Israel is not about the Benjamins, Israel is about Democracy

Ilhan Omar's accusations against the American Israel Political Affairs Committee are only half the story

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Israel is not about the Benjamins, Israel is about Democracy

Attending an AIPAC conference reaffirmed my belief that support for Israel should be a bipartisan issue.

Attending an AIPAC conference reaffirmed my belief that support for Israel should be a bipartisan issue.

Emilee Klein

Attending an AIPAC conference reaffirmed my belief that support for Israel should be a bipartisan issue.

Emilee Klein

Emilee Klein

Attending an AIPAC conference reaffirmed my belief that support for Israel should be a bipartisan issue.

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I sat in a room at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center where six screens displayed a live video of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who passionately spoke about his support for Israel. Surrounding me were 18,000 people that flew from all over the country to hear government officials speak about American-Israeli policies.

As an American Jewish teenager who is involved in Israel advocacy, I felt instantly connected to each and every person who attended the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. With the controversy over AIPAC that recently occupied the news, I knew that being at this conference was crucial for future support of Israel in America.

The conflict between Israel, Palestinian and many other Middle Eastern countries began during biblical times. Territory disputes, religious reasons, acts of violence on both sides and a myriad of other factors intensified the discord. America originally embraced Israel due to the Israel’s democratic government, but the complex history in the Middle East has created controversy surrounding the country. AIPAC is an interest group that advocates and attempts to strengthen American-Israeli relations and influence government officials to pass pro-Israel laws.

Emilee Klein
I and many others attended an AIPAC conference in March.

The interest group came into the center of politics when Representative Ilhan Omar accused House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) of backing Israel solely for AIPAC funding. After three days at the AIPAC Policy Conference, it became clear to me that the support for Israel in the United States government is not about money, but about the shared democratic values that both American and Israelis continue to embrace.

Over the course of the conference, at least 18 congressmen and congresswomen spoke about Israel. I agreed with some of the views of these officials, yet some extremist and Republican views in their speeches went against my own morals. AIPAC is a conservative organization, and I do not always agree with conservative policies.

However, just like both my Jewish liberal and conservative friends who attended AIPAC to show support for the country, each member of Congress, regardless of political affiliation, emphasized that Democratic and Republican members of the United States government support Israel.

This, essentially, is the idea that Ilhan Omar called into question. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted, indicating that support of Israel is all an act to receive financial backing by AIPAC.

Disregarding the anti-Semitic stereotypes tied to the wording of Omar’s comment, I have no doubt that there lies some validity to Omar’s point. AIPAC is the fourth largest interest group in the country, and spends millions lobbying for the support of Israel. Just last year AIPAC spent $3.5 million on lobbying government officials.

However, to assume that support for AIPAC and Israel comes from money alone would be naive.

Emilee Klein
The AIPAC conference featured many political leaders who expressed their support for Israel.

The support for Israel from both parties stems from democratic values that both the United States and Israel share. Israel protects the freedoms of press, speech and religion. Israel runs democratic elections for their parliament. Israel ensures that all citizens, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, have equal rights under the law.

All of these ideals should sound familiar, as  I, along with every other American, have grown up with these freedoms all my life. Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East, and that is why, no matter the differences in political views, AIPAC and support for Israel are and should continue to be bipartisan.

Yes, Omar, money plays a role in politics, but it not all about the Benjaminsit’s all about democracy.

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