More than 15,000 pro-Israel American Jewish activists will be in Washington this week for the annual AIPAC Conference. The chatter on the convention floor likely will focus on two people: President Donald Trump and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
Trump has taken three bold moves that should electrify American Jewry.
First, he revoked the Iran Nuclear Deal. Then, last May, he relocated the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. And now, just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first senior U.S. official to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Trump announced U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The truth is that many Democratic AIPAC attendees cannot (yet) bring themselves to cross the line to vote for President Trump. They disdain his in-your-face style, his endless and often mean-spirited tweets and, most importantly, they remain deeply concerned over what they perceive as his failure to forcefully denounce the extremists from the alt-right and the anti-Semitic hate they spawn.
That they are even thinking of crossing the line can be explained by the Democratic leadership’s failure to directly censure Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic tropes, including explicitly attacking AIPAC and its supporters and raising the “dual loyalty” screed.
Now comes word that some of the leaders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination won’t be appearing at the AIPAC Conference. The message sent to AIPAC, intended or otherwise, is that the candidates are more concerned about mollifying groups such as MoveOn.org than showing solidarity with the historic U.S.-Israel alliance.
We are not AIPAC members but, as a public service to all concerned, we have chosen seven questions for the crowded Democratic presidential field to which we at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish community, and other American voters seek answers:
- Anti-Semitic hate crimes and online rhetoric are soaring. Would you denounce the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, whose displays of anti-Semitism have continued for over four decades have gone largely unchallenged, or would you meet with the head of the Nation of Islam without calling out his bigotry?
- Do you endorse the International Holocaust Awareness Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, herein attached? This definition has been accepted by more than 25 nations, including the United States.
- Do you support pending legislation in Congress that would have the U.S. Department of Education adopt the IHRA definition in order to protect Jewish students facing intimidation on American campuses?
- Do you support a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians?
- Do you support or oppose the global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) anti-Israel campaign? Many, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, consider it to be anti-peace and anti-Semitic.
- Rep. Omar and others have brought up charges of dual loyalty against American Jews for supporting Israel. What is your view?
- What will be your policy toward the Holocaust-denying, genocide-seeking Iranian government? Will you accept and build on President Trump’s exit from the nuclear deal and pursue a sanctions-based hardline policy, or will you work with European leaders to resurrect President Obama’s original nuclear deal?
Though he has not declared officially, there will be intense scrutiny about the apparent frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his positions in 2019 on all of these issues. Will those reflect the eight years he served under President Obama, or forge a more independent path based on his decades of service and experience in foreign affairs in the U.S. Senate?
Rabbi Marvin Hier is founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization named for the famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the center and director of its Global Social Action programs.