“It’s time you opened your eyes and left the AIPAC world,” is a criticism I hear often these days. This Sunday morning AIPAC will kick off its annual Policy Conference in Washington D.C. and it’ll be my 14th time attending the conference. Much to the chagrin of some of my closest friends on the left and the right of the Pro-Israel world, I’m a proud AIPAC donor and believer in AIPAC’s mission.
My Pro-Israel friends on the left say that AIPAC is a mouthpiece for the right wing elements of the Israeli government. AIPAC simply walks lockstep with Israel, even in its “immoral policies.” It has become a home for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s racism and even worse, supports the Trump administration.
I live in Mitzpe Yericho, a town in Judea and Samaria (or the West Bank). The world calls me a settler. I’m supposed to be a right wing extremist who puts Israel’s settlement policy first above all other issues. Those whose priority is Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria are critical of AIPAC’s refusal to address the world’s demonization of Jewish settlers. They claim that AIPAC marginalizes any pro Judea and Samaria voices by not including them on panels that discuss Judea and Samaria. They are furious about AIPAC’s promotion of the two state solution.
I don’t disagree with some of the criticism. Supporting the two state solution is an archaic approach that imagines that we’re still in the 1990’s and the Palestinian Authority is interested in existing peacefully with Israel. I wish AIPAC would lend positive attention to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. It’s time that the world moves past old ideas of land for peace and recognizes the new reality of Palestinian intransigence.
Yet, with all I wish AIPAC would do differently, I still believe it is the best friend Israel has. I believe AIPAC’s staff are the most professional and effective Israel advocates. I moved to Israel from Florida in the middle of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. With Palestinian rocket fire reigning down on Israel, we were rushed out of the airport. As we entered Modi’in I was comforted to look up and see an Iron Dome battery protecting the city. More than a decade earlier I sat in a briefing at an AIPAC conference in San Diego where we charged to lobby for Iron Dome funding. American supplied F-16 fighter jets frequently buzz my house protect me from distant threats, every Israeli soldier is trained on an American supplied M-16, and in the United Nations Security Council, it is America’s lone voice that fights against anti-Israel resolutions.
America’s 70 year Pro-Israel stance isn’t a coincidence. AIPAC’s members lobby for a strong US-Israel relationship. It has spent decades explaining that it is in America’s best interest to ally with a strong and secure Israel. It has brought thousands of members of Congress to Israel to see firsthand the facts on the ground. While many of these elected officials were Pro-Israel when they ran for office, it is AIPAC’s trips and strong relationship that makes Israel as a priority for these Congressional members. It is also the only Pro-Israel organization that works effectively with both parties.
While there are many important issues that affect Israel, first and foremost is its security. America’s annual $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel ensures Israel’s security. AIPAC is the only organization to prioritize lobbying for this aid. Every other organization, from the left’s J-Street to the right’s ZOA, relies on AIPAC’s efforts to ensure Congresspeople hear why this aid is so crucial to America’s security interests.
Effective advocacy for Israel isn’t about social media posts or strongly worded full page advertisements in major newspapers. Talking into an echo chamber of other Pro-Israel Zionists doesn’t advance Israel’s security needs. Advocating for Israel is about making sure Pro-Israel legislation gets passed. As an Israel advocacy educator, I teach my students that their advocacy must produce results. It is AIPAC that works towards that goal. AIPAC’s priority of getting legislation passed is the reason I’ll be helping chaperone over 100 teenagers from all over America at this year’s conference. AIPAC is Israel’s best friend in America and as an American living in Israel, I’m grateful for its staff’s efforts. They are true American Patriots and Zionist heroes.