Where Are the Fearless and Muscular Pro-Israel Activists?

February 26, 2013 1:57 am 12 comments

A BDS Israel protest in London. Photo: wiki commons.

For those involved in pro-Israel advocacy, now is the winter of our discontent. We’re on the defensive in virtually every part of the world. The BDS movement continues to spread across university campuses with even Jewish-populated Brooklyn College recently joining the fray. When I was in South Africa last week I treated to the usual orgy of anti-Israel comment in the media and even in the State of the Nation address of President Jacob Zuma. South Africa, a country I love has, sadly for now, become the new world ground zero of anti-Israel criticism.

In the UK Bradford East MP David Ward offered this jewel on Holocaust Remembrance Day: “Having visited Auschwitz twice… I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”

How sweet.

Not that the United State is a whole lot better. Come this week and despite the opposition of several courageous Republican Senators, the Senate will almost certainly confirm a new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, who called the State Department “an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office,” excused Palestinian terrorism by saying, “Desperate men do desperate things when you take hope away hope,” and famously said that Israel puts the Palestinians “in chains.”

And through all of this, some of the most important pro-Israel groups are adopting a new, more submissive posture, believing that the best way to stand up for Israel is to choose one’s battles and try and cultivate influential people rather than calling them out for their outrageous comments.

When I penned a column last month on AIPAC’s silence on Hagel, a few of their leaders, whom I count as close friends, took umbrage and told me that my analysis was just plain wrong. Hagel is going to be nominated. Israel has Iranian nukes to worry about and other, bigger fish to fry. Why make enemies?

I am a huge AIPAC fan. There is no more important American Jewish organization. Well beyond the Jewish community AIPAC is a model professionalism lobbying for an unqualified good. In 20 years I have barely missed an AIPAC policy conference, such is the ardor of my support. I publicly introduced my friend Mayor Cory Booker, now running for the United States senate, at an AIPAC summit in Chicago and we have jointly addressed AIPAC groups around the country.

But with 10,000 activists about to gather in DC next week for AIPAC’s annual policy conference the organization’s definition of friendly incumbents being based solely on a lawmaker’s voting record on Israel must undergo serious review.

When I ran for Congress last year against Congressman Bill Pascrell AIPAC designated him a friendly incumbent based on his voting record for Israel aid and in favor of Iran sanctions. The problem was that Pascrell had also signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter which falsely condemned Israel for collective punishment against the Palestinians rather than soundly laying the blame at the Hamas terrorists who have turned Gaza into a launching pad to kill Israelis. Now, I completely understand AIPAC’s policy of friendly incumbents. Why would any politician feel loyalty to AIPAC if someone who is considered more pro-Israel comes along and immediate gets their support? But my candidacy was an opportunity for AIPAC to approach Pascrell and pressure him to repudiate past statements. Israel’s battle today is not just one against bullets and bombs but against a ferocious attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state. It is a war of words and pictures and what political figures say matters.

Now, what a lone congressman opines is far less serious than the contemptible comments coming out of an incoming secretary of defense. Hagel’s broadsides against Israel are shameful and he must be called on it. American Jewry gave President Obama seventy percent of their vote. Is Hagel the reward?

In 1991 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir requested $10 billion in loan guarantees to help settle Russian Jewish immigrants. President George H. W. Bush said Israel could only have the guarantees if it froze all settlement building and guaranteed that no Russian Jews would be resettled in the West Bank. Shamir demurred and called on the American Jewish community to mobilize in support of the loans guarantees. AIPAC drafted a letter that was signed by more than 240 members of the House and 77 senators supporting the loan guarantees. On September 12, 1991, Jewish lobbyists from all over the country descended in huge numbers on Washington. President Bush famously responded with a televised press conference in which he complained that “1000 Jewish lobbyists are on Capitol Hill against little old me.”

Then, on the very next day in a speech I will never forget and at which I was present, Tom Dine, AIPAC’s Executive Director, declared that “September 12, 1991 is a day that will live in infamy” as an American President had had the chutzpah to criticize the constitutionally guaranteed right to lobby our government, found in the very first amendment. It was high theater and I had chills down my spine as Dine directly challenged a sitting American president. We all know the rest of the story. Months later, the loan guarantees were approved. Bush would later receive only 12% of the Jewish vote and was trounced by Bill Clinton. President Bush’s son would eight years later become President of the United States and would take a completely different posture toward Israel, becoming its greatest ally ever to occupy the White House.

I also remember how, the following day, Ron Brown, Chairman of the National Democratic Committee, stood up and said that this November we had to send President Bush packing from the White House. The crowd erupted with huge applause. There was no attempt to disguise the hostility to a President whose policies were simply unfair to Israel.

I recognize that AIPAC is often accused of hijacking American foreign policy. I know that there are charges of AIPAC as a modern incarnation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and many believe that we have to be sensitive toward accusations of global Jewish dominance.

Really?

Should we allow anti-Semites who will despise Jewry and Israel regardless to cause us to lower our heads in proud pro-Israel advocacy just because of anti-Jewish slurs?

If Hagel has made disparaging comments about Israel, and he has done so repeatedly over many years, then how in God’s name can we not oppose him becoming the Secretary of Defense of the United States, whatever is being offered Israel behind the scenes? Israel is America’s foremost ally. It is also the Jewish homeland. We should stand proudly in its defense, regardless of people in high places.

As it is Purim, I am reminded of the words of Mordechai delivered to Esther when she hesitated to use her influence with Achashveirosh after Haman had decreed the annihiliation of the Jews. “Do not seek to save your own skin, to escape the fate of the rest the Jews. For if you are silent in this moment, salvation shall come to the Jews from elsewhere and you are your father’s household shall perish. And who knows if it is specifically for a time such as this that you were chosen for high office.”

Ancient words have never been so relevant.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his newest best-seller, “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

For those involved in pro-Israel advocacy, now is the winter of our discontent. We’re on the defensive in virtually every part of the world. The BDS movement continues to spread across university campuses with even Jewish-populated Brooklyn College recently joining the fray. When I was in South Africa last week I treated to the usual orgy of anti-Israel comment in the media and even in the State of the Nation address of President Jacob Zuma. South Africa, a country I love has, sadly for now, become the new world ground zero of anti-Israel criticism.
In the UK Bradford East MP David Ward offered this jewel on Holocaust Remembrance Day: “Having visited Auschwitz twice… I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”
How sweet.
Not that the United State is a whole lot better. Come this week and despite the opposition of several courageous Republican Senators, the Senate will almost certainly confirm a new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, who called the State Department “an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office,” excused Palestinian terrorism by saying, “Desperate men do desperate things when you take hope away hope,” and famously said that Israel puts the Palestinians “in chains.”
And through all of this, some of the most important pro-Israel groups are adopting a new, more submissive posture, believing that the best way to stand up for Israel is to choose one’s battles and try and cultivate influential people rather than calling them out for their outrageous comments.
When I penned a column last month on AIPAC’s silence on Hagel, a few of their leaders, whom I count as close friends, took umbrage and told me that my analysis was just plain wrong. Hagel is going to be nominated. Israel has Iranian nukes to worry about and other, bigger fish to fry. Why make enemies?
I am a huge AIPAC fan. There is no more important American Jewish organization. Well beyond the Jewish community AIPAC is a model professionalism lobbying for an unqualified good. In 20 years I have barely missed an AIPAC policy conference, such is the ardor of my support. I publicly introduced my friend Mayor Cory Booker, now running for the United States senate, at an AIPAC summit in Chicago and we have jointly addressed AIPAC groups around the country.
But with 10,000 activists about to gather in DC next week for AIPAC’s annual policy conference the organization’s definition of friendly incumbents being based solely on a lawmaker’s voting record on Israel must undergo serious review.
When I ran for Congress last year against Congressman Bill Pascrell AIPAC designated him a friendly incumbent based on his voting record for Israel aid and in favor of Iran sanctions. The problem was that Pascrell had also signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter which falsely condemned Israel for collective punishment against the Palestinians rather than soundly laying the blame at the Hamas terrorists who have turned Gaza into a launching pad to kill Israelis. Now, I completely understand AIPAC’s policy of friendly incumbents. Why would any politician feel loyalty to AIPAC if someone who is considered more pro-Israel comes along and immediate gets their support? But my candidacy was an opportunity for AIPAC to approach Pascrell and pressure him to repudiate past statements. Israel’s battle today is not just one against bullets and bombs but against a ferocious attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state. It is a war of words and pictures and what political figures say matters.
Now, what a lone congressman opines is far less serious than the contemptible comments coming out of an incoming secretary of defense. Hagel’s broadsides against Israel are  shameful and he must be called on it. American Jewry gave President Obama seventy percent of their vote. Is Hagel the reward?
In 1991 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir requested $10 billion in loan guarantees to help settle Russian Jewish immigrants. President George H. W. Bush said Israel could only have the guarantees if it froze all settlement building and guaranteed that no Russian Jews would be resettled in the West Bank. Shamir demurred and called on the American Jewish community to mobilize in support of the loans guarantees. AIPAC drafted a letter that was signed by more than 240 members of the House and 77 senators supporting the loan guarantees. On September 12, 1991, Jewish lobbyists from all over the country descended in huge numbers on Washington. President Bush famously responded with a televised press conference in which he complained that “1000 Jewish lobbyists are on Capitol Hill against little old me.”
Then, on the very next day in a speech I will never forget and at which I was present, Tom Dine, AIPAC’s Executive Director, declared that “September 12, 1991 is a day that will live in infamy” as an American President had had the chutzpah to criticize the constitutionally guaranteed right to lobby our government, found in the very first amendment. It was high theater and I had chills down my spine as Dine directly challenged a sitting American president. We all know the rest of the story. Months later, the loan guarantees were approved. Bush would later receive only 12% of the Jewish vote and was trounced by Bill Clinton. President Bush’s son would eight years later become President of the United States and would take a completely different posture toward Israel, becoming its greatest ally ever to occupy the White House.
I also remember how, the following day, Ron Brown, Chairman of the National Democratic Committee, stood up and said that this November we had to send President Bush packing from the White House. The crowd erupted with huge applause. There was no attempt to disguise the hostility to a President whose policies were simply unfair to Israel.
I recognize that AIPAC is often accused of hijacking American foreign policy. I know that there are charges of AIPAC as a modern incarnation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and many believe that we have to be sensitive toward accusations of global Jewish dominance.
Really?
Should we allow anti-Semites who will despise Jewry and Israel regardless to cause us to lower our heads in proud pro-Israel advocacy just because of anti-Jewish slurs?
If Hagel has made disparaging comments about Israel, and he has done so repeatedly over many years, then how in God’s name can we not oppose him becoming the Secretary of Defense of the United States, whatever is being offered Israel behind the scenes? Israel is America’s foremost ally. It is also the Jewish homeland. We should stand proudly in its defense, regardless of people in high places.
As it is Purim I am reminded of the words of Mordechai delivered to Esther when she hesitated to use her influence with Achashveirosh after Haman had decreed the annihiliation of the Jews. “Do not seek to save your own skin, to escape the fate of the rest the Jews. For if you are silent in this moment, salvation shall come to the Jews from elsewhere and you are your father’s household shall perish. And who knows if it is specifically for a time such as this that you were chosen for high office.”
Ancient words have never been so relevant.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his newest best-seller, “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

12 Comments

  • Lawrence Kulak

    Unfortunately, it seems this time Rabbi Shmuely is right. But if he wants to help Israel he should establish himself as a more credible force for good and not make friends with left wing politicians like Cory Booker. Just because Booker may profess to backing Israel, he could flip at the drop of the hat. And then Boteach loses respect. AIPAC may also have dropped the ball to some extent and become to aligned with liberal Congressman. And sometimes you are just ‘frozen’ into acquiesscence as may have been the case with Hagel. Even congressman who support Israel with notable exceptions like John McCain and Lindsay Graham will not try to derail a Presidential appointment solely based upon that support. That could be why Jews like Schumer (and possibly AIPAC as well) try to play it cool in such instances.

    • Lawrence Kulak

      just to add an important point, it is urgent to realize that our adversaries in the White House have gotten much worse. Everybody thinks that George W. was such a great friend of Israel, and yet he refused to make Israel an equal partner in his ‘war on terror’ and give it the green light to eradicate Hamas. I personally do not think that George Bush the first would have cared what Israel did to any terrorist group. Second, Clinton was no friend of Israel hosting Arafat more times than any other head of State and being married to Hillary the anti-semite. Obama is not only antipathetic to Israel as George Bush the first was, but actively sympathizes witht the Arab cause while pretending to be an Israel supporter. Obama is a much deadlier adversary than Bush was and it therefore calls for a much different response from Israel supporters. The old tactics might get us into more trouble or might simply not work.

  • When push came to shove,George W. disappeared letting the CIA say that Iran was not working on a nuclear weapon.

  • Yoel Larry
    Very well said!

  • The only Jewish group lobbying on Capitol Hill about Chuck Hagel was EMET – the Endowment for Middle East Truth.

    We should be giving our money to them.

  • Population exchanges:
    Poor 600,000 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees! Unsettled.
    Poor 850,000 1948 Arab Jewish refugees!Settled.
    Poor 15,000,000 1946 Central European refugees!Settled.

    Poor us! We’ve been hearing ONLY about the Palestinians for 60 years and paying and paying for their support.
    The others, problems solved!
    We haven’t heard a whisper and it has cost us nothing. What makes the Palestinian Arab refugees so special? Who’s being brainwashed?

  • I often wonder why no one from AIPAC is publicly refuting and condemning the writings from Allison Weir and Phylis Bennis and their respective antisemitic and anti-Israel organizations.

  • Arthur Greenberg

    Amen to the comments of Yoel Larry.

  • Robert Mangels

    Sir- I wholeheartedly agree with your comments in your column. I view some of Israel’s so-called “supporters” with some cynicism and no small measure of disdain…so many in our society (and in the rest of the world for that matter) back this cause or that cause simply because it’s “in style”…hypocrites. God states in His Word (in reference to His people Israel) that “those who bless you I will also bless, and those who curse you I will also curse”. Not something I am willing to play with. I also look upon those of jewish descent who are against Israel with disdain and sadness…I have come to the conclusion (after much prayer and reflection) that these are descendants of Esau, who are not of the Promise…who are not of the Covenant…these people have no part or parcel with God’s promise for His chosen people Israel. Woe unto those who oppose God’s chosen people Israel. As a christian, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my jewish brothers and sisters against those opposed to God and His people. I (and my christian brothers and sisters) will continue to pray for God’s promise and for the people of Israel…may we see His mighty hand again soon.

  • It is time for American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Community in general to stop playing the complacent, mild-mannered Jew, afraid of saying something that, G-d forbid, may anger the Goyim. Either boldly stand up for the Jewish State of our inheritance and stop worrying about pleasing the Edomites and Ishmaelites, or pack your bags and get the hell back to the shtetls of Poland and Ukraine. You’ve waited 2000 years to reclaim our Holy Land now act like it was given, as it was, by G-d and not as many have been convinced was stolen and occupied by scheming colonialist European Jews. Get some spine and maybe you’ll get some respect and recognition insread of disdain for your meekness.

    • Pamela Deane Chester

      Thank you dear one for stating what I think but could not put into words as you did. I pray that “the apple of God’s eye” will turn to the Torah/Tanach and yes, as you said, to stand up for their inheritance. I have been grafted into the family of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac as a follower of Messiah and now have the same inheritance. God has pierced my heart with such a love for the Jew. I will fight the good fight for you, pray for you, send financial aid to our beloved Israel, etc., but I want to do it “with”you for HIS precious ………JERUSALEM!

    • Right on, Yoel.

      Am Yisrael chai!

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