We are less than one week away from AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington D.C., which means the annual deluge of articles titled, “How AIPAC Really Works” from former AIPAC insiders are hitting the digital newsstand. However, they often come from people who have either never worked at AIPAC or who worked there so long ago that they have no relevant current knowledge of the inner workings of AIPAC. Think about it, do you think the staff who worked at Sears, Kodak, Apple, or Amazon decades ago can comment on how those companies function today? The co-founder of Netflix won’t even comment on today’s Netflix, because he has been out of the business for over a decade. Yet, it fascinates me how former staff members who have not worked at AIPAC for more years than I have been alive are elevated to relevance when someone wants an “insiders” take on the organization. As someone who worked at AIPAC from 2012-2018, I can say these “AIPAC insider” comments do not reflect how AIPAC worked when I was there.
The point of me highlighting this reality is not to make the case to love or to hate AIPAC. Rather, it is to be a voice for the Jewish, Christian, LGBTQ, white, black, brown, blue and red men and women inside of AIPAC who work tirelessly to strengthen the US-Israel relationship in a bipartisan way. I am frustrated hearing people bully and speak ill of folks they don’t know or an organization they don’t have the pulse on. AIPAC rarely responds to critics and almost all current AIPAC staff never comment. One thing I know for sure, I worked with staff that worked tirelessly to educate the community and to bring Democrats and Republicans together to keep the United States strong and Israel secure. I was in constant staff meetings walking through the necessity for and path towards continued bipartisan support for Israel. I did not know everyone in the organization, but that message was replicated from the CEO on down. This is not to say everyone I worked with was “perfect” or that I agreed with every decision made by the organization when I worked for AIPAC. However, inside AIPAC, the staff intent is clear and unwavering in the pursuit of building bipartisan consensus on Israel. You can question and challenge those methods all you want, but don’t take advantage of AIPAC’s general silence to libel them.
I think it is also worth noting that bipartisanship is not defined as every Democrat and every Republican being in agreement on an issue. Instead, it is gathering support from both sides of the aisle to pass a given piece of legislation. When it came to the JCPO, President Obama lobbied hard for at least one Republican to support the deal, so he could claim the deal bipartisan. When it came to President Trump’s impeachment, the President lobbied hard for at least one Democrat to vote for acquittal, so he could claim bipartisan support as well. Unlike these examples, an important part of AIPAC’s mission is to bring as many Republicans and Democrats together as possible; that is why they work so hard to gather robust bipartisan support for everything they do.
I understand we are in hyper partisan times and most studies show each side moving farther and farther into their respective corners. I understand why people are sticking with party loyalty and vilifying the other side. There are partisan organizations that have raised a lot of money taking advantage of this fact and further driving a wedge between the US and Israel along the way. However, AIPAC is the bipartisan pro-Israel organization trying to ensure a better future for the US and Israel. I believe bipartisan support for Israel is the most effective way we as Americans can keep the United States strong and Israel secure. At the AIPAC Policy Conference this weekend, I may have different opinions than the person sitting next to me. I know I will not agree with everyone on stage at this year’s conference either. But to grow a movement, we need to show up, talk with, and hear from people beyond our partisan bubbles. I will be doing my part to bring as many people together as I can on Israel. I hope you will join me. Am Yisrael Chai.