AIPAC Seeks To Unite Pro-Israel Forces in Multicultural Big Tent

Rabbis, Pastors and Choirs Welcome — Even Liberals

aipac

By Ron Kampeas

Published March 04, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — You’ve got your rousing church choir, your multi-denominational trio of rabbis quoting Torah, your montages of Israelis and Palestinians coming together and, above all, your pleas to please, please, please be nice to one another.

Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, Jew, Christian, black, white, Hispanic – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee wants you all to feel welcome under its big, pro-Israel tent.

That was the resounding theme of this week’s annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington.

Expansive outreach, of course, is nothing new for AIPAC. But in the wake of battles over Iran sanctions legislation that pitted the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse against the White House, many congressional Democrats and liberals more generally, AIPAC’s traditional emphasis on Israel as a bipartisan issue has taken on added urgency.

“We must affirm bipartisanship in our own ranks if we want support for Israel to be championed by Democrats and Republicans alike,” Michael Kassen, AIPAC’s chairman, said at the conference’s outset on Sunday. “AIPAC’s political diversity is critical to our continued success.”

AIPAC in recent weeks has been bruised by deep differences between Republicans and most Democrats over how best to deal with Iran while nuclear talks are underway. Republicans back new sanctions as a means of strengthening the United States’ hand in the talks, and many congressional Democrats, heeding the White House, oppose them, saying they could scuttle not only talks with Iran but the international coalition that brought the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table.

AIPAC had been working to bring a new Iran sanctions bill to a Senate vote until backing down last month after it became clear that it lacked enough Democratic support to overcome a promised presidential veto. In the aftermath, Republicans were angry with AIPAC for backing away from its push for a vote, while congressional Democrats resented AIPAC’s pressure on them to break with President Obama on the issue.

The result has been an unusual vacuum for the lobby: The thousands of activists who headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday were not advocating for any new legislation. Instead they were seeking signatories for letters from lawmakers in both chambers asking Obama to make sure that Iran complies with the nuclear inspection and verification regimes mandated by the U.N. Security Council.

Additionally, they will advocate for a bill that would enhance security assistance to Israel, something they had already championed a year ago. That bill has been delayed in part because of difficulties with a provision that would allow Israeli citizens to enter the United States without visas.

The activists will also seek additional sponsors for the Iran sanctions bill, although they will not press for a quick vote.

At the policy conference, AIPAC officials did not shy from tough talk when it came to Iran. Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s CEO, focused his speech Sunday morning on countering the Obama administration arguments. He took aim particularly at Obama’s claim that new sanctions could upend the negotiations. “Pressure brought Iran to the table, and only increasing pressure could bring about a deal,” he said.


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!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • 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.
  • 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.