(March 26, 2019 / JNS)
It’s nothing new, accusing Jews of “double loyalty.” We’ve heard that throughout history every time we integrated in various countries and gained influence.
Double loyalty assumes that there can be loyalty to one thing only; and that’s wrong. A person can be loyal to their family, their people, their country. There is no contradiction. Certainly not when it comes to Israeli-American relations. But these voices, which today are coming more from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, are intended to finger the Jews as a subversive element in the United States. Clearly, they are not the targets; Israel is. There is a growing sector on the American left that objects to the very idea of a Jewish state. Anti-Semitism has found a way to camouflage itself, even in the form of Jewish activists, to our disgrace. And that’s nothing new, either.
So five Democratic candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, announced that they wouldn’t be attending the annual AIPAC conference. Sanders, who is Jewish, even explained why he was boycotting it by saying he was “worried about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.” We’re used to that, as well—bigots who label everyone who doesn’’t agree with them as a “bigot,” even when they are opposing a plan that means having their country commit suicide. Thus, AIPAC found itself under immense pressure by the liberal left-wing elite.
The irony is that AIPAC is making enormous efforts not to be identified as right-wing or Republican. You can see that in its careful choice of speakers. There are almost no right-wing or conservative intellectuals. Most of the right-wing speakers at the conference are politicians. In contrast to the false propaganda, everyone I’ve talked to is convinced that the problem isn’t Israel’s policies or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The problem for the American left, including the Jews who are part of it, is Israel’s existence as the Jewish nation-state.
On Sunday, when the conference opened, AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr approached the podium to speak. His speech initially appeared apologetic, but within minutes turned from an apology into a battle cry that swept up the hall.
“The intense hatred of Israel is now creeping from the margins to the center of our politics,” he warned.
“The other side is trying to isolate us from our friends, our neighbors. … They want to starve Israel of America’s support. They want the Jewish state vulnerable and alone.”
Kohr characterized AIPAC as a civil movement that works to strengthen U.S. relations with Israel because it’s good for the United States, saying it’s a movement of heterogeneous civil activists from different faiths and cultures: homosexuals and straight; religious and secular; students and adults; labor leaders and business owners; African-American; Asian; Hispanic; veterans; and economic and social-justice leaders. “We are America!” he declared.
At the end of his speech, Kohr sounded militant: “Israel’s antagonists have decided to mount a political assault on us. In return, they must get a political response. That response must be large. It must be sweeping … Our detractors think we’re vulnerable; that we will fold when we’re pushed but they don’t know what we are made of,” he said.
Kohr said that the best response would be to expand the movement. “There are millions more supporters of Israel who aren’t involved; we need them,” he said.
Kohr ended with: “This is how we will respond to our critics: When they tell us to step back, we move forward. When they try to silence us, we speak up. And when they tell us to sit down, we stand up.”
Powerful words. The question is, is the stable majority of the Democratic Party capable of stopping the swing to the left? Rep. Ilhan Omar, with her anti-Semitic comments, is not a lone example. It’s a fact that candidates to lead the party are boycotting the biggest Jewish event in the America.
After Kohr, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez spoke and announced that his country’s embassy in Israel would be relocating to Jerusalem. He was followed by Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, who announced her government’s intention to move its own embassy to Jerusalem, our capital. She also announced that her country would stand up for Israel’s rights and the rights of the Jewish people as a whole.
That was a significant declaration, as Romania is the current president of the European Union, which objects to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and is working to condemn and pressure Israeli economically and politically. The old continent has a long tradition of tension between a near-total opposition to Jews returning to Zion, especially Jerusalem, and historic moments of enlightenment in our favor. Romania’s announcement will cause a big crack in the wall of opposition, and when it comes in such a public manner, it’s a great coup for Israel’s foreign policy.
Dror Eydar has been appointed Israeli ambassador to Italy.