AIPAC revealed we still have many friends on both sides
April 5, 2019
This morning, the AIPAC Policy Conference 2019 came to a close after a highly productive weekend. We have seen our politics becoming more divided, including on the subject of Israel. This is exemplified by Rep. Ilhan Omar who, after embroiling herself in controversy by continuously and deliberately making anti-Semitic remarks, today lashed out in a gratuitous attack against AIPAC and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Nevertheless, as we saw during this year’s conference, AIPAC’s annual event remains a strong bipartisan space that unites Americans of diverse backgrounds and beliefs in the interest of supporting one of America’s closest allies.
But while AIPAC strives to maintain bipartisanship, some in the Democratic Party seem intent on changing that. In particular, it is unfortunate several Democratic presidential hopefuls decided not to attend the AIPAC conference after the Ilhan Omar controversy. They might not have accepted MoveOn’s call to not attend the AIPAC conference or share Rep. Ilhan Omar’s bigoted views on Israel and the Jewish people, but they were apparently influenced by them.
That is why we at the American Jewish Congress commend the actions and the composure of Democrats who refused to give into this negative pressure and chose to stand with Israel and Jewish Americans at AIPAC this year.
In particular, my old friend Senator Chuck Schumer gave an impassioned speech on the ancient dangers of anti-Semitism that threaten to grow within our politics today. “When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out...When someone suggests that money drives support for Israel, we must call it out,” Sen. Schumer said. He continued, “You can be, all at once, completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel, and completely American, and we are.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio provided a much-needed perspective; as a self-described Progressive Democrat, he reminded us that true Progressive values lead to supporting Israel and the Jewish people, not opposing it. The anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric rising in the far-left is a corruption of those values. “Progressives fight oppression, progressives shelter those in danger, we embrace inclusion, we fight against exclusion,” he said. “And now, here are the facts, the Jewish people have faced thousands of years of exclusion and expulsion and violence.”
And though he is not a Democrat, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an Independent 2020 run, said in response to the MoveOn’s call for 2020 candidates to not attend the conference that “The unwillingness of the far left to even speak with people they may disagree with is one of the worst symbols of the dysfunction in Washington today. we should actively engage with those who support our longstanding alliance.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and N.Y. Congressman Eliot Engel were also among the Democratic politicians who attended the Conference, and both gave strong condemnations of anti-Semitism. It is good to know that we still have many friends on both sides, and that while the divides we see are greatly concerning, we often do not see how much unity we still have.
President, American Jewish Congress