With Bipartisan Support for Israel in Danger, It’s Time for AIPAC to Shift Its Focus

Feb. 28 2020
About Neil

Neil Rogachevsky teaches at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and is the author of Israel’s Declaration of Independence: The History and Political Theory of the Nation’s Founding Moment, published in 2023 by Cambridge University Press.

On Sunday, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will hold its annual conference in Washington, DC. Since its creation in 1951, the organization has accomplished much by rallying support for the Jewish state in the U.S., lobbying Congress, and working to keep a generally pro-Israel stance on the platforms of both major political parties. Yet, writes Neil Rogachevsky, its failure to prevent the Obama administration’s turn away from Israel and toward Iran, and the left’s increasingly anti-Israel stance, suggest that AIPAC’s usual tactics may be less effective than ever before. He proposes an alternative approach:

[P]erhaps the central focus of pro-Israel activity in the United States should shift toward “community reconstruction”—to the rebuilding of core institutions from which future pro-Israel leaders are likely to emerge in the first place. It is no accident that declining support for Israel among young Jews corresponds to the weakening of the Jewish day-school network around the country—a weakening both in terms of quality of instruction as well as an affordability crisis that has pushed many potentially interested Jewish families away from Jewish education.

It would be a refreshing change, and potentially highly salutary, if big-ticket AIPAC donors were to turn their attention to this crisis rather than to increasingly ineffectual efforts to influence national policy. Effective advocates for Israel are at the end of the day well-educated ones—and well-educated ones emerge out of the contexts where meaningful skill development in Hebrew language, Jewish history, theology, and Zionism can take place.

What if Jewish community leaders invested their efforts in ensuring that Hebrew-language instruction was more widely available to anyone who wanted it, knowledge of Hebrew being necessary (though certainly not sufficient) for understanding Israel? What if instead of focusing on winning an amorphous “battle of ideas,” community leaders sought to expand and improve failing Jewish high schools, both through the hiring and development of better teachers and through providing scholarships for the most talented and promising?

The “return on investment” of a back-to-basics approach such as this would be hard to be measure. . . . But the case that the money is better spent on political lobbying in Washington is getting harder and harder to make.

Read more at American Affairs

More about: AIPAC, American Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, U.S. Politics

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy