Some 18,000 people, including hundreds from Atlanta, met in Washington this week for the premier annual event of Israel advocacy, the AIPAC Policy Conference, and got quite a show.
Alan Dershowitz showed the world what members of a Conexx mission to Israel saw in November: a machine that pulls drinking water out of thin air.
More important, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley talked tough in a meaningful way, demonstrating, as she said, that there’s a new sheriff in town at the United Nations. Israel still has far more enemies than friends in that global bureaucracy, but the Palestinians should now recognize that the Obama administration’s acceptance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 in December was an aberration in U.S. policy that will not soon be repeated.
That clarity is crucial because the Palestinian leadership, such as it is, will enter bilateral talks only when it understands that all other paths toward statehood are blocked. If Mahmoud Abbas’ endless four-year term as president ever ends, we hope his successor will see only the path of direct, two-party negotiations remains.
All of which makes us wonder about the thinking of the thousand or so protesters who gathered to oppose AIPAC. To those Jewish protesters, led by the anti-occupation movement IfNotNow, AIPAC is the bogeyman, the embodiment of a monolithic, inhuman enemy known collectively as the Jewish Establishment, an entity that they insist doesn’t represent them or the overwhelming majority of American Jews.
The resistors see the establishment as a blindly pro-Israel, pro-occupation, anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim thing fueled by the millions and billions of shady big donors and so devoted to Israel, right or wrong, that it aligns with alt-right anti-Semites to get more support for Israel.
It’s the kind of dark vision of abusive Jewish wealth and power that Jew-haters have long used to smear us and spark violence against us.
It’s no wonder that IfNotNow members have adopted an aggressive form of “nonviolence” that leads to arrests and violent confrontations: If those who disagree with you are all-powerful monsters thwarting the will of the majority, if they are causing oppression and suffering, what action isn’t justified against them?
That’s the danger posed by this new Jewish resistance.
We’re all for active opposition to people in power. We’re all for people exercising their rights to demonstrate and speak out — especially if we disagree with their opinions. We appreciate a vigorous debate and reject the idea that any human is right about everything all the time.
But these protesters on the left are too perfectly mirroring the worst elements of the extreme right they profess to hate. They practice for-me-or-against-me absolutism and refuse to see fellow Jews as people, refuse to see nuance, refuse to acknowledge that well-meaning, intelligent people can disagree on the means if they share a vision of the ends.
Like Israel itself, AIPAC and other Jewish institutions are far from perfect. But AIPAC, like most of the groups IfNotNow opposes, wants what’s best for Israel and the Jewish people.
Those who have different ideas about what is best should try persuasion instead of demonization, recognize that mentioning Islam and terrorism in the same breath doesn’t mean someone is Islamophobic, and understand that when we see the world in black and white, we miss most of the reality and all the beauty.