AIPAC’s new president wrong-foots her role

Coming off two days at my first AIPAC (American-Israel Political Affairs Committee) Policy Conference, I had nothing but good things to convey. That sentiment was shattered this morning when I received an extremely off-putting email from AIPAC’s new president Lillian Pinkus.

Pinkus objected to the standing ovation Donald Trump received when he said, “with President Obama in his final year––Yay!” She wrote that AIPAC does “not coutenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense to those that are levied at the President of the United States from our stage.”

Pinkus had already turned me off in her “acceptance speech” as AIPAC’s new president. She spoke to us in a condescending manner like a mother telling her children why they needed to eat their vegetables even before we had pushed them off the plate.

Later today, a new statement was issued by AIPAC. The only difference between the first and second versions was that she had claimed in the first to be speaking on behalf of the chairman of the board, the CEO and Vice Chief Executive Officer. Those names were missing from the second version, suggesting they had not been shown the document or agreed to have their names included and wanted to separate their names from her statement, which I applaud.

Jay Michaelson’s column in the Daily Beast explains Pinkus’ response as part of AIPAC’s attempt to restore its credibility with the Democratic Party after its strong condemnation of the Iran Deal. That may be, and in theory I am 100 percent behind AIPAC’s overall strategy of winning bi-partisan support for a “strong U.S.-Israel alliance, BUT to condemn the people who paid good money to attend the conference, many of them traveling a good distance to do so, for a spontaneous reponse to Trump’s comment is hitting below the belt.

Trump’s remark was an attack on the individual and not the office of the Presidency. So to write “While we have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the President of the United States and our President Barack Obama,” is a misguided attempt to suppress criticism of the individual because he is President. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and others tried that approach. It won’t work. It shouldn’t work.

Pinkus knows she can’t control Trump and let me advise her that she can’t control her members either. That’s not what good leadership is all about. Good leaders articulate a mission and set a good example. Slapping our hands when we deviate from what you think is proper, Ms. Pinkus, will not win you friends, members or contributions.

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