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Jackie Cohen is a senior journalism major with a minor in leadership studies at Chapman University.
18,000 pro-Israel people in one room singing Hatikvah together, admiring Israeli innovation, hearing empowering stories about Israel, and giving endless standing ovations for countless speakers. It is easy to get carried away in this incredibly pro-Israel environment.
This was my fifth consecutive year attending the AIPAC Policy Conference and love it. I mean, I already registered for next year. This time though, I started to notice something new.
In past years, I sat at the general sessions completely absorbed in the pro-Israel environment, amazed as I listened to the politicians speak. Hearing about their support of Israel made me think that all of these politicians were great, considering they were just names that I had vaguely heard on the news.
Up until a year ago, I only kind of kept up with the news for the mandatory news quizzes we had in my journalism classes, but they mostly focused on local issues. Recently however, I have started keeping up more with politics. Between reading the front page of the New York Times for my class’ news quizzes, watching The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and doing research for articles about current issues for my articles for The Panther, I have become a lot more aware about politics and politicians.
In this day and age, I have also become quite disillusioned with certain politicians. Being back at AIPAC this year, now that I’m more politically aware, the experience was different. I was no longer listening to people who I just knew as pro-Israel. I was listening to the people who Colbert satirizes, who have been featured on my news quizzes, whose policies I may or may not agree with.
Yes, these politicians are all pro-Israel, but you also need to be weary. These politicians know their audience and prepare their speeches — and even their outfits — based on that. Did you notice most of them were wearing blue and white?
Aside from them writing the speeches specifically for AIPAC’s pro-Israel audience, there is much more to these politicians. You may agree with everything they are saying with regards to Israel, but do you know where they stand on other issues?
I’m not saying that I will only listen to the people whose other political stances match mine, but I am aware that there is more complexity to these people. I will see that I have common ground with all of them when it comes to Israel and be able to see whether or not that is the extent of our commonality.
For example, everyone at AIPAC loves Ambassador Nikki Haley. I don’t blame them. She does an incredible job of defending Israel in the United Nations. She received 12 standing ovations during her speech at AIPAC – yes, my sister counted. Do you, however, know where she stands on climate change, gun control, abortion and other important issues? Just consider that before you put your full support behind a politician you hear at AIPAC.
Don’t close yourself off to speakers with different views or political affiliations from you. Listen to them respectfully, clap when they deserve it and understand that while you don’t agree with them on everything, you do about Israel. Find a common ground based on Israel but educate yourself beyond that.
If you are interested in writing for the OC Hillel Blog contact Daniel Levine at Daniel@ochillel.org