Last week it was discovered that New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, held an off-the-record meeting with AIPAC. This caused the Jewish political left in New York to draft a letter to Mayor de Blasio expressing their disappointment over his decision to ally himself with AIPAC, as opposed to taking a harder look at the issues.
However, one notable constituency was left out of the letter: the Jewish youth of New York. So here I am, a Jewish youth of New York, to set the record straight: I do not fit AIPAC’s definition of pro-Israel, and AIPAC does not speak for me.
AIPAC speaks for allies of Israel who support the Israeli government’s right-wing policies that enable them to continue building settlements in East Jerusalem, and, up until very recently, insisted on increased sanctions for Iran, despite the fact that we are currently negotiating with them.
So, to Mayor de Blasio, I say: even though AIPAC may seem to be the dominant pro-Israel voice and describes itself as “America’s pro-Israel lobby,” it does not speak for all pro-Israel Americans. I understand that your convictions and desire to be pro-Israel are pure. But you don’t particularly need to use AIPAC’s definition of pro-Israel to win the Jewish vote, given the support that the Jewish community gave you during the mayoral elections. True, the support might not have been overwhelming (at only 34%), but you did get it.
Moreover, by making this an off-the-record event, which was a rule set by AIPAC, you are giving AIPAC more power than they need. Although I do not personally agree with AIPAC on many issues, making this meeting off-the-books is now seen as an attempt to hide your pro-Israel views in the face of your liberal supporters. Perhaps you also thought that aligning yourself with AIPAC would upset many liberal voters, especially since you fashioned yourself a champion of liberal causes in New York politics.
Mayor de Blasio: AIPAC’s definition of “pro-Israel” is not the only one out there. As a champion of liberal, populist politics make this another one of your causes. Be a voice for our community, the liberal pro-Israel community. Be a voice for change, be a voice that continues to support open discourse on college campuses, and not one that continues upon the very fine line that AIPAC tells you is pro-Israel.
If you are trying to gain support from the Jewish establishment, you can find it elsewhere, too. AIPAC does not speak for all Jews, and certainly not all Jews in New York City. We are far more diverse than the group that AIPAC represents. Please understand this. Don’t back away from being pro-Israel: embrace it; do it openly, and be proud of it. But also understand that AIPAC only represents a fraction of the Jews in this city.
And to my fellow New York youth, I say: speak up, and speak up now. Take our fellow liberal leaders’ lead, and begin drafting letters to our mayor. Show him that pro-Israel extends far beyond AIPAC’s definition, and that we can be both liberal and pro-Israel, and both pro-Israel and critical of Israel. We do not fit AIPAC’s mold, nor, perhaps, should we. Our definition of support is working toward a better, freer Israel. Our definition does not extend to full, unconditional support for every step the far-right-wing Israeli government takes.
We now have a chance to show that our support for you, as well as for Israel, is not contingent upon your support for AIPAC. We can show the mayor that our definition of pro-Israel is one that envisions a viable two-state solution, one that supports Secretary Kerry’s negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and one that works toward a more progressive and inclusive Israeli community.
Our generation is one that can begin to challenge AIPAC’s establishment views on what pro-Israel means. Now, it seems, is the time to do that. It is time to show that support of the Jewish establishment — or our generation of the Jewish establishment — is not contingent upon the support of an organization like AIPAC. Now is the time to be politically active. Now is the time to support our mayor, and to show him that we are far more diverse than AIPAC. We can show him that, if he is a champion of the young and progressive, then AIPAC should not be his ally.
Stand up. Be active. Show that your support is not contingent upon Mayor de Blasio’s support of AIPAC or one institution alone. Show him the progressive approach to being pro-Israel, so that he may champion our cause.
Amram Altzman is a student at List College.