Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric goes hand in hand with AIPAC’s agenda
March 18, 2016–Ahead of the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, there has been much controversy over the participation of a particular presidential candidate. Jewish Voice for Peace is a 501-c-3 organization and we do not support or endorse any candidates. We do, however, regularly participate in protests at the annual AIPAC conference to call attention to the fact that the Israeli policies that AIPAC supports are an affront to the values of justice, dignity and equality that we struggle towards. This year, we are appreciative that many Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and individuals plan to protest Trump at AIPAC because he does not reflect their values. We hope that they will also consider confronting the fact that some of Trump’s proposed policies and statements are already reflected in Israel’s policies that AIPAC supports.
Many of the most alarming statements and policy proposals Donald Trump has made are already reality in Israel, and supported by AIPAC. Israel already refuses to open its doors to Syrian refugees (many of whom are of Palestinian origin), allows privileged immigration status for one religious group over others, is building highly militarized walls on all of its borders, and allows a demagogue leader to get away with using blatant racism to get votes.
AIPAC has peddled in Islamophobic and racist tropes against Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs for decades as part of their work in securing unquestioning US support for Israel. Inviting a presidential candidate who regularly makes brazenly racist statements is not an anomaly, it is in line with their mission to support the policies of the Israeli government regardless of how illegal and repressive its policies are.
AIPAC plays a central role in, as journalist Ali Gharib wrote recently in The Nation, “mainstreaming anti-Muslim hate.” AIPAC’s connections to key figures in what has been dubbed the Islamophobia industry are well documented and Trump will not be the only anti-Muslim speaker at this year’s conference. Far from it. In addition to widely discredited Islamophobes like Steven Emerson, head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the cast of speakers at AIPAC reflects the priorities at the heart of the organization’s’ agenda: securing US political and economic support for Israel at the cost of Palestinian lives and basic rights.
As is becoming increasingly clear, AIPAC’s message to support Israel regardless of how racist and destructive its policies become is alienating American Jews who are alarmed by Israel’s actions. The majority of the American Jewish community oppose settlement expansion and have deep doubts about Israel’s commitment to peace and equality for all its citizens. This is particularly true among young people; recent polling by political strategist Frank Luntz found that among American Jewish college students, just 42% of Jewish Americans believe Israel wants peace and just 31% believe Israel is a democracy.
The tide of public opinion is turning. Among the grassroots, AIPAC’s veneer of bipartisan support is fading. They may still command the attention of politicians on both sides of the aisle eager for their campaign contributions, but but there is growing criticism of Israel among key demographics, including young people, people of color and women. For example, in recent polls, 47% of Democrats think Israel is a racist state, and 49% support imposing economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Israel’s continued settlement building.
AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the American politicians who support them are on the wrong side of history. The people joining growing populist progressive movements in this country, concerned with police brutality and mass incarceration, economic inequality and climate justice, recognize the parallels and connections between various forms of oppression as they manifest in Israel, as well as here in the US and around the world. Supporting the movement for justice for Palestinians goes hand in hand with struggles for freedom and equality elsewhere.