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AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr: Stand Up to Anti-Israel Critics

[additional-authors]
March 24, 2019
AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr

WASHINGTON DC: Amidst cheers and applause, the opening session of the 2019 AIPAC conference began, as expected, with a variety of people speaking about why they are pro-Israel, and why they are members of AIPAC.

However, things turned more somber when AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr took the stage and wasted no time in addressing what he termed “the critics and detractors.”

Without mentioning a single person or incident, from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)’s disconcerting tweets and comments about Jews and Israel, or the decision by several prominent Democratic congress members’ decisions to pull out of the AIPAC conference at the 11th hour, Kohr said in his 22 years as CEO of AIPAC he’s always used the conference as an opportunity to discuss the threats Israel faces and the essential elements of the US-Israel relationship.

“But today, I want to talk to you about our mission and our rights as pro-Israel activists and as proud American citizens,” Kohr said. “Because today things are different. We are being challenged in a way that is new and far more aggressive.”

Kohr went on to say while there have always been critics and detractors, “today they are emboldened and energized and their false claims are taken at face value by new and larger audiences. Those claims are not meant to inform or engage in legitimate debate. They are meant isolate us and demonize us. So they can undermine America’s historic support for Israel.”

He said detractors who say you can’t be “a good campus leader and a supporter of Israel” or a “good progressive and supporter of Israel or even a “good American and supporter of Israel,” go far beyond normal policy discussions and debate. “This is defamation masquerading as discourse,” he said, adding, “the scurrilous charge of dual loyalty is a signal. And that signal amplified by today’s social media is now empowering people who have long opposed our cause; our movement; and frankly everything we have built.”

Kohr spoke of “intense hatred” of Israel “creeping from the margins to the center of our politics. They want to starve Israel of America’s support. They want America on the sidelines. They want the Jewish state vulnerable. Alone.”

He noted that what unites the pro-Israel movement “is the passion for bringing Israel and America closer.”

He concluded his remarks with a call to action, stating it’s not enough to say to critics that they’re wrong. “We need to make the pro Israel movement in America even more effective and bigger,” he said. He called on all 18,000 attendees to reach out to the “millions and millions of pro-Israel Americans who are not yet involved.”

Specifically, he called on people to get involved in political campaigns; to donate to federal campaigns and get to know and speak with their representatives and talk about the important relationship with Israel.

“Don’t’ wait for others to step up,” Kohr said. “Israel’s antagonists have decided to mount a political assault on us. In return, they must get a political response. That response must be large. It must be sweeping and it must define our movement for years to come. Our detractors think we’re vulnerable; that we will fold when we’re pushed but they don’t know what we are made of.”

.To rousing applause and a massive standing ovation, Kohr concluded, “When they tell us to step back we move forward. When they try to silence us we speak up. And when they tell us to sit down we stand up. We stand up. We. Stand. Up.”

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