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.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.