The world of PACs — political action committees — that is. In the past 10 years, the political world has changed dramatically, and AIPAC found itself swimming upstream in a way that necessitated it to reorganize the way it operates.
Unsurprisingly, after announcing support for a gaggle of elected officials on all sides of the aisle and issues, AIPAC has faced fierce criticism for offering financial backing to people who do not align with core views. Even Knesset members spoke out, highlighting a rift in the usually shared support AIPAC enjoys on both sides of the pond.
For some, that is supporting Democrats who voted in favor of the JCPOA, also known as the the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. For others, that is giving dollars to Republicans who looked to subvert democracy and the smooth transition of power on January 6th.
These two sides resonate with me since I was passionately against the JCPOA and am fiercely disgusted by anyone who looked to steal the legitimate election away from Joe Biden.
So how do I circle that square with AIPAC, an organization that aligns neatly with my love of America and Israel, and its bipartisan mission?
For me, it is less complicated than it seems.
In Ukraine we are watching with fright how a nuclear-armed madman can act with impunity because of his ability to retaliate with destructive weapons. If Iran had the protection of a nuclear umbrella, the results could be catastrophic for Israel, America, and all democracies. Yet some of my elected officials, Democrats whom I call friends, voted to support the JCPOA. Regardless of what I think, these members of Congress still will be the ones to vote on future Iran- and Israel-related issues. If AIPAC boycotts them, who will be talking to them about the importance of these issues? How will that impact their future votes? What about garnering their support for future funding for Iron Dome and David Sling and other defensive systems that help Israel?
This is how we keep the pro-Israel agenda front and center.
I firmly believe that if we fail to do something serious to curb gun violence in our country then we will doom our children and limit our future. But if I make gun control a prerequisite to AIPAC support, I will eliminate 70% of Congress.
That doesn’t make gun control more likely, but it does make it more likely that pro-Israel legislation dies in congressional committees. And I work with other organizations to support my gun control-related goals because that’s how they can be most impactful.
Ditto for climate change.
Ditto for women’s reproductive rights.
Ditto for voting rights.
And many other issues.
Here’s how I plan to address this conundrum:
First, we can, and I will, earmark my AIPAC political dollars to the candidates I want. It will not include any person who failed to certify the election. It will include people who chose not to impeach Trump (either time).
That is the line I am walking. You can choose your line.
Second, I will speak out louder, more vocally and more decidedly against those pushing the “big lie” so there is no ambivalence about where I stand. I will call out people like Rep. Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz and the like for their dangerous libel and the manipulative manner that they are subverting the democracy they are sworn to uphold.
This is the same strategy I employed with Black Lives Matter, because they do matter, and I marched and chanted proudly for equality for my Black brothers and sisters. And when I was done marching, I stood on a neighboring tree stump and expressed my outrage at the anti-Israel agenda within the BLM charter.
We are smart enough, sophisticated enough, and thoughtful enough to do both. We all can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Detractors of AIPAC have pounced on this moment. Their artillery was cocked and trained for the moment the endorsements were announced. Those detractors, on all sides, want to create litmus tests for politicians that will reduce the number of elected officials who are considered pro-Israel. It will lead to strictly partisan support for Israel. And ultimately, it will lead to a smaller circle of influence with people who are identical in thinking.
For the sake of Israel, that is unsustainable, unrealistic and, I dare say, un-American.
Whether BLM, with a great cause and a nasty charter, or AIPAC, supporting elected officials who support Israel even though some of those same officials are against the grain of our passions and feelings, I do not want that litmus test to define us.
So I am sticking with AIPAC. And for the future of the American and Israel, I hope you do too.
David-Seth Kirshner is senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of Closter, immediate past president of the New York Board of Rabbis, and the president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis.