Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: Let’s Cut Out the AIPAC-Phobia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks via video from Israel to the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, at Washington Convention Center, in Washington, on March 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

I could not attend this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, which is happening as I write these words.

I would have liked to have been there.

I would have liked to hear amazing speakers and teachers; to feel the enthusiasm of almost 20,000 people, all united in a love for Israel; to be present to hear political leaders and foreign dignitaries; to hang out with friends.

And, for one other reason: to help heal one of the most contagious illnesses in the Jewish and general world today.

I call it AIPAC-phobia — an irrational fear of, and even hatred of, AIPAC.

How did it start?

It is tempting to say that Patient Zero was Rep. Ilhan Omar, who basically accused American Jews of dual loyalty and who suggested that AIPAC has inordinate influence over American foreign policy because “it’s all about the Benjamins.”

In fact, the fear/hatred of alleged disproportionate Jewish influence over American foreign policy is much older. It goes back to John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s 2007 book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.”

Before that, it goes back to Pat Buchanan’s comments about Israel’s “amen corner.”

Just so you know: The fear of undue Israeli/Jewish influence over American foreign policy is, ahem, bipartisan. It is a game that both left and right can play.

How does AIPAC-phobia manifest itself?

It is the idea that AIPAC is a tool of right-wing Zionism, and right-wing Israeli and American politics. I have heard this from normally reasonable friends and colleagues. Most have never attended an AIPAC event.

The reality is very different.

Based on what my friends who are attending AIPAC are saying, AIPAC is the most diversely programmed Israel-based organization (I would say, even Jewish, though AIPAC is far from being a Jewish organization) that you would encounter in the world today.

A casual attender of AIPAC would have walked into sessions with:

  • Left-leaning Israeli politicians and public figures, like Rabbi Susan Silverman and Stav Shaffir.
  • Israeli candidate Benny Gantz, who declared that “the Western Wall is long enough to accommodate everyone.”
  • The finest teachers in the Jewish world, people whom I am proud to call my teachers, like Shalom Hartman Institute intellectuals like Yehuda Kurtzer, Tal Becker, Yossi Klein Halevi and Gil Troy.
  • Israeli Druze leaders.
  • Israeli Arab leaders.
  • Hispanics, African-Americans, etc. etc. etc.

Yes, you can go through the program materials and find right-wingers as well.

What is the source of AIPAC-phobia?

Some people don’t like its tone. Yes, it feels like a pep rally. That’s not everyone’s thing. I get it.

But, there is more.

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service

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