AIPAC's incredibly foolish 'designated incumbents' policy: Is it designed to benefit Democrats?designated incumbents' policy.
I am a huge AIPAC fan. There is no more important American Jewish organization. Well beyond the Jewish community AIPAC is a model of professionalism lobbying for an unqualified good. In 20 years I have barely missed an AIPAC policy conference, such is the ardor of my support. I publicly introduced my friend Mayor Cory Booker, now running for the United States senate, at an AIPAC summit in Chicago and we have jointly addressed AIPAC groups around the country.
But with 10,000 activists about to gather in DC next week for AIPAC’s annual policy conference, the organization’s definition of friendly incumbents being based solely on a lawmaker’s voting record on Israel must undergo serious review.
When I ran for Congress last year against Congressman Bill Pascrell [a Democrat. CiJ], AIPAC designated him a friendly incumbent based on his voting record for Israel aid and in favor of Iran sanctions. The problem was that Pascrell had also signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter which falsely condemned Israel for collective punishment against the Palestinians rather than soundly laying the blame at the Hamas terrorists who have turned Gaza into a launching pad to kill Israelis.
Now, I completely understand AIPAC’s policy of friendly incumbents. Why would any politician feel loyalty to AIPAC if someone who is considered more pro-Israel comes along and immediately gets their support? But my candidacy was an opportunity for AIPAC to approach Pascrell and pressure him to repudiate past statements. Israel’s battle today is not just one against bullets and bombs but against a ferocious attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state. It is a war of words and pictures and what political figures say matters.
Now, what a lone congressman opines is far less serious than the contemptible comments coming out of an incoming secretary of defense. Hagel’s broadsides against Israel are shameful and he must be called on it. American Jewry gave President Obama seventy percent of their vote. Is Hagel the reward?
In 1991 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir requested $10 billion in loan guarantees to help settle Russian Jewish immigrants. President George H. W. Bush said Israel could only have the guarantees if it froze all settlement building and guaranteed that no Russian Jews would be resettled in the West Bank. Shamir demurred and called on the American Jewish community to mobilize in support of the loan guarantees. AIPAC drafted a letter that was signed by more than 240 members of the House and 77 senators supporting the loan guarantees. On September 12, 1991, Jewish lobbyists from all over the country descended in huge numbers on Washington. President Bush famously responded with a televised press conference in which he complained that “1000 Jewish lobbyists are on Capitol Hill against little old me.”
Then, on the very next day in a speech I will never forget and at which I was present, Tom Dine, AIPAC’s Executive Director, declared thatSeptember 12, 1991 is a day that will live in infamy” as an American President had had the chutzpah to criticize the constitutionally guaranteed right to lobby our government, found in the very first amendment.It was high theater and I had chills down my spine as Dine directly challenged a sitting American president. We all know the rest of the story. Months later, the loan guarantees were approved. Bush would later receive only 12 percent of the Jewish vote and was trounced by Bill Clinton. President Bush’s son would eight years later become President of the United States and would take a completely different posture toward Israel, becoming its greatest ally ever to occupy the White House.
I also remember how, the following day, Ron Brown, Chairman of the National Democratic Committee, stood up and said that this November we had to send President Bush packing from the White House. The crowd erupted with huge applause. There was no attempt to disguise the hostility to a President whose policies were simply unfair to Israel.
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