Every policy conference, AIPAC features video profiles of members whose lives were changed by the organization. These usually represent a target demographic, a bid to show that AIPAC is not all you think it is.
In the past, these have been young (AIPAC is not middle aged!) or female (AIPAC is not middle-aged guys with cigars!) or from the Southern or Western states (AIPAC is not middle-aged guys with cigars from New York’s five boroughs!) or black or Christian (you get the idea).
That made this morning’s choice interesting: Richard Pachulski from California.
His comments about how he felt about AIPAC before he grew wise leapt out at me through the din of the conference room (no one pays much attention to these vids, sad truth to tell):
I felt it was a very right-wing organization. It dealt with whether there should be settlements.
Pachulski went on to say that a friend explained to him that AIPAC’s core mission is twofold: To uphold the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that Israel should make its own decisions — AIPAC had no role in shaping Israel’s political positions.
Now this is interesting: I do not ever recall an AIPAC pilgrim’s progress (let’s call it that) being characterized by a negative-to-positive impression of the organization. Instead, what previous vids have featured is an ignorance of the organization ("I was vaguely aware of AIPAC because my uncle was active, but it wasn’t until he urged me to join a trip to Israel," etc.).
AIPAC spokesman have insisted that they haven’t felt the influence of J Street and, in fact, AIPAC has grown in recent years. They say that if the pro-Israel mainstream opposes the "pro-peace, pro-Israel" group, it’s because J Street damages Israel’s case.
The numbers suggests that AIPAC indeed has grown. But Pachulski’s testimony suggests that AIPAC acknowledges a problem with a critical demographic: relatively young, Jewish and liberal.