Thoughts on AIPAC 2016 and Purim Parallels

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

Happy Purim!

I recently returned from Washington, D.C. from the AIPAC Policy Conference.  I didn't attend as a participant. Instead, I set up a table with signs outside and distributed "right-wing" literature. Of course this would never be tolerated inside AIPAC. Besides being able to spread a message I think is important, I feel like I was able to pretty accurately observe many aspects of  the Conference, from just across the street. 

Here are my general thoughts on the Conference:

-The Participants. As is well known, the number of participants has greatly increased over the past few years (from a few thousand to 18,000). Whereas, in the past AIPAC respresented the pro-Israel "activists" of the American Jewish Community, today AIPAC clearly represents a more accurate representation of the American Jeiwsh Community as a whole. And the trends are clear: more Orthodox, more Sephardic, more right-wing. The older participants - over 50, Ashkenazic and secular - are quickly becoming a small minority. In the past AIPAC could probably count on these old white folks for significant contributions and loyalty, but the younger, more religious crowd gives to many Jewish causes that will aggressively compete with AIPAC. 

-The Protests. Since I was outside, I got to see the protests and the protesters up close - real up close. My stand was attacked by what appeard to be poor white trash meth-heads. No idea how they found their way to this "event", but they were clueless about Israel and just there looking for violence. 

I was able to speak to some of the Arab and leftist protesters. On the whole, the Arabs were purely emotional and non-sensible and the leftists were easily pacified by actual facts and my statements of personal oppo‎sition to inconsistencies in Israeli Government policies. One example: Protester - "Israel is the Jewish State, are there any other countries in the world defined by religion"? My response: "Yes, all Arab countries are officially Muslim". End of that conversation. Another: Protester: "Israel is systematically pushing Arabs out of their houses and replacing them with Jews". My response: "I'm not aware of single example in recent decades when Arabs were pushed out of houses that they legally owned so that Jewish could move in. Can you cite any specific example?" Silence. 

The image of thousands and thousands of scared Jews hiding inside a building while Arabs raged outside is the polar opposite of the current geo-political situation in the Middle East. Its also a pretty accurate depiction of the contrast between Israeli Jews and American ones. 

-Trump. Trump was great. (Video here) No way around it. He nailed it. Called out Obama for what he is AND got huge applause. Undoubtedly most of that applause was from from those folks mentioned before: the young, Orthodox/Sephardic Jews. Must have infuriated Obama. Incredible parallel and definitely something amazing to ponder on Purim. 

-The Future. The future will not be like the past and its already here. AIPAC is being attacked by the evil J-Street from the left and is being "infiltrated" by the right. Unfortunately, the current Orthodox "rabbinic leadership" that gleefully attends AIPAC has not chosen to take stands on any issues of substance as of yet. Instead, they enjoy being wined and dined (all kosher l'mehadrin food at the banquets - another Purim parallel) and emphatically praised for bringing so many of their congregants to the Conference. Their consistent response to this: pledges to bring even more the following year. This cannot last. How long will those Rabbis sit there quietly while speakers (like Biden and Clinton and many others in the break-out sections) excoriate their fellow Jews, relatives and friends for living, working, studying and worshipping in the "Settlements"?!!!!

I won't sit there quietly for even one second and that's why I was outside. 

Happy Purim,

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem