8 Reflections on AIPAC 2015

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....

I recently attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C. Although I'm not the biggest believer in the effectiveness of their efforts (putting in mildly), who wouldn't want the opportunity to shmooze with 16,000 other folks (many of them Jews) who are actively supportive of Israel (even if not in the most efficient way). 

The following is a list of thoughts I had from the experience (this is the 3rd year in a row that I have attended after a 15 year absence):

1. 16,000 people is alot of people. I didn't realize exactly how many until I watched them all waiting in line to hear Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech. I was eating breakfast while comfortably seated. It seems to me that physically living in Israel eliminates any potential guilt from not being physically present at such a speech. 

2. The protesters outside. There weren't that many of them, probably less than 100 at most. Keep in mind that there were 16,000 pro-Israel supporters inside the building. It wouldn't have bothered me if these people (being generous) were there to protest AIPAC, but mainly they were there to protest the very existence of the State of Israel through all kinds of slander and idiocy. For this reason, I do think they should have been confronted. (I did: scroll to the end:  http://www.commdiginews.com/politics-2/aipac-preserving-americas-alliance-with-israel-37170/#Y3ekHzOk6Mj2aXUz.99). Of course there were a few "hasidic" protesters as well, but every community has mental health issues.

3. The schedule of events once again tilted leftward, but one bright ray of light was the inclusion of Prof. Eugene Kontorovich in the schedule. He wasn't talking about the legality of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (he does so here: http://www.torahcafe.com/jewishvideo.php?vid=33fb484b5), but his speaking on the potential impact of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was great and very well received by the many participants that were fortunate enough to have attended. Room was packed and I hope this sends a message for him to have a larger venue next year. 

4. Susan Rice and Samantha Power were sent by President Obama to speak and their pathetic speeches were not aggressively booed or otherwise protested - that was disappointing.

5. An AIPAC official made a statement condemning a newspaper advertisement by Shmuely Boteach that had criticized Susan Rice for her treatment of Israel. I thought that was pretty pathetic and self-righteous. Doesn't seem to me that its AIPAC's place to apologize for other people's opinions/actions simply because they are Jewish. Oh, and its America, so freedom of speech has historically been celebrated.  

6. While on the subject of Boteach, he put on an INCREDIBLE event at the same time as the AIPAC Conference with Mr. Elie Wiesel and Senator Ted Cruz speaking about the danger of a nuclear Iran. The event took place on Capitol Hill and was attended by the Adelsons and the Falics - two of the most prominent Jewish philanthropic families that have ever existed. Mr. Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA - www.zoa.org) was also present, as were about 200 others. Very, very impressive event. Unlike at AIPAC, the protesters were put in their place.

7. The number of religiously observant attendees at AIPAC clearly continues to climb. There were well over 500 for mincha on one of the days. Is this a good thing? Hard to say. As of now, I don't perceive of these religious attendees having any noticeable influence on AIPAC policy or programming. (Although the food is all kosher, so that's good. Wish that was a given, but clearly ain't at other such events). I certainly hope that these religious attendees aren't giving too much money to AIPAC, when they should be giving it to organizations like the Israel Land Fund, One Israel Fund, Ateret Cohanim, ELAD (Ir Dovid), Regavim and other "right-wing" groups that create actual facts on the ground and have a clear impact on the political situation of the Land of Israel. 

8. As I mentioned in a previous blog about my personal experiences with the American Jewish scene, (/Blogs/Message.aspx/6593#.VP8IG_yUeH4) the overwhelming majority of Jewish people at AIPAC were lovely people who are sincerely committed to a strong and secure Israel. If only they had better leadership to steer them to actually accomplishing that! 

Will I be at AIPAC again next year? Not sure yet. I know where I'll be next Tuesday - voting as "right" as I can and I encourage everyone else to do the same!!!

Ben Packer

Old City of Jerusalem