The American Israel Public Affairs Committee started its conference by highlighting the importance of diversity, but then there was a lot of pushback against recent suggestions by people in the left-wing that AIPAC is up to no good, Vos Iz Neais reports.
The strong pushback comes not just as a show of support for the longstanding and storied relationship between the United States and Israel but as a way of saying loudly that people need to be careful of falling down a slippery slope into anti-Semitism.
By: Ryan Quinn
Plenty of people there said “I am AIPAC,” and people of all stripes were proudly saying that sentiment. Vos Iz Neias found one student in high school who told the news outlet why she at her age is at the conference. “When people say my generation is losing faith in Israel I am an example of why they are wrong.”
Britain had a presence at the conference with a member of parliament, Joan Ryan. “Over the past four years, Britain’s Labour party, of which I’ve been a member for 40 years, has been transformed,” she said during her speech. “Once a close friend of Israel and an unwavering ally of British Jews, it’s been taken over by the far left.” She talked about how she “walked away from the Labour Party” because she felt it was the right thing to do.
“We must condemn anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism unequivocally wherever we find it, whenever we find it,” she added.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) talked about how he is “not Jewish, nor do I do represent a large Jewish constituency. But I have visited Israel fifteen times, and I have seen the courage of its people and their enduring spirit to make their country flourish.”
He said that without question, “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So when someone accuses American supporters of dual loyalty, I say: accuse me.”
The House majority leader appeared to be taking a shot at one of his own, Rep, Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who, among a swirl of other anti-Semitic remarks, said in a recent interview that some American Jews may have dual loyalties, which taps into an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s CEO, opened the event by saying “the scurrilous charge of dual loyalty is a signal, and that signal amplified by social media is now empowering people who have long opposed our cause, our movement, and frankly everything we have built.” During the morning speech, he continued by saying that “when they try to silence us we speak up, and when they tell us to sit down we stand up, we stand up,” defiantly adding “We. Stand. Up.”
Ambassador Ron Dermer spoke to the conference too, speaking about some of the challenges the two countries face and why their continued support for each other and more public support is so important for Israel and the United States. Dermer also said that his “proudest moment” was when then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) went against the wishes of former President Barack Obama by inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give a joint address to Congress only a few weeks before the Israeli election. Dermer loved when Netanyahu spoke out against the Iran nuclear accords that the Obama administration, working with about a handful of other nations, arranged with Iran so that the country would not be able to obtain nuclear weapons. President Donald Trump has since declared his intentions to end the deal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who may be running for president in 2020, made an appearance at the event and showed his solidarity with Israel. “The vast majority of Democrats support the State of Israel. The vast majority of Progressives support the State of Israel. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
There was a nice moment of respect for the late war hero, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) when former Sen. Joe Lieberman and Meghan McCain did a tribute to a man that Lieberman could call a great friend and colleague and McCain could call the greatest dad for which a daughter could ask. The moment demonstrated the AIPAC community’s willingness to take the time to memorialize and pay tribute to the war hero while keeping his spirit and strong pro-Israeli positions close to heart.
The conference continues tomorrow and concludes on Tuesday.