As an AIPAC supporter — and a lifelong Democrat — I have to say that it feels like criticism of the pro-Israel organization is getting out of control. Opponents use the name AIPAC as if it’s the embodiment of some sinister, dark money cabal. “That candidate takes AIPAC money,” they’ll say, as if that fact alone somehow reveals that the person is morally corrupt.
It’s time to push back on this nonsense.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that people who are anti-Israel or antisemitic are not fans of AIPAC. Call it a hunch.
That’s not to say, of course, that all critics of AIPAC are anti-Israel or antisemitic. AIPAC can be legitimately criticized, just like any other advocacy group. Same with Israel. Of course some of Israel’s actions can be criticized (something Israelis do everyday, by the way) and that doesn’t make one anti-Israel.
But criticism based on facts is one thing. Criticism based on a false and reckless narrative about AIPAC — including those with a not-so-hidden agenda — must be called out.
So, for those unfamiliar with AIPAC and what it does, a brief factual refresher course:
For starters, AIPAC is a lawful American advocacy organization operating under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, just like a multitude of other advocacy groups in this country. Its members are U.S. citizens who support the organization’s mission to “encourage and persuade the U.S. government to enact specific policies that create a strong, enduring and mutually beneficial relationship with our ally Israel.” It just so happens that millions of Americans and the vast majority of members of Congress believe in that mission.
AIPAC is, in fact, not one of the top 10 lobbyist groups in the U.S. AIPAC employees spend their time supporting legislation that advances its mission. In the recent past they successfully lobbied for financing for Iron Dome, which no doubt saved thousands of Israel’s lives last year when Hamas launched over 4,000 rockets across Israel. Currently, AIPAC is working on a variety of practical legislative measures, including expanding regional cooperation between Israel and its Arab partners in the areas of missile defense, targeting suppliers of Iranian drones, exploring scientific collaboration between American and Israeli institutions working on post-traumatic stress disorder, and combating the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel.
AIPAC is and always has been fiercely bipartisan. Since its inception, AIPAC has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle. Each bill it supports is jointly co-sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican. Bipartisanship isn’t window dressing for AIPAC; it’s at the core of who they are and vital to their existence. The solidarity of Democrats and Republicans coming together is on full display at the groups’ Policy Conference. Lawmakers — including those who disagree on most everything — agree on the issue of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and the vital role that AIPAC plays. It’s actually a beautiful thing to witness.
AIPAC is not a representative of Israel. It’s not run by Israel. It doesn’t accept money from Israel. It takes no direction from the Israeli government and it stays out of Israeli elections. AIPAC is hardly Israel’s puppet master. This is an absurd and baseless theme of the anti-AIPAC crowd. If you don’t like a particular Israeli policy, blaming AIPAC for it is ridiculous.
AIPAC does the same thing that unions, interest groups and other political action committees do when it comes to contributing to candidates who support their issues. Yes, money in politics is out of control — I personally support an overhaul of the entire system of campaign financing — but the fact is that AIPAC plays strictly by the rules.
AIPAC has long been on record as supporting a two-state solution in the Middle East. It does not, however, dictate to an independent country how best to accomplish that. Israeli domestic issues are for Israelis to decide, just like any other country.
The fact is that Israel is a tiny (New Jersey size) country surrounded by millions of people committed to its destruction. It is the homeland of the Jewish people with ties to the land going back 3,000+ years. Yet from the day the State of Israel was established 74 years ago, it has been in a literal state of war. Many groups and countries — Hamas, Hezbolah, Iran — make no secret of their aim to wipe Israel off the map. Iran's Supreme Leader had called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that “will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.” We should take him at his word.
Those who seek to undermine AIPAC are unwilling to publicly acknowledge an inconvenient truth: that U.S. support of the Middle East’s only democracy not only serves our interests but is critical to Israel’s security. Say what you wish about AIPAC, but there's no doubt that it can and should be credited with contributing to Israel’s survival. Perhaps that’s exactly what some of the haters find so objectionable.
AIPAC is far from perfect, and doesn’t claim to be. Its task — supporting policies that create a mutually beneficial relationship between the U.S. and Israel — is monumentally challenging. There is no such thing as easy solutions to the age old complexities of the Middle East, and Jews will always disagree on the best way to support Israel. That’s what we do.
But at a minimum, we can counter the vitriol against AIPAC — and other pro-Israel groups — with facts. Those with hostile agendas will deliberately advance false and dangerous narratives, but we can and should be equipped with enough knowledge to staunchly and unapologetically correct their falsehoods.
To paraphrase Rabbi Hillel, If not us, then who?