AIPAC's Effort To Reach Out to Liberals Is Doomed to Failure

Avoiding the Main Issues and Ignoring Palestinians Won't Fly

Senator Robert Menendez Speaks at a recent AIPAC conference.
getty images
Senator Robert Menendez Speaks at a recent AIPAC conference.

By Alan Elsner

Published April 01, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

News that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee wants to reach out more to Democrats and progressives inspires mixed emotions.

On one hand, it’s good that the pre-eminent pro-Israeli lobbying organization is coming around to recognizing that liberals are assets to pro-Israel advocacy. But the way it’s going about building support for Israel among this constituency, primarily by using so-called “beyond the conflict” issues, is almost certainly doomed to failure.

By “beyond the conflict” issues, the intention is to highlight anything positive about Israel while completely ignoring mention of the Palestinians or the occupation. Thus, one could play up Israel’s social welfare safety net, its success in research and development and in information technology startups, its drip agriculture technology and aid to developing nations, and its relatively inclusive attitude toward gay men and lesbians — to give but a few examples.

Some Israeli diplomats have been pushing this approach for years, promoting tours to Israel that include visits to electric car startup, Better Place, near Herzliya, tours of the desalination plants in Hadera or Ashkelon, and visits to the Negev to see a solar energy park.

Almost every day, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem sends out information on these topics, as well as on Tel Aviv nightlife, pop music, the booming gay scene — anything other than settlements and the occupation.

All these projects are interesting and worthy in their own right — but none will challenge progressives’ unease with Israel. The simple truth is, we will never get “beyond the conflict” until we solve the conflict. The argument will always boil down to the way Israel treats the Palestinians and whether it truly desires peace and will do what it takes to achieve it.

In focus groups that I have observed, the response of participants when told of Israel’s prowess in social or economic policy or technological innovation can be boiled down to this: “If you’re so smart, why can’t you solve the Palestinian problem?”


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!
  • 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.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • 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.