House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called on American college students to serve like Israeli soldiers on their campuses, fighting the boycott movement.
“America must not be fooled by BDS. And that is up to all of us,” he said in a speech to the Israel lobby conference AIPAC on March 1. “I’m told there are more than 3600 high school and college students at policy conference this year…. Welcome, welcome. You, as Betsy [Berns Korn, AIPAC’s president] said, are the front lines in this battle. As surely as Israel relies on the extraordinary young people in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], it relies on you for steadfast support and success. As successful as we are today, we must also be successful tomorrow on behalf of our ally and our strategic interest. You are here this week, students, to gain knowledge that will help you in your mission to go back and share Israel’s story with your schools, your communities, your fellow students, your peers.”
Hoyer dismissed criticism of Israel as a political sideshow. There is ironclad bipartisan consensus for Israel, including the Democratic Party:
To be frank, however, there has been a lot of heated talk lately about Democrats– and from some Democrats– with regard to Israel. I have spent the last 50 years supporting the U.S. Israel relationship. Let me make it clear: As a party, Democrats in the House stand solidly with Israel and the right of every Israeli to live in peace and security. Consensus among Democrats and Republicans in support of Israel continues to be the reality and to suggest otherwise misstates the facts and weakens Israel.
One of AIPAC’s most critical missions is to make sure that everyone understands that. We cannot allow Israel’s fortunes to ebb and flow with the waves of political change in any given election in either country. The relationship between America and Israel is not one of personalities but of principles, one of shared values and mutual interests. Let us always keep that in mind. It is up to all of us to insure that our fellow Americans in communities across our country understand that our bipartisan support for Israel in Congress is a strategic asset for Israel and also for America…
Hoyer asserted that supporting Israel’s security interests is in the American strategic interest.
And we must remind them that we’ve done so and will continue to do so with no conditions. Because these are not just investments in Israel’s security but in America’s as well and there must never be conditions on protecting American security by maintaining the strength of our ally, Israel.
He was harshly critical of the BDS campaign.
Democrats and Repulicans are working together to oppose BDS, both here in America and in the United Nations as well. That is because we see BDS as a discriminatory movement, one that rejects the right of the Jewish people to live in a Jewish democratic state in a land of their ancestors. Last July as many of you know the House passed a bipartisan resolution condemning BDS with the overwhelming support of Democrats and Republicans. Let me read you a short excerpt… In that resolution we said this:
Whereas, in contrast to protest movements that have sought racial justice and social change, the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel is not
about promoting coexistence, or civil rights, or political reconciliation but about questioning and undermining the very legitimacy of a country and its people.
Hoyer issued his own mild criticism: “Both of our countries have struggled over time to live up to our founding ideals, and neither America nor Israel is perfect.”
Hoyer’s call to students recalls Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse telling young American Jews they must serve in Israel’s army here, against the demonization of Israel:
Every Israeli has to be in the Army for two or three years of his training at least and then a month of every year at least afterwards. I think that American Jews ought to think of themselves the same way, that for a certain part of your life you are just part of that army. Now army life is rotten, it asks you to… not to keep thinking. You’re not asked to analyze every situation from anew. You have to exercise, you have to learn. That kind of fight that we have to wage takes a totally different kind of advocacy training, of systematic thinking …