Late last week, the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) announced that Donald J. Trump would be presenting one of the keynote addresses at its annual Policy Conference. The Policy Conference is the largest pro-Israel gathering in Washington, expected to draw some 17,000 people this year. It is not unusual that a leading presidential candidate will be addressing an event that generally attracts top-level American and Israeli politicians. What is unusual is that AIPAC is providing a platform for a person who says and does things that would disqualify anyone else from that honor.
Full disclosure: I will be attending the AIPAC conference and attended last year. I also often disagree with AIPAC’s positions. Nonetheless, I recognize and respect the vital role the organization plays in keeping the American-Israeli relationship strong and, more importantly, my friends and family living in Israel safe.
On the one hand, I’m desperate to understand what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has to say about Israel beyond being “sort of a neutral guy” (which is worrying in its own right). Yet on the other, I’m sickened by the idea that this uninformed, sexist, racist, fascist, hate-mongering, lying, bigot, braggart, blowhard, and buffoon will be speaking to arguably the most seminal meeting of the American Jewish community. When even President Obama’s harshest critics criticize Trump, you know something is wrong. Trump is a one-man geopolitical wrecking ball, and AIPAC allowing its Policy Conference to be sullied by his keynote is not worthy of a group whose goal is to support a country that values Jewish values.
Trump, claims to have the “world’s greatest memory” and regurgitates cherry-picked poll numbers with ease, but he couldn’t remember who David Duke or the KKK are. He’s also attacked Mexicans, Muslims, Democrats and numerous other groups with far more excoriating terms than his weak eventual denouncement of the KKK. This is the same guy who, after days of trumped up (pun intended) coverage of his rallies, claimed: “Honestly, until this phone call, I didn’t realize it was a problem.”
No one can be that oblivious, which means that either Trump is heroically stupid (which should be disqualifying for higher office), or that he is purposely stoking the undercurrent of hatred that exists in this country. Trump’s entire campaign is based on the premise that to elect him is to “Make America Great Again” — “Again” being the key word. It implies that America is no longer great, but was great in the past, but a quick review of the past does not bode well for a future under a Trump presidency: Legally sanctioned sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and worse. Going backwards is rarely good.
You don’t have to delve between the lines to see these things, either. Trump eggs on his supporters at his increasingly violent and dangerous rallies, and then accepts no responsibility. He takes a hostile stance towards protestors, arguing that the “good old days” saw them leaving on stretchers. And on his infamous Twitter account, he elevates and promotes all the wrong sentiments time and again, from Neo Nazi accounts to Mussolini quotes (attributed to himself, of course). But of course, he’ll be the first to tell you that — unbelievably — none of it is his fault. To be honest (something Trump struggles with), some of it is not his fault, but he is giving some people a megaphone to announce their vile views.
Support for the American-Israel relationships should never be taken lightly, and the thoughts and policies on the issue of someone who could be in a position to directly impact that relationship should be heard from. Trump is, after all, the presumptive nominee. Yet none of this means he needs to speak. Can you imagine AIPAC giving George Wallace a keynote slot?
Perhaps an alternative to hosting a Trump rally, would be to look towards American history. Although Presidents Washington and Adams delivered the required State of the Union address in person to Congress, it wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson (1913) that it was delivered in person again (rather than written), and not until Franklin Roosevelt that it came to be as such in common practice. AIPAC can give Trump the platform without having to host him: Allow him to submit his speech in writing. Perhaps forcing him to write his thoughts down will prevent a repeat of his insulting Shecky Greene act at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition, and save 17,000 staunch Pro-Israel supporters from having to listen to his bona fides of winning awards and marshalling parades as a reason to believe he is pro-Israel.
The value of an invitation to AIPAC is the chance to be heard by people who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship. Written remarks, submitted in advance, fulfill that objective — but that’s as much as Trump should get. Because if Trump is allowed to come and speak to AIPAC, he’ll gain more than the organization, the attendees, or Israel will; the conference will be valuable to him not as a substantive experience to learn and grow (does Trump even have those?), but as another self-fulfilling and shallow piece of ‘evidence’ that he is pro-Israel that he needed zero policy bona fides to earn. You can already hear it now, if you strain your ear: “I’m the most pro-Israel guy there is — they even invited me to AIPAC, in a prime slot!”
A man who courts and flatters the alt-right and whips up violence for his own benefit does not fit AIPAC’s values or my own. Accordingly, I plan to happily boycott Donald Trump’s AIPAC speech and urge others who feel similarly to join me — perhaps at the Capitol Hilton bar.