by: Katheryn Simpson on March 10th, 2017 | 1 Comment »
For six months in 2011 and 2012, I lived just minutes from Beersheba and its Iron Dome. When the siren screamed, people would rush indoors. It stopped missiles, but the threat of rockets remained, simmering as a constant question. It wasn’t a question of if, but when we’d hear the siren again. There is no wall high enough and no dome strong enough to give Jews, Muslims, and Christians true security or peace of mind. Only justice can do that.
Still, AIPAC continues to claim that safety can be found in defense spending. In a recent tweet, AIPAC shared a recent successful test of the improved Iron Dome. They would have us believe that security can be bought. But I never saw that in Israel.
That’s why, at the end of this month, Jews will march up to AIPAC’s doorstep in both Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to make American Jews face a hard truth: AIPAC has failed to show moral Jewish leadership. Instead, for a false sense of safety, this institution — and others in the American Jewish establishment — have undermined the Jewish values of justice and dignity so critical to our own fight for equality.
AIPAC’s mission, it claims, is to work toward the security of the State of Israel. Yet now, fifty years into the Occupation, AIPAC shows no signs of understanding what a path to true security might look like, let alone of how to start traveling down it. Instead, its members gave then-candidate Trump a standing ovation when he promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that could easily —if not surely — inflame violence. AIPAC has also remained silent in the face of David Friedman’s support for non-democratic Jewish rule over all Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
In its single-minded pursuit of Israeli security, AIPAC has also been silent about the many threats against Jewish communities in America. It remained silent after the vandalism of Jewish graves in several cities, the more than one hundred bomb threats against JCCs, and the recent spike in hate crimes against Jews. For an organization concerned about the Jewish state, its leaders are noticeably silent about this rise in threats against Jews domestically, threats that appear fueled by rhetoric from the Trump administration.
Though this recent silence in the face of the bigotry and anti-Semitism of Trump’s administration is particularly chilling, AIPAC has long aligned itself with policies that undermine the possibility of peace between Jews and Muslims. In 2016, its national conference hosted Steven Emerson, a man who lied about government ‘no-go zones’ in Muslim areas, including the entire UK city of Birmingham. Nina Rosenwald, a member of its national board, supports multiple organizations that fan the flames of American Islamophobia, such as the Middle East Forum. Emerson and Rosenwald aren’t on the fringes of the organization — they are its core.
Justifying its actions by appealing to an imagined security — one that puts both Palestinian and Jewish lives in danger — AIPAC employs the undemocratic tools this “security” requires: occupation, force, and walls. And it is not alone. Though it has perhaps done more to further the Occupation than any other American Jewish institution, the majority of other establishment Jewish organizations have followed its lead. But we refuse to buy their fictions.
Our faith asks us for empathy in action, a call AIPAC has chosen to ignore. But we won’t ignore it. We represent the majority of American Jews who voted against Trump, who believe in freedom and dignity for all people: Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, and people of all races, and from all faiths. Unlike AIPAC, we are unwilling to legitimize misinformation that stigmatizes Muslims in the very way our Jewish communities were attacked for centuries. As Trump stand-in Mike Pence visits the AIPAC policy conference in late March, and as its leaders surely will applaud him, we will be in the streets, heeding the call of the Torah: welcome the stranger, for we too were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Katie Simpson is a writer and photographer based in San Francisco and a member of IfNotNow’s Bay Area Hive (chapter). Her work has been published in Femsplain and Brooklyn Magazine, among others. When not writing, she’s trying to befriend neighborhood cats. Find her online at: https://twitter.com/honest_creative
[Editor's note: Ari Bloomekatz, managing editor of Tikkun, is also a member of IfNotNow.]