Alex Sternberg
A Jewish Activist

Cheap Shot at AIPAC

My family and I spent the last weekend at the annual Israel love fest, called the AIPAC Policy Conference. If you have never attended one of these spectacular gatherings, you are missing a heck of an adventure.

First of all, it’s a gathering of 18,000 of your closest friends from all over the USA and Israel. They are not all members of the tribe, either. About 5-6 thousand are Christian supporters of Israel. This makes the gathering all the more interesting and stimulating.  The program, which is very slickly executed, showcases Israeli innovations, introduces us to people and products that make us proud to be Jewish and a little envious that we are not all Israeli. We also get to meet and interact with well-known Israeli figures in politics, education, high-tech and security. The latest projections about the upcoming election, the status of Arab-Israeli interaction, archeological digs and more are all on the menu. Not only do you get to listen to some of the greatest minds, but you get to ask them questions and get answers. In short, it’s a dream come true for at least 18,000 pro Israel activists.

Among the highlights for me this year, was the speech by former Israeli army chief of staff and Prime Minister hopeful, Benny Gantz. His Blue and White Party is running neck and neck with Netanyahu’s Likud in the polls. The election, to be held on the 9thof April, promises to be a nail biter.

So when Benny (you see, I am also informal and familiar as any Israeli) began his speech, I paid close attention. His mannerism was every bit as important to watch as his words and promises. Benny showed great acumen reading the teleprompter and delivered his speech, as an old pro would. He moved all over the podium and wasn’t stiff standing behind the lectern. He came across as polished.

I was impressed.

His delivered a vintage campaign stump speech ticking off all his important accomplishments in the military (he has plenty to be proud of) and touting whatever experience he has leading men and women in combat. I’m a long time Likud fan and Netanyahu supporter. If I could vote in Israel, I would probably vote for Bibi. But Benny was very impressive, and I thought, “you know, if he won, perhaps it would not be so bad” and “I could live with this guy”. He told us that we deserve an honest leader (nice dig at Bibi) and we could always count on him. We heard about his plans for dealing with Hamas and Hezbollah, the Iranians and his promise that Yerushalayim will never be divided. He told us of his yearning for peace, while promising to crush Israel’s Arab enemies. All great stuff.

But then suddenly, he could not help himself and he veered off the positive, rosy road he had embarked on. Benny had to deliver a kick at the much maligned Otzma Party. He promised that in his government that will be no fascists and racists. I was disappointed. Benny, why kick them? Many call you by the same adjectives.  Why did you have to go there?

It’s interesting about politicians that they don’t seem to hear the words their mouth utters. Gantz very proudly boasted that under his command “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age”. Now, I personally have no problem with such statements, but I was a Kahanist years back. Today, if the Otzma people were to offer such sentiments, imagine the outcry of “racist” and “fascist” that would ensue. So, the statement of Benny at the AIPAC speech was just political posturing aimed at another swipe at Netanyahu and nothing else. But it did reveal that Benny Gantz may indeed have a future in Israeli politics. For my money, he has shown his willingness to kick the weak and say the things he believes will get him elected. Success is only a matter of time for him.

As far as Bibi is concerned, circumstances in Gaza forced him to rush home and he hurriedly left the White House right after standing with Pres. Trump as Trump signed a declaration recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Poor Bibi was robbed of the adulation of the AIPAC crowd that was sure to follow the Golan announcement.   I am sure that all 18,000 were as disappointed as I was, at not seeing Bibi in person.

For those who lambasted Bibi for allying himself with Otzma, why the big noise?

Why is Bibi not allowed to fight for his political survival and pick up additional support? Bibi has been a lifelong follower of right leaning influences such as Jabotinsky and Begin. Why is it unusual that he does not find the philosophy of Kahane and Otzma as repulsive as do the leftists? Weren’t Jabotinsky and Begin both called similar names? Who is deciding on whom to stick these hurtful adjectives anyway? When you can’t counter the message, kill the messenger?

I was a disciple of Meir Kahane in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Help to build up the Jewish Defense League and was an “activist” for 4 years. We confronted anti-Semities on the left and the right. At the same time, we taught young Jews to be proud of their heritage. We were not racists or fascists. Neither was Kahane.

It is so easy to stick a moniker on those you disagree with and by maligning them with some ugly epitaph, you think you discredit their message. But after 30 years since his assassination, his message still resonates. How many of us can count on such a legacy?

The Talmud teaches that in the Temple there was a spice used in the Avodah, the daily service. This spice was a combination of many ingredients that were mixed together to create the sweet, savory end product. One of the ingredients was “galbanum”, a decidedly foul-smelling additive. Why did they include this, as well? The Rabbis teach that it was G-d’s way of showing us that, under His Tent of Israel, all may enter, even those whom we find offensive.

AIPAC is very proud that their bi-partisan tent includes all segments of Israeli supporters. Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and progressives, LGBTQ’s, religious and secular, Jews and non-Jews. They are equally proud that they too excommunicate those whom they don’t agree with, such as the followers of the “despised and vilified” Rabbi Meir Kahane.

I believe that AIPAC should turn back the dial of hatred toward those they don’t agree with, but who are staunch supporters of Jews and Israel. One of the featured speakers over the weekend touted the message of returning love in the face of hateful vitriol. Benny Gantz, I love you, AIPAC, I love you.

About the Author
Born in Hungary, emigrated to the US in 1961. USA Karate Champion and sensei. Jewish activist, and leader of JDL. Doctor of Physiology and Public Health (SUNY College of Medicine), was the Director of the Pulmonary Function and Exercise Physiology Lab at Downstate Medical Center. President Center for Hungarian Holocaust Education. Author and teacher of Zionism, Jewish history, and the Holocaust MaccabiUSA Karate Chair over 40 years, “Legend of the Maccabiah” recipient 2018. Inductee Jewish Sports Heritage Ass. 2024 USA Karate Federation Hall of Fame inductee 2015 Author of "Recipes from Auschwitz-The Survival Stories of Two Hungarian Jews with Historical Insight". Amazon. Author: "The Toughest Jew in Brooklyn" in progress
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