Philip Weiss on how grassroots activists on Capitol Hill trumped AIPAC to block a bad measure on Iran.



Last June

Chelsea Mozen


Just Foreign Policy

went to Capitol Hill to lobby for diplomacy with Iran and got bad news. “Every single office we went to, it was, ‘AIPAC’s just been here,'” she says, referring to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, which was pushing HR 362, a resolution calling for “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” When Mozen asked one staffer if there was anything anyone could do to block the measure, the answer was an emphatic no.

But over the summer, a grassroots uprising formed against AIPAC’s resolution, and in late September the House leadership shelved the measure. “It was essentially a declaration of war through the back door,” says

Trita Parsi

, president of the

National Iranian American Council

. “The only way to implement it was a naval blockade, and a naval blockade without UN Security Council authorization is an act of war.”


M.J. Rosenberg

launched the battle with a post on Talking Points Memo warning that the legislation “would put us in a state of war with Iran. Right now.”

Barney Frank

apologized for putting his name on the bill without reading it carefully.

Steve Cohen

of Tennessee removed his name–saying we don’t have to play “tit for tat” with Ahmadinejad. And

Robert Wexler

, the hawkish Florida Congressman who was a sponsor of the bill, blasted it on The Huffington Post, saying it could open the door to another disastrous war. Then

J Street

, the alternative Israel lobby, collected 20,000 signatures against it. “This is the first time you’ve seen concerted pushback [on Iran] that involved the progressive Jewish community in an active way,” says J Street’s

Jeremy Ben-Ami


The resolution’s 280 sponsors are sure to reintroduce it next year. That hasn’t stopped Rosenberg and Parsi from declaring that Goliath fell. “One should be careful not to draw exaggerated conclusions, that AIPAC is running everything or is all-powerful,” Parsi says, before adding, “I’m surprised that this was doable in an election year.”   PHILIP WEISS

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