The Raging Battle Over Samantha Power

June 11, 2013 6:22 am 1 comment

Samantha Power. Photo: Eric Bridiers

This past week I endured phenomenal criticism from close colleagues who are amazed that I have vouched for my friend Samantha Power as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. The emails and phone calls have been relentless, some of the attacks vicious. Shmuley, how could you? Power hates Israel. She attacked the Jewish state in a 2002 video and spoke of the possibility of Israel committing genocide against the Palestinians. She is a radical leftist. You have betrayed your pro-Israel credentials, etc, etc.

That’s kind of rich given that I find myself on every Jew-hating and Israel-hating website as one of the world’s most ferocious defenders of Israel, who ran for the United States Congress while having a daughter serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

But I know Samantha personally and all an individual has in this world is their good name and if it’s being unfairly sullied it deserves to be protected. Here are the facts.

Samantha Power is arguably the world’s foremost voice against genocide. As a member of a people who were exterminated at the rate of ten thousand per day just two generations ago, her 2002 Pulitzer-prize winning book A Problem from Hell moved me deeply. But beyond mere words, Samantha is credited with being the most influential voice in President Obama’s decision to bomb Muammar Kaddafi and stop him from slaughtering his people. Power is exactly what the United Nations – a weak and often immoral body that allowed genocides like Rwanda to take place without any kind of intervention – needs.

I am well aware of the criticisms from the pro-Israel camp against Samantha. She allowed me to address them with her directly in an on-the-record meeting at the White House. What I like about Samantha more than anything else is that she is a real person who speaks candidly and unguardedly. She is warm, accessible, genuine, and human.

The principal complaint leveled against her stems from an interview she granted in 2002 in Berkeley, California while she was on tour to promote her book which had unexpectedly become a best-seller. She was asked by a TV interviewer to respond to a “thought experiment” as to what she would advise an American president if it seemed that either party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were moving toward genocide. Samantha answered that preventing such a genocide would entail America being prepared to alienate a powerful constituency – by which she meant the American-Jewish lobby – and sending in a protective force to prevent another situation like Rwanda. From these comments Samantha has been dubbed an implacable enemy of Israel.

But in our conversation Samantha rejected this notion utterly. She acknowledged that as an academic untested in media relations, she erred terribly in answering any kind of hypothetical ‘thought experiment.’ She said greatly regretted her response. She said that if she really believed that Israel could ever God forbid move toward atrocities against the Palestinians then she would have expressed that view not in some silly book promotion but within the book itself where she details the mass atrocities of the twentieth century. Yet, in all 664 pages she never even hints at Israel being possibly guilty of ever practicing of such atrocities. Her only focus on Israel, she said, was on an internal Israeli government investigation which faulted Ariel Sharon for not having foreseen the Arab-on-Arab slaughter of Sabra and Shatilla, forcing Sharon’s resignation as Minister of Defense.

She also mentioned that her former Professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz – arguably Israel’s most stalwart defender – called her after her book was published to applaud her for not remotely associating Israel with atrocities, the way others had done. This week, at a dinner I hosted in Times Square honoring Elie Wiesel, Dr. Oz, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, I asked Professor Dershowitz to present the Adelsons with their Champion of Jewish identity award and he wrote a column likewise strongly defending Samantha’s nomination to the UN. Later, Ambassador Michael Oren likewise publicly defended Samantha.

We Jews are the people who taught the world that every human being, created in the image of God, is of infinite value. Yet here, Samantha Power, one of the important writers in modern history to hold the Western democracies accountable for their inaction through repeated twentieth century genocide is being dismissed as an enemy of the Jewish state based almost entirely on a fragment of a single interview lasting about two-and-a-half minutes. Most significantly, whatever her intention was in the unfortunate interview – and there is no question that she should have told the interviewer that his question was an absurdity – is not something she believes or has practiced. On the contrary, Power was largely responsible for the United States destroying the military capability of a genocidal Arab leader who was not only killing innocent Arabs but was, along with Iran, Israel’s most outspoken enemy.

In her capacity as senior adviser to the President on multi-lateral affairs, Power was also instrumental in the United States refusing to attend Durban II in 2009, which would have been, like Durban I in 2001, another UN sponsored Israel hate-fest.

In a column last week, I mentioned that I hosted Samantha at a meeting of forty Jewish leaders at the offices of Michael Steinhardt, founder of Birthright Israel, where she became extremely emotional to the point of being unable to continue her presentation as she responded to those who falsely accuse her of hating Israel.

I have spent a large part of my life fighting Israel’s enemies on TV and in public forums. But as important as it is to expose those who are our enemies, it is equally important to exonerate those who are not. Samantha Power has helped to honor and sanctify the memory of six million Jews murdered in history’s worst genocide and she has repudiated any earlier misunderstandings about Israel. Judaism teaches that a person is judged primarily by their action and Samantha has lectured all over the world about the holocaust and has used her influence to prevent a dictator from killing more of G-d’s children. These are heroic actions that ought to be applauded rather than criticized.

Shmuley Boteach is referred to by The Washington Post and Newsweek as ‘the most famous Rabbi in America’ and won the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary as well as the London Times Preacher of the Year competition. A renowned relationships expert, he hosted ‘The Shmuley Show’ on ‘The Oprah and Friends Radio Network’. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

1 Comment

  • @Shmuley Boteach
    Please search your files to retrieve the detailed e-mail that I sent to you concerning Samantha Power after you shifted your position after your meeting with her.
    In your article you say:
    “I have vouched for my friend Samantha Power…
    “I know Samantha personally…
    “I am well aware of the criticisms from the pro-Israel camp against Samantha. She allowed me to address them with her directly in an on-the-record meeting at the White House. What I like about Samantha more than anything else is that she is a real person who speaks candidly and unguardedly…..”
    Rabbi Boteach. It is important to be present when policy discussions occur. When she volunteers that the supreme leader of Iran is rational and would not ever use a nuclear weapon against Israel, that is a major concern.
    “Samantha is credited with being the most influential voice in President Obama’s decision to bomb Muammar Kaddafi and stop him from slaughtering his people.” You are probably correct in your reporting of her direct influence in this. Then, shouldn’t she be held accountable for the horrendous consequences of tremendous quantities of first-rate anti-air and anti-tank weapons and other similar munitions flowing to Hamas and other terrorist organizations from Libya and for the massive killings that are now taking place in Libya?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.