Thursday, January 1, 2009 Leave a Comment
by Rabbi David Zaslow
In the past year and a half I have approved of the insertion of a series of full-color brochures for our synagogue newsletter which are produced and paid for by AIPAC. AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is the leading lobby organization in Washington, D.C., and its mission is to foster support for Israel by American elected officials. It is a non-partisan lobby group, and it’s supporters include liberal and conservative elected officials (e.g. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, John McCain, and everyone in between). Identical inserts have gone into hundreds of synagogue newsletters throughout the nation.
Why is such a lobby group respected by both Left and Right? Because it provides highly accurate, objective facts without partisan spin. AIPAC has a mission to support any elected Israeli government: left or right, Likud, Kadima, Labor, etcetera. When our elected representatives ask for “just the facts” about Israel, AIPAC has a reputation of delivering accurate and unbiased data.
A few members of our wonderful synagogue have expressed concern about the perception that our synagogue is supporting a Washington lobby group. I want to make clear as a shul we officially support no lobby group. As the most recent insert stated, “the views of AIPAC do not represent any official position of the Havurah.” But AIPAC’s unconditional support for Israel does represent my personal viewpoint, and that’s is why I have been honored to authorize the inserts for our readers.
In a perfect world I wish we didn’t need lobby groups at all, but our elected officials have become dependent (for better or worse) on lobbyists to provide them with information. Like it or not, that’s our system. There is a feminist lobby and a tobacco lobby; a pro-life lobby and a prochoice lobby. There is a Wisconsin cheese lobby and there may even be a “bring the Dodger’s back to Brooklyn” lobby – which I would also support!
Israel, as we are all aware, is under many kinds of attack. Kassam rockets have been fired into Israel on a regular basis from Gaza since 2000 (more than 500 in the past year alone killing innocent Israeli civilians in cities like Sederot and Ashkelon). Large quantities of arms are continually smuggled into Gaza from Iran through the Egyptian border with Gaza. There is a new buildup of short range missiles in southern Lebanon. Plus, verbal rockets of slander get fired against the very existence of Israel every day in much of the Arab press. Israel, like any nation, is imperfect and deserves appropriate criticism for aspects of its policies. Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, but criticism of Israel using standards that are not applied to any other nation on earth need to be carefully reviewed for prejudice…and that’s the job of AIPAC.
When the United Nations declared that “Zionism is racism” under Resolution 2279 in 1975 AIPAC stood up and explained that if Zionism is racism then any nation’s independence must also be considered racist. If France or Jordan has the right to exist then so does Israel. After sixteen years he U.N. finally revoked its absurd resolution – but the damage had already been done.
In recent years Jimmy Carter wrote a book with the inflammatory title “Palestine – Peace Not Apartheid.” Profs. Walt and Mearsheimer wrote a frightful book which distorts the reality of the Israel lobby. A teacher’s union in England tried to get away with boycotting of Israeli scholars when no other scholars are boycotted from terrorist-sponsoring nations like Syria or Iran. Mainstream American denominations (e.g., Presbyterian) divest themselves of stocks from companies that do business with Israel but not from companies who do business with regimes like those ruling China or Egypt. Other denominations (Episcopal and Methodist) are currently debating whether to adopt this kind of Israel-only divestment scheme.
AIPAC is not a partisan political organization. It is simply an effective lobbying group that stands up for Israel on behalf of all of us who want to see peace in the Middle East. It answers the Carters, Walts, and Mearsheimers of our country with cool, factual data. It’s okay to wish we didn’t need lobbying groups (I certainly wish that), but it’s not okay to say Israel should not be represented by lobbyists when there are foreign lobbies for most every other nation on the planet. If there is going to be a strong Egyptian and Saudi lobby surely there should be a strong Israeli lobby as well. If we are going to criticize and exaggerate the power of the Israeli lobby without a word about other powerful lobbies then we are coming very close to anti-Semitism. I am thankful to G-d that AIPAC exists to defend the spiritual homeland that we, as American Jews, so dearly cherish, and that most Americans cherish as a dear ally. In the spirit of education I hope you appreciate the value of the AIPAC newsletter inserts. To learn more about AIPAC.