For the past several days I have been inundated with articles and comments from friends and political activists around the country, almost all criticizing aspects of the most recent AIPAC policy conference. These crass messages have been emblematic of the political negativity and heavy partisanship that is so sadly embracing this country. In my 25 years of going to AIPAC conferences, this one has garnered more vitriolic comments than I can ever remember, like an opinion piece this week in Haaretz thanking Trump for exposing what AIPAC is all about, an organization that is willing to sell its morality down the river to accomplish its single goal of strengthening the US-Israel relationship. Or comments from friends about the disgrace that AIPAC invited all those a@#hole Republican candidates and that AIPAC let the disingenuous and untrustworthy Hillary Clinton speak.
What I got out of all these innuendos was that these people are actually what is wrong with politics today, not AIPAC. These critics are the ones that refuse to hold hands with anyone that might have a different political view or thought. These are the people that are selling out America by not having the decency to be in a room with members of the opposite party.
My friends know that I am not a big fan of Ralph Reed or Gary Bauer, but I do thank them for their support of Israel. I might not be of the same political party as some of my local Congressmen like Peter King, Chris Gibson or Lee Zeldin, but I truly enjoy my time with them talking about this common interest. What’s even more important is that I found that we have other things in common as well!
If it were not for AIPAC, I would still be in a partisan cocoon of Democratic politics. AIPAC is the one organization that exemplifies all that is right about politics and for that reason, I say that AIPAC is a beacon of light (oh G-d did I just paraphrase a Republican president!?). Twenty-five years ago I attended my first AIPAC conference and the keynote speakers were the chairs of the DNC and RNC. Both were on the same stage talking about bi-partisan support of the US-Israel relationship.
Two and a half decades and twenty conferences later, I was fortunate to once again be at an AIPAC Policy Conference and see an incredible display of bipartisanship where members of both parties talked about their support of the US-Israel relationship, including those moments when House of Representatives Majority Leader McCarthy and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer jointly spoke about bipartisanship on the US-Israel relationship and shook hands on it, when 18,000 AIPAC attendees gave standing ovations for Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, when we had the opportunity to hear Middle East policy from major candidates running for the presidency of the United States, like Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump. I sat with conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats, I hung out with African-American, Latino, and Union leaders, I spoke with born-again Christians and saw some of my friends from the LGBT community. How dare AIPAC bring all these people of different political persuasions, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations together in one conference to talk about supporting an important relationship between our country and another one?
Let’s even take this bipartisan issue a step further. When one of the speakers crossed the boundary of bipartisanship and personally went after the President, the organization rightly criticized those comments and the applause by many members of AIPAC, and did so in a quick and unambiguous way.
AIPAC is not perfect. No organization is, but stop criticizing it for being a one-issue “bipartisan” organization. It is because of this one issue that people can leave their healthcare thoughts, abortion views and tax issues at the door, and “come together,” as this year’s AIPAC’s theme put it. So all of you naysayers stop bashing AIPAC because they had people who do not share “your” political convictions and start emulating its open door policy of a big tent. Unfortunately AIPAC is the only game in town that actually brings Democrats and Republicans together but maybe that’s actually what some of you don’t want. If that’s the case shame on you, not AIPAC.
Todd Richman is a financial advisor and managing director with a firm based in New York City. He is active in several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations most notably AIPAC and UJA-Federation of New York. He previously worked as a non-profit executive for such organizations as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the American Jewish Congress. In the 1990s he was a Democratic consultant running and raising money for Congressional campaigns. For his commitment to Jewish life and community service, he was recently honored with the Robert S. Boaz Award by UJA-Federation of New York.