COL Nelson L Mellitz, USAF, Ret.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference 2019 took place March 24-26, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The AIPAC Conference is the largest gathering of American’s pro-Israel community. Through keynote speeches by American and Israeli leaders and educational sessions, Policy Conference delegates participate in the full scale of pro-Israel activism (reference AIPAC Dashboard: March 28, 2019).

The Jewish War Veterans was there, as AIPAC implemented a U.S. military veteran’s outreach component with breakout sessions, special sessions, and receptions directed to and for U.S. military veterans. Sessions included: Veterans in Politics, Veterans Outreach Welcome Reception, On the Front Lines: Veterans Fighting for a Strong U.S.-Israel Relationship; Veteran Freshman: From One Front Line to Another, etc. There were over 18,000 participants at AIPAC and at each one of these veterans’ related sessions the room was full to overflowing with 100 plus veterans in attendance.

When I asked the AIPAC veterans outreach coordinator how many conference participants are U.S. military veterans he didn’t know, but the number is estimated to be in the thousands. AIPAC leaders are now developing a method to have the veterans self-identify when they register. At the veteran receptions the majority of attendees are under 40 years old and very few are members of JWV.

I attended all of the veterans’ related sessions and had an opportunity to talk with many veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq during the last 18 years of war and counting. There were a couple of reasons why they attend AIPAC including support of Israel from generation to generation (grandparents and parents to veteran) and because AIPAC has sent U.S. veterans (Jewish and non-Jewish) to Israel using AIPAC Foundation funding. These veterans interact with Israel Defense Force that have similar combat experiences and post-war recovery treatments, some said that as a result of increased Anti-Semitism in the U.S. it’s time for Jewish veterans to stand up and talk about our unique reasons for serving and what actions we think should be taken to combat Anti-Semitism. In addition, another important reason veterans attend AIPAC is because it’s an opportunity for them to talk to each other about being Jewish while fighting in a war.

AIPAC had fantastic speakers: The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Ambassador David Friedman, United States Ambassador to Israel; The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States; Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader; and many other Democrats, Republicans, and foreign government leaders.

Whenever possible I spoke to the veterans about the benefits to joining JWV and how we can provide similar opportunities to AIPAC. The response was not always positive because some of the veterans had tried to participate at Post levels and were turned off by the bureaucracy and the stagnant leadership. However, I think that all of the reasons given to attend AIPAC can be met by JWV at all echelons, by our Afghanistan and Iraq Committee, internet Post, and Jewish Warriors Post #4.

The mission of AIPAC is to support Israel and they have a vision of using veterans unique outlook to accomplish this mission. I strongly recommend that the Jewish War Veteran leadership send several members to AIPAC 2020 and throughout the year join AIPAC in their outreach to U.S. military veterans. This JWV-AIPAC effort could be a major source for JWV membership and accomplishing our mission of support to Israel, the U.S. military, and veterans.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019