When The Times of Israel ran an article from JTA last week with the headline “AIPAC paid $60,000 to group that peddles anti-Muslim conspiracy theories”, I commented to a friend, “And so the pre-Policy Conference anti-AIPAC press tour begins…” Sure enough, the next day, there was an article in the LAist: “Jewish Activists Protest Israeli Occupation Outside L.A. AIPAC Offices.”
This week and early next week, we will see many more articles which carry a similar message: AIPAC is destroying the American Israel relationship.
Just a few weeks ago during J Street’s national conference, it seemed as though they were the ones doing damage. J Street “cheered a backer of terror,” was decried for “blaming Israel for conflict with Palestinians” and backing U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and “suspended [their] anti-Israel message [by] going after Trump.”
Articles such as these only make worse the division between those who love Israel and those who love Israel the “right” way. Israel is complex and hyping up an Israel advocacy organization’s shortcomings does nothing to simplify the matter.
As Rabbi Sharon Brous wrote following the Women’s Marches,
“We must recognize that in multi-faith and coalitional politics, we won’t agree on all issues all the time. As I said at the march, I believe our nation is suffering from a soul crisis, rooted in a cynical politics that pits vulnerable populations against each other. The antidote to this toxic new reality is spiritual resistance, a reawakening to our shared humanity. One nation, indivisible. It is our job to stop shouting and start listening long enough to find the humanity and shared purpose even in people who hold perspectives that differ from our own.”
Although Rabbi Brous was speaking about the American political environment, I believe her message holds true for the environment in which we discuss Israel.
We can begin by finding humanity in the hope that is Israel. We will not agree on every issue. But disagreement does not mean destruction. We can buck the trend of negativity by recognizing and celebrating our shared passion for Israel. We can create the space for a more inclusive dialogue on Israel by facilitating and allowing for nuanced conversations. We can develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship between the US and Israel by coming together (after all, if Republican and Democratic leaders of government can do this on the stage at AIPAC, can’t we do something similar in our own communities?).
Here’s the challenge: over the next two weeks, say something positive on social media, or somewhere else in public or in a private conversation, about an organization you usually oppose. AIPAC: amplify something that went well at JStreet’s conference. JStreet: do the same. Judaism teaches the value Hakarat Hatov – recognizing the good. Embrace that value. Help lovers of Israel to come together.
In this divided nation, if Muslims can come together with their Jewish neighbors to repair a desecrated cemetery, surely those who love Israel can come together to bring about our shared vision of a peaceful, Jewish, democratic State of Israel. As Israel’s national anthem — Hatikvah – The Hope — proudly says, “od lo ada tikvateinu – our hope is not yet lost.”