AIPAC conference 2019
After three days of bumping into hundreds of Israel supporters at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.; attending sessions on the cultural and scientific achievements that come out of the Jewish state; the philosophical, political and security dilemmas that confront Israel; the rise of anti-Semitism and the BDS movement; and the complicated and evolving relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community– including the vexing challenge of maintaining bipartisan political support for the Jewish state– I think I’ve figured out the key value of this annual 18,000-people schmoozefest, in addition to the obvious benefit of going home with hundreds of business cards.
It is this: The Israel conversation in America needs this conference.
Over the past decade or so, much of the Jewish conversation on Israel has been hyper-polarized and emotional. Criticism of the right-wing policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often descended into bitterness and contempt. From their end, Bibi supporters, who are usually also President Trump supporters, have shown how they
can be equally bitter and contemptuous. It’s a dynamic of mutual animosity and isolation.
Into this highly charged and unproductive atmosphere comes the AIPAC conference, as a way, perhaps, of calling an annual time-out for reflection on both the value and complexity of Israel.
While you’ll hear criticism of Israeli policies from individual panelists at some of the many breakout sessions, that’s not the main purpose of the conference. The overriding purpose, as I see it, is to encourage supporters of Israel to stay engaged, and to find their own way of staying engaged, for the simple reason that it’s good for Israel and it’s good for America.
There’s so much going on at the conference that one can easily punch holes here and there, especially if the sessions you pick are not to your liking. But maybe I got lucky, because I attended a session on Shabbat that moved me enough that I felt that session alone was
worth the whole trip.
“Compromise doesn’t mean a betrayal of your truth,” was the line that stuck with me. Tal Becker, a scholar and Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, was speaking about how human beings are wired to be tribal. To elevate from a tribal morality to a meta morality, he said, takes work. It takes “thinking slow.” But when you get there, he assured us, compromise becomes an opportunity to access a “higher truth” that is difficult to see when we think fast and tribal. Becker was making a compelling moral case for something that has gone horribly out of fashion these days– listening and honoring the other side.
I felt a sense of liberation coming out of his session. The complexity didn’t phase me; it stayed with me. It freed me to think further.
Not everyone will draw the same conclusions from their experience at AIPAC, but this was mine: The conference offers a kaleidoscope of stories and issues and discussions about Israel and the Israel-American relationship that remind us why it all matters and why we should care.
And of course, there are those stacks of business cards we bring home with us, which no doubt will add complexity to our lives.
A 2018 demonstration against antisemitism in Berlin. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1% since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the report shows. The country’s citizens also include 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% of “others,” including Christians and those of other minority groups.
A women holds up a sign against anti-Semitism at a rally in New York City on Sept. 22, 2019. Photo: Rhonda Hodas Hack.
JNS.org – Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of City Hall in New York on Sunday, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other municipal leaders, as well as those on the national level, to act against antisemitism and the wave of antisemitic hate crimes taking place against the Orthodox Jewish community.
The beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, ushering in the Jewish year of 5780, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released its traditional end-of-the-year findings.
Israel’s population now stands at 9.092 million people — 6.744 million (74.2 percent) of whom are Jews, with 1.907 million (21 percent) Arabs and 441,000 (4.8 percent) listed as “other.”
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason. Photo: Instagram.
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason play Pertshik and Hodl, whose love story takes them all the way to Siberia in the award-winning show by the National Yiddish Theatre.
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Israel must, in the most blunt and clear way possible, illustrate to Washington that the prosperity of Jordan is a first-rate Israeli security and strategic interest.” — Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy at “Between Jerusalem and Amman: 25 Years Since the Signing of the Peace Agreement Between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Institute for National Security Studies, Sept. 25, 2019.
A thought came to mind the other day.
For all the bluster about Judaism and anti-Semitism in America, I am not convinced that far-out-left and liberal young Jews, who have been very strident and even threatening on Israel-related issues and local American political battles, have done much on the ground to confront and quash, one way or another, attacks on Jews. They have portrayed themselves as gliding along a moral highway but have permitted immoral actions to exist quite close to home, far from Gaza (did any of them recite a public Kaddish in the town square for murdered and injured Jews, or their damaged and desecrated property)?
One of the hallmark features of Yom Kippur are the communal sins which we need to repent for. Most Jews focus on what we have done personally towards G-d and towards others. Little thought is given to how we could be better as a community. Or the sins we bear as a community.
However, the communal recitation of the Al Chet, repeated over and over on Yom Kippur is to drive the point home that we are responsible for one another
Incoming freshman Member of Knesset from the leftist, Democratic Union list, Yair Golan, did it again. Golan’s constant delegitimization of his political opponents on the right, smacks of the same delegitimization that tyrants, dictators, demagogues and assorted totalitarians always use, just before the Putsch.
In that regard, he’s right when he said recently, “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that radicals with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.” Think “
As Israeli frustration mounts about violence coming out of Gaza, the idea of a ground invasion, and once and for all to finish with Hamas aggression, becomes more appealing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this approach, saying, “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime.” While sympathetic to this impulse, I worry that too much attention is paid to tactics and not enough to goals. The result could be harmful to Israel.