idea of free and open debate strengthening societies and societies’ decisions is a really old and time-tested one. It applies to any group, not just government as a whole. Discussing and debating issues will always tend to produce more consensus. The original position may be modified or compromised, however, in the process and that’s what some people don’t like.
“Suspicious, suspicious…” “Methinks the Lady doth protest toooo much.”~Lord Shakespeare “everything secret degenerates” repeatedly uttered by an ex-FBI agent, has to be one of the all-time historically hypocritical statements, ever.