Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: An Open Letter to Democrats About AIPAC

Dear Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls:

Since I have noticed that the vast majority of you are not Jewish, I thought that I would tell you a little about the holiday that we Jews celebrated yesterday.

It’s called Purim. It celebrates the Jews’ victory over their enemies in ancient Persia. The particular commandment on Purim is to get so drunk that you are not able to discern the difference between the wicked Haman and the righteous Mordecai; between evil and good; between lies and falsehood.

I can only imagine that a hospitable rabbi, or rabbis, invited you all for Purim, and that you heavily imbibed.

Because you must be drunk.

I am referring to the decision that many of you have made to boycott the upcoming AIPAC policy conference.

MoveOn has asked you to do this for several reasons:

  • AIPAC’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to be a featured speaker at AIPAC. MoveOn says that Prime Minister Netanyahu might have overseen war crimes. Moreover, he recently forged an alliance with a far-right, xenophobic party.
  • AIPAC has invited suspected Islamophobes to appear at its conferences.
  • AIPAC has failed to condemn figures close to US President Donald Trump who are in bed with the far right.

I could spend your time interpreting and refuting these claims.

  • Regarding the Iran nuclear deal: there were reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue.
  • AIPAC, whose mission is to strengthen the relationship between America and Israel, has always invited Israel’s Prime Minister to speak at its national conferences.
  • AIPAC condemned the Kahanist party — in no uncertain terms. Along with almost every other American Jewish organizations.
  • Are there people who are critical of Islamic extremism who speak at AIPAC? Yes. Along with African-American leaders, Hispanic leaders, left of center Jews, centrist Jews, right of center Jews, and some of the finest teachers in the Jewish world. They all have one thing in common: they want to strengthen the relationship between America and Israel. Moreover, I challenge you — and anyone — to find a richer, more diverse assemblage of speakers — anywhere in the Jewish world today. Anywhere.

But, that is about substance, about which people can agree to disagree.

I am urging you right now, as Purim fades into Shabbat:

Change your minds. Go to AIPAC, if you can and if you think it is an appropriate use of your valuable time.


Because you listened to bad advice — advice that will have far-reaching implications for America, and for American Jewish voting patterns in 2020.

Here is what your refusal to attend AIPAC will do.

When Democratic politicians vociferously refuse to attend AIPAC, that move completes the process of making Israel a wedge issue in American politics.

Ever since the controversy over Ihlan Omar, Republicans have been having a festival of ecstasy, trying to woo Jews away from the Democratic Party. It is called Jexit — as in Jews exiting the Democratic Party. The rhetoric of Jexit is, to say the least, intellectually shoddy and even libelous. It doesn’t matter. Some Jews are going to buy it.

Your refusal to attend AIPAC amounts to really bad optics. There is nothing that the Republican Party would like more than to continue their fallacious narrative that the Democrats are anti-Israel.

By this move on your part, you have handed the Republicans a wonderful Purim gift. You have helped them advance the rumor that the Democrats are apathetic to Israel and to American Jewish concerns.

If that was your intention, then you have done a good job.

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Source: Religion News Service