Our Experience at the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference
By Jeffrey Cohen
US Director, Zehut International
This year’s AIPAC conference was the largest ever. There were more than 18,000 people milling around the Washington convention center. So many people in fact that they had to rent out the Verizon Center Arena for the keynote addresses to all of the delegates. It was quite a sight to see.
I attended the conference with Rob Muchnick and Nelson Behar. This was my first AIPAC conference and I must tell you that while it was overwhelming to see this many people come out in support of Israel, the message of the conference was underwhelming and disappointing to say the least. The message of this conference was that the two state solution is the only option and we must give away the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of our nation) to our sworn enemies in order to have peace.
I attended several “breakout sessions” on a few different topics which were formatted as panel discussions. The discussions typically had a moderator (an AIPAC staff member) and two panelists. As the questions came out about the situation in Israel and the terrorist attacks or whatever, the only answer that came from both panelists was that we needed to separate from the “Palestinians” and have “two states for two peoples”. The panelists agreed on every answer to every question! Half the time they even started their answers by saying that they agreed with everything that the other one just said! What was the point of having two panelists? Isn’t the idea of a panel discussion to find out what the differing views are on the subject and then discuss the merits and deficits of each view? In my opinion the goal here was not education and discussion, it was plain and simple “this is what we believe and we are going to shove it down your throats until you believe it too”.
In one of the panel “discussions”, Rob got up to ask a question that negated the viability of a two-state solution and a few members of the audience were audibly upset at the mere suggestion of something other than the two-state solution. Needless to say the panelists did not answer Rob’s question, they just continued to push the two-state solution regardless of whether it made sense or not.
Between sessions we spoke to a lot of people at the conference, some were in favor of the two-state solution and some were not. We questioned those that were in favor of it and asked them why they thought that now, after more than 23 years of failure, the plan would now succeed. Most could not answer the question and you could see that they now needed to think about it some more. Others whole heartedly defended the two state solution, even though they too could not answer the question.
The conference was quite an experience. It told us that so many have been convinced that the Land of Israel doesn’t really belong to the Jewish People. It told us that so many people who wholeheartedly want to help in building the Jewish state have been led to believe that in order to do so we must surrender to our enemies. It told us that there a lot of good people, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike that are looking for real Jewish Leadership in the State of Israel, but all they are finding is the “two-state (final) solution”. It told us that we have a lot of work to do.