As Cinemark and other local theaters screen a controversial film claiming to prove disinformation about election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, this exchange took place in the Texas Jewish Post.
Rabbi Kasten encourages us all to think critically about what it means to be “pro-Israel.” This is more important than ever when disinformation and misinformation are undermining democracy in the U.S. and throughout the world.
April 28, 2022
Summary: This first letter’s author expresses concern over AIPAC’s willingness to endorse congressional leaders who voted against certification of 2020 election results because it is a self-proclaimed single-issue organization. She encourages AIPAC to join fellow pro-Israel political action committee J Street’s pledge not to endorse such electoral candidates.
I felt compelled to write this Letter to the Editor because of my alarm at seeing that AIPAC’s political action committee has endorsed dozens of Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election. I was even more disturbed when I read that AIPAC is unapologetic about these endorsements because, as the AIPAC spokesperson explained in a March 6 Haaretz article, “we are a single-issue organization.”
While there are many organizations that have a single-issue area of focus, it should be clear that certain lines cannot be crossed—even in situations that on the surface appear to align with an organization’s mission. American democracy is facing unprecedented peril from politicians who refuse to respect or uphold free and fair elections. As Abe Foxman, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League said, “those who undermine America’s democracy undermine America and a weak America will not be able to stand and support its ally Israel.” AIPAC endorsees include Jim Jordan, who refuses to cooperate with the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capital, Pete Sessions who met with “Stop the Steal” leaders just days before the insurrection, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania who has echoed white nationalist conspiracies about antisemitic “replacement theory” and compared Democratic leaders to Nazis.
I would call upon AIPAC to show that democracy is fundamental to their mission of maintaining US-Israel relations, to withdraw their endorsements of these candidates and to join fellow pro-Israel PACs in signing J Street’s public pledge not to endorse any electoral candidates who voted against Congressional certification of 2020 election results or otherwise supported the debunked “Big Lie.”
Marcy Helfand, Dallas
May 5, 2022
Summary: In response to the first letter, this author further identifies what he sees as the major differences between AIPAC and J Street. This author, however, posits that J Street is biased and a mere vehicle for the Democratic party. He suggests that AIPAC remains bipartisan while J Street does not.
I truly appreciate that AIPAC publishes a list of congressional candidates who share my support for the state of Israel and that AIPAC includes candidates from both the Democratic and the Republican parties. In today’s world of increasing antisemitism and anti-Israelism, support for the nation-state of the Jewish people is high on my list. AIPAC’s information helps me to be a better-informed voter. Frankly, if a candidate of either party is anti-Israel (of which there is an increasing number of such types, especially from the Democratic party) then, for me personally, that candidate would not be a person that I would either support or vote for. In contrast, J Street publishes the names of only Democratic party candidates that J Street supports regardless of that person’s support or antagonism for the nation-state of the Jewish people.
In addition, J Street has recently begun a campaign to both tarnish the names and reputation of AIPAC and to brand certain Republican candidates unworthy of support simply because a candidate is supported by AIPAC. I, for one, have come to the conclusion that if a candidate is supported by J Street, then that will not be a candidate that I support, as I consider J Street to be a very biased, Democratic party organ.
Israel must have the bipartisan support of all Americans and of all political parties, AIPAC adheres to that thesis while J Street has not. AIPAC enhances U.S. support of Israel; J Street weakens and divides that support.
AIPAC speaks for me. J Street does not!
Charles D. Pulman, Dallas
May 17, 2022
Summary: Rabbi Nancy Kasten encourages her readers to consider a broader definition of allegiance to Israel, which includes the primacy of freedom and safety of all, no matter where we live. She reminds them that J Street endorses candidates who are committed to the right of Jews to live in safety and freedom in Israel—not at the expense of others, but in partnership with them.
When I first got involved in J Street in 2009, I was concerned about the erosion of democracy and human rights in the Israel I love. I did not want my elected officials here in the U.S. to believe that all Jews had the same ideas about Israeli government policy or the same objectives regarding how to build a strong and meaningful U.S.-Israel relationship.
Today I am concerned about the erosion of democracy and human rights here at home. Americans are voting for candidates and policies that systemically discriminate against women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and non-Christians. 147 Members of Congress, all of them Republican, voted against certifying President Biden’s election as president following the attempted insurrection on January 6, 2021.
I am concerned that Jews, Zionists, and supporters of Israel vote for some of these candidates out of a narrow definition of allegiance to Israel which to my mind is ill-informed and misguided, and compromises other core Jewish ethical obligations. When they do so, they threaten freedom and safety for all of us, no matter where we live. There are some in our community who make J Street into a bogeyman, intent on the destruction of the Jewish state. In fact, J Street endorses candidates who are committed to the right of Jews to live in safety and freedom in the birthplace of the Jewish people, not at the expense of others, but in partnership with them.
The work of supporting Israel is vital and complex. We should all accept the challenge to be thoughtful and discerning about how we advocate for Israel, and wary of clear and simple definitions of “pro-Israel,” just as we are of facile definitions of what it means to be “pro-USA.” I believe that a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel must be rooted in the shared commitment to human rights and self-determination for all who live within our borders, as well as protections for all minorities. There is no proven path to peace and security; each one of us has an obligation to support the individuals and organizations that stand for what we think is just and right.
Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Dallas