Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why I love AIPAC

It’s one of the odd quirks of history that Israel’s No. 1 diplomatic enemy — the United Nations — is located not far from Israel’s best friend, the United States Congress. These two bodies are arguably the most influential political entities in the world.

This has the makings of a perverse Hollywood script. Right in the middle of the informal Jewish capital of the world, New York City, a global parliament continuously condemns the Jewish state, while an hour away in Washington, D.C., the world’s most powerful parliament continuously defends it.

“Israel is the U.N.’s punching bag,” my friend Uri Dromi wrote last week after participating in a conference in New York. “From the infamous ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution of 1975, to the Goldstone Report of 2009 (which was overwhelmingly slammed by the U.S. Congress), the U.N. organization seemed to be obsessed with blaming and censuring one country only: Israel.

“During the 2006-2007 session of the General Assembly, for example, it was busy passing 22 resolutions condemning Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, while not even bothering to criticize Sudan for the Darfur genocide.”

It’s mind-boggling that in 2013, according to UN Watch, the U.N. General Assembly adopted 21 resolutions condemning Israel-- and only four for the rest of the world. 

So, just as I’m repulsed by this blatant and immoral discrimination against Israel, I am immeasurably grateful for the U.S. Congress’ support of the Jewish state.

This support is unparalleled in the annals of Jewish history. Take a look at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in 2011. He got 29 standing ovations from Republicans and Democrats alike. Members of Congress may have been at one another’s throats on things like Obamacare and the budget, but on Israel, they all stood as one. That’s just short of a miracle.

When I see the growth of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism around the world, I shudder to think where Israel would be without the undying support of the U.S. Congress.

That’s why it was so dismaying to see 150 Jews last week release an open letter attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for expressing his enthusiasm for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-- a group that, over the years, has done more than any other to rally support for Israel in the U.S. Congress.

At a private gala, de Blasio had the nerve to say things like, “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or elsewhere, I will answer the call, and I’ll answer it happily ‘cause that’s my job.”

De Blasio’s remarks evidently riled up the anti-AIPAC liberal crowd, because, as they wrote in their open letter, “AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hardline government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone. It does not speak for us.”

Seriously, this is not only rich, it's narcissistic chutzpah of the highest order. AIPAC, by definition, respects the democratic wishes of Israeli voters. It would respect the policy of any Israeli government in power. 
AIPAC conferences are full of supporters, including many liberals, who might disagree with certain Israeli policies but who show up because they understand something bigger: Israel is under unrelenting attack from its enemies and needs all the support it can get. And nobody can provide that support — from military security to global diplomacy — like the U.S. Congress.

It’s astounding that these same Jews who attack AIPAC rarely, if ever, release open letters to defend Israel's honor or castigate groups like the United Nations, who routinely discriminate against the Jewish state.
Where was their letter of outrage last month when UNESCO tried to abruptly cancel the landmark exhibit, “The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel,” because of pressure from Israel’s enemies? 

For the liberal Jews who blasted AIPAC for “not speaking for us,” the real enemy, it seems, is not those who insult Israel or aim to destroy her, but Jewish groups whose policies or politics they abhor.
It’s funny how this liberal group didn’t publish any letters against AIPAC when the latter gamely agreed to help President Obama get congressional support for controversial military action in Syria. But now that AIPAC has decided not to parrot the White House line on Iran, well, it’s time to take out the knives.

And these days, apparently it’s not enough to have your own opinion and express it. To show you really mean business, you have to get 150 co-signers and gang up on the unsuspecting target with a public letter.
Frankly, it’s beyond me how Jews who say they love Israel feel compelled to publicly rebuke a New York mayor for...for what? For supporting a group that has done the most to build a bond between Israel and the world’s most powerful political entity.

If Israel lovers in New York City really feel like ganging up on a target, they ought to look not toward City Hall, but a few miles away at the hypocritical Israel-haters at the United Nations.

Disagreeing with Israeli policies doesn’t preclude defending Israel.
I may not agree with everything the Israeli government does, or with everything AIPAC does. But I’m aware of the bigger picture: Regardless of what it does, Israel is surrounded by enemies who want to destroy and undermine her, and the U.S. Congress is our most important ally to help Israel survive in a hostile world.

Policies come and policies go, but the need to defend Israel only grows.

That’s why I love AIPAC.