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November 17, 2015 8:06 am

Why Is the AJC Defending John Kerry on Israel?

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: State Dept.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: State Dept.

In 1943, when Peter Bergson took out full-page ads in The New York Times to alert America to the slaughter of European Jewry and the inaction of the American government, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) tried to have him deported. A Jewish activist who protested the Roosevelt administration’s inaction to save the Jews of Europe was seen as an unwelcome irritant by the AJC.

Perhaps I should therefore not have been surprised when the AJC attacked me recently for placing a full-page ad in The New York Times this past weekend criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry’s failure to stand with America’s closest Middle East ally — Israel — and for his moral blindness on the Jewish state.

Does the AJC share Kerry’s view that Jews are being brutally murdered because of the settlements? Does Executive Director David Harris agree that these atrocities are part of a “cycle of violence,” thereby equating the killers and the victims?

I know that Harris is a passionate Zionist, and a distinguished Jewish leader who could not possibly agree with Kerry’s moral equivalence.

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If Harris does share my objection over Kerry’s spurious moral equivalence, then why would he, or someone else using the AJC name, attack a fellow Jew who criticizes our highest officials when they take positions that are indefensible? After all, Kerry is not a dictator, god or king who is immune to criticism.

You would think the AJC would have learned from its embarrassing silence during World War II, and its initial opposition to the establishment of Israel.

The job of the AJC and other communal institutions is to summon the courage to speak truth to power. The desire to preserve access to powerful people is hampering Jewish activism as we see a growing onslaught against Israel.

I understand the necessity of having the ear of decision-makers, but does the AJC really believe it would lose access if its leaders spoke out against justifications for terror? If that were true, then the AJC must not be taken very seriously in the corridors of power.

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande declared, after the horrible atrocities in Paris, “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless.” He added that the terrorists “must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved.”

Where is the State Department spokesman to tell Hollande to exercise restraint, to avoid a disproportionate response, and to break the cycle of violence? Hollande has already, in his righteous might, struck forcefully against ISIS with no one from the Obama administration objecting. It is inconceivable that Kerry would treat Hollande with the same disdain that he shown Benjamin Netanyahu, when the Israeli prime minister has spoken out against the barbarous terrorists who are stabbing, shooting and running over Israelis.

Hollande is not interested in the motivations of the murderers of French citizens. He understands that France is confronting unmitigated evil, and that his country was attacked because ISIS is nothing more than a collection of bloodthirsty monsters driven by their desire to cleanse the world of non-Muslims.

It is a mistake, however, to focus all our attention on ISIS. The West, and much of the Middle East, will not defeat the global terrorist network unless and until all world leaders understand that what is true of ISIS applies to all radical Islamists, whether they call themselves Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, or Islamic Jihad. And we should have also learned the lesson from the killing of Osama bin Laden — that as soon as we kill one terrorist leader, or neutralize an organization, another will emerge, because too many Muslims are being radicalized and are being made receptive to the extremist views spread through mosques, madrassas and social media, and too many are convinced of the virtue of martyrdom.

Islam is a great world religion and Jews and Muslims lived peacefully together in many locals over several historic periods. Muslims took in large numbers of Jews in Ottoman Turkey, for example, after the Spanish Catholic expulsion. But the number of terrorist attacks being perpetrated in the name of Islam has become something impossible to ignore, notwithstanding how President Obama refuses to use the words “radical Islamic terror.”

This is what Israelis mean when they say that the West does not understand the Middle East. The French declared war this week; Jews have been fighting this war against radical Muslim terror in their homeland since the days of the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s. I am skeptical that the Obama administration will abandon its double standard toward Israel because of the Paris murders, but the administration should recognize Israel is fighting the same war against radical Islam, only in a different theater.

The United States should support Israel in its war on terror with the same vigor as it says it will support France. John Kerry must condemn terror against Jews with the same fervor and clarity that he has expressed in response to the Paris attacks. There can be no equivocation or false associations of Israeli policy with unjustified killings. Failure to do so can only be interpreted as an American double standard when it comes to Islamic terrorists who murder Israeli Jews.

I call on David Harris and the AJC to join me in demanding that the secretary of state unambiguously condemn the murder of Israelis. This is the morally appropriate position for a Jewish leader — even if it is not the politically correct one.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America” is the founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warriors Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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