A Student at Saban
By Hannah Smith, Liberal Arts Summer Intern In the current political climate in which we live, what does "bipartisanship" even mean? Does it mean a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat going out for coffee every once in a while to discuss their disdain for gridlock? Does it mean two political adversaries doing everything in their power to avoid talking about politics? Is it a screaming match between a Republican or Democrat?
At AIPAC’s Saban Leadership Seminar, the answer was: none of the above. For the past several decades, AIPAC has taken a different approach than many pro-Israel lobbying organizations in that they are neither partisan nor non-partisan, but bipartisan. AIPAC recognized early on, before any other organization, that the parties which control congress can change so frequently.
In order to preserve the US-Israel relationship, both parties much be reached out to and strengthened in this cause. Many think of ultra-Progressive or Democratic students on campus as representatives of the entire Democratic party when it comes to the US-Israel relationship and as a lost cause. Since becoming involved in AIPAC in the fall of 2015, I can tell you that could not be farther from the truth. The best and most influential colleagues and friends I have made through AIPAC are students like myself who are also involved in the College Democrats of America. We know better than anyone that despite the DNC releasing its most pro-Israel platform ever, it can sometimes be lonely to be an Israel-supporting Democrat on campus.
I am not just Pro-Israel because I am Jewish, I am pro-Israel because I am progressive and see the intersection between the State of Israel and a multitude of other progressive causes. It is so refreshing to make friends with people who are in similar situations as I am, however, it has also been amazing to meet strong, conservative supporters of Israel. Though we disagree on most issues fundamentally, besides the need to strengthen and preserve a strong US-Israel relationship, these relationships can become a beneficial partnership-- progressives at Saban are able to help conservatives relate to students on their own campus or people in the elected office to which they are a constituent.
I appreciate AIPAC’s proactivity in their campus movement in that they empower their pro-Israel students to reach out to other influential students on campus to bring them into the movement. AIPAC trains its students (myself included) to use their campus as a medium in which to create lasting change, but also to build relationships with their congress people or congressional candidates to positively shape their outlook on the US-Israel relationship. In a multitude of ways, I believe that AIPAC and The David Project do complimentary work.
AIPAC teaches the nuts and bolts of the US-Israel relationship, while The David Project is specifically on campus engaging influential campus leaders in a dialogue setting and exposing the nuance in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The David Project takes a much more streamlined and narrow approach that is incredibly necessary in order to learn how to effectively engage students, the campus as a whole, and members of Congress. I am able to apply the skills I learned at AIPAC to relate to influential figures on my liberal arts campus in an effective, nuanced and intersectional manner. Both organizations are of equal importance to me because of how well they compliment one another and shaped my own advocacy. Additionally, I am learning skills as a Summer Liberal Arts Intern for The David Project that will not only apply to Israel-related endeavors, but Relational Advocacy tools that will assist me in my everyday life. I am so glad to be interning at The David Project and could not image a better way to spend my summer.