AIPAC Not Just for Jews Anymore

Group Grows Israel Advocacy to Evangelicals and Minorities

Bigger Tent: With an eye to the future, AIPAC is expanding beyond its traditional Jewish base. Its membership now  include large numbers of blacks, Latinos, and evangelical Christians.
courtesy of aipac
Bigger Tent: With an eye to the future, AIPAC is expanding beyond its traditional Jewish base. Its membership now include large numbers of blacks, Latinos, and evangelical Christians.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 15, 2012, issue of March 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The policy conference’s program offered a medley of gatherings and sessions tailored for the various groups that now make up the pro-Israel lobby. Activities ranged from “friends in faith” discussing evangelical support for Israel to “the progressive case for Israel,” which was aimed at answering questions raised by AIPAC supporters from the liberal wing. On the sidelines and in smaller conference rooms, meetings were also held for African-American and Latino delegates.

AIPAC’s outreach effort to the African-American community has intensified in recent years and is focused mainly on a younger generation of leaders from historically black colleges. This year, AIPAC hosted at its annual conference representatives from 23 such colleges as well as from 37 Christian- and Hispanic-centered campuses.

In reaching out to non-Jewish supporters, AIPAC provides specific messaging that could resonate well with other communities. To African-American and Latino supporters, key themes include Israel’s diverse society, the absorption of Jewish immigrants from across the world, and Israel’s adherence to principles of democracy and equality. “Israel’s diversity is beautiful,” stated Brandon Jessup, an African-American AIPAC activist, in a video message produced by AIPAC. Eddie Aldrete, another activist, said in a clip made for Latino supporters, “Latinos across the country are becoming more and more of a factor, in positions of power, in positions of elected office, so it’s critical that they’ll understand why it’s important to have a positive U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Christian evangelicals are another key constituency in AIPAC’s outreach beyond the Jewish community, although this is a loose alliance. Most evangelical pro-Israel activists work under the umbrella of Christians United for Israel, a national organization that is led by the Rev. John Hagee and has more than 900,000 supporters on its lists. AIPAC hosted Hagee at its policy conference several years ago and has since made a point of holding at least one session devoted to Christian evangelical supporters. “We certainly communicate,” CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern said. “CUFI enjoys great working relations with AIPAC.” In general, pro-Israel evangelicals are considered to hold political views right of center and are seen as a stronghold of the Republican Party.

On the other end of the political spectrum, AIPAC is also trying to keep liberal Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, on board. An AIPAC official who spoke at the sidelines of the policy conference rejected the notion that the organization has lost much of its liberal base to J Street, a competing pro-Israel lobby known for its dovish views. The official said that if anything, liberal activists are turning away from the issue of Israel altogether and are not seeking a different kind of political approach.

“Jews in America now mirror the political spectrum in Israel, and AIPAC, therefore, doesn’t have quite the same following as it had before,” Sarna said. “AIPAC’s clout will grow to the extent it can bring in new coalition partners.”

AIPAC would not provide a breakdown of participants in its policy conference based on faith or ethnicity. An unscientific survey of the audience made clear that American Jews still remain the overwhelming majority, serving as the backbone of the pro-Israel lobby. AIPAC’s board, which reflects the group’s largest donors, is made up entirely of Jewish activists.

AIPAC does not contribute to politicians and does not endorse candidates. It does, however, encourage its members to become involved and to make sure their local representatives on all levels show support for Israel. Part of this involvement also includes making political contributions by individuals, and there, too, the lobby feels a changing trend that requires diversification of the ranks of supporters.

The cost of an average election campaign for the House of Representatives has doubled in the past two decades. Similarly, a Senate race now costs 60% more than it did 20 years ago. In terms of lobbying, this means activists need to give more in order to be noticed by candidates. “The costs of campaigns are skyrocketing, but the number of activists has not been skyrocketing,” Bassin said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.