I just got back from Washington DC, where I went to attend AIPAC’s policy conference – and it was interesting to say the least. I have actually spent more time among Israelis than among American Jews and it was an eye-opener.
I saw some things that really made me think. I think there are a lot of American Jews who get it, who understand that if they do not fight back, things will only get worse. I would like to believe that’s why so many attended the AIPAC conference. But what I saw from the Israelis there, made me proud to be friends with them. They understand that if you ignore the bully, he doesn’t go away, he feels empowered. When a bully tries to bully you, you don’t ignore and avoid, you punch that SOB in the face.
But speaking as someone who has experience with racism and bigotry as well as experience with the other side of the fence, it really bothered me that there were protesters outside who largely went unchallenged. I honestly believe that by not confronting them, the people who stayed inside at AIPAC did themselves no favors. I personally made it a point to walk right through their crowds on the sidewalk when we walked to the Verizon Centre, and when one mouthed off to me, I told him off, and when he stepped up to my chest, I stepped towards him, not away. Would you like to guess what happened then?
A couple months ago I attended an AIPAC Hannukah event in San Francisco, only I didn’t go inside where it was decidedly more welcoming. I arrived early (about 45 minutes before the so called protest was to begin). I looked around and figured out where the protesters would stand and I stood right there. I was accompanied by a couple of Jewish Bubbes who had more stones than almost every other Jew in the area combined. I am not kidding, one big Indian and 2 tiny Jewish Grammas were standing up to over 2 hundred asshats who were there to attack Jews.
I was asked to move by a woman and I did a little dance – she was not amused. They then tried to crowd around me but I refused to move and waived my Israeli flag. They finally moved their protest over to the side a bit, but I could reach over their heads with the Israeli flag and every time one of them spoke I would waive the flag so that they had trouble filming it. Several times they tried to get me to move, and several times I laughed at them. At one point, a police officer told me “You should move, we cannot keep you safe” to which I responded “I am not the one you need to worry about.” It’s ridiculous that instead of dispersing a potentially dangerous crowd who was illegally using a bullhorn and inciting hate, they were asking ME to leave. Several times the speakers referenced the fact that “The Zionists are hiding inside because they are scared of us”, and each time one of them said that, I would say very loudly “Umm I am standing right here, dumbass” and I would waive the flag over them.
I think what bothered me was that only two people came outside from the AIPAC event: my friend Jo who is a pretty tough little cookie and my buddy Mike who came outside for a while too. The rest of the AIPAC supporters stayed inside celebrating while outside there were people calling for the death of Jews and the State of Israel. This in a nutshell is the problem, and it was only reinforced at the AIPAC policy conference. People TALKING about the dangers of antisemitism and BDS while just outside the door actual Jew hate goes unchallenged. Does it really matter if we discuss the dangers of BDS and how it enables Jew hate, when literally 500 feet away people are chanting for the destruction of Israel openly and with nobody standing up to them?
I went and listened to a panel, because my friend Roz was speaking and she’s a great speaker, a woman who started a massive pro-Israel group in her living room. But while us inside talking about the danger of BDS and listening to a young AIPAC proponent talk about how he wasn’t going to go outside and allow the protesters to “win” by engaging them, the other side was outside loudly chanting for the destruction of Israel uncontested at what should have been the single largest concentration of Zionists outside of Israel. One friend I was sitting with actually said “We are raising a generation of politicians when what we need is a generation of warriors.” And I agree. Sitting inside and listening to people self congratulate and talk about the efficacy of their efforts as we clearly see the rise in antisemitism, and can see it 500 feet away, was the ultimate eye opener. I listened as this young Jewish kid spouted all the talking points he has been trained to spout, but he was literally reinforcing the problem. The other side has passion and doesn’t give a shit about facts. We have young politicians who don’t understand their own identity and therefore are not passionate about it. Then we wonder why these young people find the passion of the other side so alluring and often go against their own people.
Conversely, some young Israelis went outside, and confronted the enemy face-to-face, and they did so with pride and were unapologetic. They were small in number but not in heart. I was actually very upset that while they were outside, I was inside listening to a panel. By the time I got outside it had pretty much dispersed.
Let me tell you what I think should have happened – every single person at AIPAC should have gone outside and just stood across from the asshats, not screaming or acting like them, but standing there letting them know that their Jew hate is not unchallenged. Even better sing Hatikvah. I am hoping that next year they do that.
I think it all boils down to identity. If you manifest your identity the way the young Israelis who went outside do, you understand that you must defend your people against the enemy, that your people are the primary thing in your life. You do not have to act like the other side, you just have to make damn sure they know their asshattery will not go unchallenged.
This is how we win.