DELRAY BEACH, Fla., March 22, 2016 — The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee held their annual convention recently. While several presidential candidates spoke, the news cycle quickly shifted to a terrorist bombing in Brussels.
While most of the AIPAC speeches were considered successful, speeches do not prevent terrorism. Action does. Events involving the Union of Reform Judaism risked causing the URJ and AIPAC to slide into irrelevance. AIPAC faces pressure from all sides and may not be able to withstand it much longer.
The anti-Israel left attacks AIPAC as a right-wing war machine. To weaken AIPAC, Arabs funded J-Street, an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel under the guise of peace. AIPAC itself claims to be non-partisan, an assertion that is frequently challenged. AIPAC is not as far left as J-Street in the same way CNN is not MSNBC. They are all left of center. Conservatives see AIPAC as an organization that talks tough while failing to back up the rhetoric. This makes the annual AIPAC conference a perfect gathering for Jewish Democrats. People desperately wanting to believe anything show up and believe anything.
At least AIPAC gives lip service to its non-partisan status. The URJ long ago became a full-fledged arm of the Democratic Party. URJ President Rick Jacobs threatened to lead a walkout during Donald Trump’s speech. Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, was an invited guest of AIPAC. For those wondering who would treat an invited guest in such a hostile manner, the URJ would. Jacobs objects to Trump’s comments about illegal immigration, which has absolutely nothing to do with Israel. Like many liberal Jews, Jacobs is motivated by social issues. He was determined to use his position at the URJ to inject his socially liberal platform into a convention that was supposed to be about one singular issue: Israel.
Jacobs was on the verge of treating the AIPAC convention with the same disdain that Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter treat gatherings they storm. While Jacobs failed to derail Trump’s speech, AIPAC and URJ could have their tax-exempt status eliminated if they continue to engage in hyper-partisan behavior.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked off the partisanship with a rousing speech that received significant applause. The same crowd that still insists President Barack Obama is pro-Israel now demands that Hillary be accepted at face value. Mrs. Clinton in the past shared a warm embrace with Suha Arafat. This was only moments after Mrs. Arafat accused Jews of poisoning the water and murdering Palestinian children. Clinton also played a major role in a failed effort to weaken and topple Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As First Lady of Arkansas, she referred to adviser Dick Morris as a “Jew-bastard.” With one speech, an entire history of anti-Israel actions can be wiped away. The biggest applause came when Clinton compared Trump to Adolf Hitler. Remember, liberal Jews are tolerant, open-minded clear thinkers.
Despite URJ efforts, Republicans were allowed to speak. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan gave a clear picture of various global threats. He noted that Israel is the first target of the Islamists, but America is the ultimate target. He called the Iran deal the worst deal in our lifetime. Iran gets something for virtually nothing.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich immediately praised Democratic President Harry Truman. Democrats will accept a Republican who praises Democrats. Kasich used liberal buzzwords, repeatedly promising to work with our allies and build coalitions. His remarks were heartfelt and appropriate for a left-of-center audience.
Then came the Trump. With one line, Trump made his intentions clear: “I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel.” He did refer to Israel as America’s “cultural brother” before turning to the Iran deal. Trump used language that made liberal Jews cringe. He attacked the “utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations.” Regarding Obama, Trump said, “He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel.” He called Hillary Clinton a “disaster” for Israel.
As much as it drove liberal AIPAC and URJ Jews crazy, Trump received a standing ovation after his remarks. Trump has given good and bad speeches. His AIPAC speech was one of his very best.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wrapped up the night. He began with the story of Purim, which Jews celebrate Wednesday night. He joked that support from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is proof that “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can still do miracles.”
Cruz gave a full-throttled defense of Israel, but AIPAC and URJ Jews on the left will never listen to a man who disagrees with abortion and gay marriage. They truly cannot comprehend the difference between Judaism and liberalism.
Cruz leveled Obama for briefly boycotting Israel by banning flights into Tel Aviv. He said, “If Iran launches a missile test, we will shoot that missile down.” He told Iran, “Either you shut down your nuclear program or we will shut it down for you.” He compared the Iran deal to Munich in 1938.
Without mentioning names, Cruz contrasted Israelis with American liberal Jews. “When neighbors are trying to drive you into the sea, you don’t have time for political correctness.” He ended his speech with a passionate “I’m Yisroel Chai.”
While the speeches were successful, AIPAC is at a serious crossroads. The URJ may be too far gone, but AIPAC has a chance to be pulled back from the brink. AIPAC’s power comes from its perceived power. Candidates insist AIPAC matters, so AIPAC matters. Anti-Semites railing against the all-powerful Israel lobby are referring to AIPAC. The truth paints a far bleaker picture.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders skipped the AIPAC conference altogether. Sanders is Jewish, but even some Jewish liberals are not completely comfortable with his cozying up to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, future candidates may be emboldened to ignore AIPAC. If Sanders wins the White House, AIPAC could become completely marginalized.
If AIPAC and the URJ want to avoid becoming a dinosaur’s horse and buggy, they have to truly become non-partisan organizations with a record of success. Attacks on Trump while whitewashing Hillary make these organizations problematic in terms of politics. Failing to stop the Iran deal shows their weakening influence on policy. The URJ refused to ever take a stand on the Iran deal. It seems the only time the URJ shows boldness is when it is planning hostile actions against Republicans. When an organization sees a Republican real estate developer as a bigger threat than Iran, the organization has lost its way.
Normally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speaking to AIPAC is major news. Once the Brussels bombing happened, Netanyahu barely garnered a mention. Had AIPAC and URJ heeded Bibi’s words in the past, Brussels may have been avoided. He has been warning the world about radical Islam for years. AIPAC and the URJ refuse to use the term radical Islam. Neither do many liberal Jews, who see Bibi as the obstacle to peace. The many liberal Jews attending AIPAC gave polite applause to Netanyahu, a much cooler reception than they gave Hillary Clinton. Again, AIPAC is supposedly non-partisan. URJ President Jacobs provides an echo chamber for liberal politicians by being more concerned about climate change and social justice.
The URJ leader chose to stay silent on the leading sponsor of terror while lashing out at a man wanting to secure America’s borders. This is not pro-Israel or Jewish behavior. It is politically liberal ideological zealotry.
AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus took to the stage to publicly condemn Trump and Cruz for criticizing Obama. She said nothing about Hillary Clinton’s comparing Trump to the German who murdered 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
If the URJ and AIPAC continue to act this way, these organizations could rapidly become anachronisms. Perhaps it may be necessary to create an organization specifically and solely dedicated to strengthening the relationship between America and Israel.
That organization was supposed to already exist. It may not.