I am writing this piece from Washington, DC, at the annual AIPAC Policy Affairs conference. AIPAC stands for American-Israel Policy Affairs Committee, and exists to maintain the positive relationship between the US and Israel.
Since it was founded in 1963 AIPAC has been committed to bipartisan cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, which can be seen in the many Democrats and Republicans who share the stage with each other. In fact, tomorrow Nancy Pelosi will share the stage with Mitch McConnell, and I fully expect that the world will continue spinning on its axis.
In recent years many in progressive political communities have accused AIPAC of being a mouthpiece for repressive policies in Israel, and have extended what could have been a difference in a political opinion to all Jews everywhere. Jews have been attacked at the Dyke March, the Slut Walk, the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and Creating Change. Literally, physically attacked for publicly wearing a Jewish star.
I believe much of the rise of this antisemitic behavior has to do with the simultaneous rise of vicious and malicious sectarian attitudes that is pushing us to takes sides in an increasingly complex world. It works like this: someone proposes an issue, whether for or against abortion, or LGBT rights, or restoring voting rights to former felons, or making marijuana legal. They then set up this issue as a litmus test to decide if you are a moral or immoral person based on this single issue. It does not matter if you otherwise volunteer at a shelter, or a library, or created a program to increase literacy skills for children. If you do not agree with them, you are relegated to the status of a repressor, removed from the class of people they consider humane, and can be treated with impunity.
As was pointed out by all the speakers at the conference, we have lost respect for each other as human beings with the right to have differing opinions. We have determined that whoever disagrees with us is not simply wrong, but is immoral and evil and should be exterminated. In the current way of the world this attitude is held equally by those on the farther ends of the Left and the Right.
Those of us working for a secure, civil, and responsive society based on fairness and equally do so in order to improve our world. This cannot happen when we continually call each other out for real or imagined wrongs, by denying their very humanity, or by putting people into classes of worthy or unworthy. This is not the way of peace.
I’ve heard it said that in order to create peace we need to talk with our enemies, not our friends. In fact, not everyone you make your enemy is really your enemy. It is possible that they agree with your principle, be it increasing literacy or decreasing poverty or homelessness, but disagree with your method of addressing it. You’ll only know that if you talk to them, as another worthy human being who is also trying to improve the world.
Back in the 1970’s a good friend of mine started a program she called, “Take a Lesbian to Lunch.”. She believed then, as I do now, that peace and understanding arise when we relate to another person as a human being, rather as a political entity. In this scenario, “The Republican” becomes Pat, and “The Liberal” becomes Taylor, both just another person trying to make their own way in the world with whom you may actually share many interests. In the end you may still not like them, but the tenor of your conversation about them will hopefully be mediated by the points of agreement you do have together, resulting in the lessening of the vicious vituperative attacks upon each other.
So if you think you might learn something by having lunch with a lesbian Zionist Rabbi, give me a call. Maybe we can increase the peace over a nice bowl of soup.