Hello readers, I’m new here at Meretz USA and I believe a proper introduction is in order. My name is Robert Lattin a senior undergraduate at the University of Arizona. I will be working for Meretz USA for the summer and during that time I hope to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences that I have accumulated along the way.
This past week, I attended the AIPAC Policy Conference held in our nation’s capital. It was an interesting event, one that was attended by many different types of Jews with many different perspectives and interests. However, this is not the focus of my article. I want to share with you what I believe was a missed opportunity by AIPAC.
With such a large forum of Jews in one place– over 6,000– AIPAC has the opportunity to educate and influence. Every morning of the conference participants have the chance of seeing some high-profile politician guest speaker, this year’s highlights being Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, and Senator McCain, which are followed by classes known as ‘breakout sessions’. These break out sessions, along with the speeches given by the politicians, are focused on many different topics and issues, obviously all relating to Israel; most of them had one common theme, Israel in the international sphere. As important as these discussions are, I found troubling the lack of discussions centered around domestic problems in Israel.
AIPAC’s strategy is to convince people that Israel must be strengthened in order to survive in its hostile neighborhood; however, they are missing that this process of strengthening must start from within.
As with any lobby group, there were major attempts at fund-raising, usually under the banner of defense from the Palestinians and Iranians, both justifiable and honorable causes, however far from the only ones. These are very mainstream issues, ones that don’t require lots of research to learn about, and definitely ones that do not lack an abundance of funding. Which brings me to the question, what about the daily lives of the average Israeli citizen? Over 790,000 of the country’s 2.3 million children (approximately 35%) were living below the poverty line at the end of 2006, according to the Youth Renewal Fund. This is almost seven times more people then the entire population of Ashkelon, a city that has been frequently hit by rocket attacks. Surely these children are just as important as the children of Ashkelon. Is their hardship not as great of an uphill battle? The difference is that people are more sympathetic to causes that are constant victims of violence. This is not to say that the people of Ashkelon should not be helped, I just believe that Israeli society has much deeper issues, ones that will have a much larger lasting impact on the nation should they not be addressed in a proper fashion.
Enter AIPAC. With hardly a lift of the finger, AIPAC could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions for these “other causes.” But the fact of the matter is they don’t, and though they are helping the limited number of victims of rocket fire, they are ignoring the large segments of the population who are at the low end of the totem pole socially. Next time you get a chance to speak with an AIPAC representative, I encourage you to press them on this issue, and explain to them that they could be helping the Jewish world as well as Israel in a more efficient and broader range then they already are.