For my summer internship, I am working at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). AJC’s mission is to, “enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.” Since its founding in 1906, AJC has opened thirty four offices worldwide and collaborated with thirty seven international Jewish organizations. I am interning with the Africa Institute in AJC’s New York City office. With AJC’s focus on advancing human rights and advocating for the state of Israel, the Institute is necessary and relevant in today’s political climate. Main goals of the Africa Institute include creating a partnership with the African diaspora, advocating for human rights in African countries and encouraging an alliance and strong diplomatic relationship between African countries and Israel.
My internship began at AJC’s Global Forum. Global Forum was held in Washington DC where I heard from renowned diplomats, met 300 other campus leaders and lobbied at Capitol Hill. At Global Forum Lee Zeldin (R-NY) Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) launched the Black-Jewish Congressional Caucus. The goals of the caucus is to bring attention to the needs of the two communities and encourage other members of Congress to join and act as allies.
This relates well to my projects and responsibilities during my internship at AJC. I am currently researching members of Congress who have large Jewish constituencies and are active on Africa issues and vice versa. I am investigating different caucuses that deal with both communities as we decide who can help in future legislation and lobbying. Africa and Israel have a long and complicated history, which makes AJC’s work all the more important. The United Nations is a prime example of the importance of AJC and building a relationship between African nations and Israel. Former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has noted on several occasions that Israel is disproportionately demonized in the United Nations. Between 2012 and 2015, 86% of the resolutions criticizing countries have been against Israel. Today, the relationship between Israel and African nations would be vital in the United Nations. In 2018, when the UN met to discuss Hamas and the Gaza border, three African countries supported condemning Hamas and twelve African countries abstained. I hope to learn more about the history of this relationship and explore what can be done to improve it.
Given that both Israel and Africa are important components of my position, I am also learning about the origin of the argument that “Israel is an apartheid state.” Many universities have “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses, but few can define apartheid. My goal is to compile read more about apartheid and compile a report on different definitions, what occured during South Africa apartheid and how this compares to the State of Israel.
So far, my internship has been thought provoking, meaningful and busy! I am excited for the next several weeks and sharing the incredible work we are doing.
– Sarah Berkowitz