I returned home earlier this week from the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C., where at the Verizon Center I heard Hillary Clinton strongly criticize Donald Trump, a candidate for the presidency of the United States. A few hours later I heard Donald Trump criticize Barack Obama, the president of the United States.
I was therefore chagrined to read the disingenuous and thoroughly reprehensible statement issued by Lillian Pinkus, the newly-elected president of AIPAC, condemning Trump for criticizing Obama without at the same time condemning Clinton for criticizing Trump.
Pinkus phrased her condemnation as follows: “We say unequivocally that we do not countenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense to those that are levied at the President of the United States of America from our stage.” While in the next sentence Pinkus acknowledges the possibility of “policy differences,” she then effectively nullifies her concession by piously intoning that President Obama — not just the office of the presidency — must always be treated with respect.
What the statement, in its entirety, seems to suggest is that criticizing a candidate for president is permissible at AIPAC but that criticizing the president himself is not if the criticism is insufficiently “respectful.” Of course AIPAC reserves for itself the prerogative of determining what is respectful and what is not.
What makes AIPAC’s selective condemnation especially pernicious is that President Obama obviously loathes Israel, has gone out of his way to insult and to mock its democratically-elected prime minister, and has negotiated a one-sided agreement with Iran that will permit the latter to acquire the nuclear weapons it needs to destroy Israel. Should that happen, the current president of the United States would be an accessory to genocide. He would have the blood of millions of Israelis on his hands. But evidently according to AIPAC he should not be held accountable — or even criticized — for any of this. Indeed, one can hardly fault the White House for concluding that AIPAC, notwithstanding its rhetoric about bipartisanship, is actually a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.
I happen not to like Donald Trump. He is not my first choice for president, nor even my second. But the double standard Ms. Pinkus and AIPAC have applied to his detriment is despicable.
Fortunately the breakout sessions I attended lacked the bias and partisanship of AIPAC’s leadership. For this reason, I signed up for next year’s conference.
But should AIPAC issue future statements as intolerant, as unfair, and as devoid of moral and intellectual consistency as the one it issued earlier this week implying that criticism it considers disrespectful should be prohibited, I will demand a refund.
Jay Bergman is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.
This article was published by the New Haven Register and may be found here.