The latest pro-Israel primary funding battle was another victory for AIPAC in Maryland. Next stop: Michigan. Is it good for the Jews?
And yet, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, should have been able to navigate this minefield a little more gracefully. The lobby, known for its political savviness, has demonstrated its mastery of political nuance in the past, knowing exactly how far it can go in stepping on the toes of one side (usually the Democrats) without alienating it altogether. AIPAC has shown its ability to remain a welcome guest and a trusted adviser regardless of the party occupying the White House or holding the majority in Congress.
This week, however, was different.
J Street, the left-leaning pro-Israel lobby, wrapped up its three-day conference in Washington, DC last week. In an email to supporters summing up the meeting (and making a pitch for donations), the group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami announced, “We’ve changed the conversation” about Israel, noting that the conference brought the issue of Israel to the Democratic presidential race agenda and that candidates have discussed, among other issues, their plans to “employ U.S. leverage to combat settlement expansion.” Or, in other words, J Street made using American foreign aid to Israel into an issue Democrats are willing to fight for.
For many young adults, going on a Taglit Birthright Israel trip is an integral part of the Jewish experience. But the trip has also proven controversial, and J Street recently announced its own free trip.
Brooke Davies spent ten summers at Camp Ramah, confronted anti-Semitism routinely as a child in the South, and fell in love with Israel as a teenager. She also had a close call with terrorism, less than two years ago, when a young boy attempted to stab her in Jaffa. But when became a national leader in J Street U, she faced opposition from the Jewish community and even from those in her family. Now she is reconsidering her relationship with the Jewish community altogether.