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November 4, 2014 3:17 pm

Susan Rice, Israel, and the Midterm Elections

avatar by Rafael Medoff / JNS.org

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Susan Rice at an IAF base. Photo: IDF.

JNS.org Whatever the results of the Nov. 4 midterm elections, Israel will no doubt continue trying to persuade both parties about the seriousness of Iran’s threats of genocide. Yet the Israelis now find themselves being berated for courting both parties—and the criticism is coming from a U.S. official who, ironically, once argued that intervening against genocide would hurt her party in that year’s midterm elections.

Just two days before the midterm races, National Security Adviser Susan Rice reportedly said the reason she has still not met with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer—who was appointed 16 months ago—is that “he’s too busy traveling to Sheldon Adelson’s events in Las Vegas.” According to the Israeli dailyHaaretz, Dermer’s action “served to prove to Obama’s aides” that Dermer is “a sympathizer with the red, Republican side.”

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The reference was to Dermer’s speech at a Republican Jewish Coalition event in March. For the past year, Israeli officials, including Dermer, have been trying to persuade Democrats and Republicans alike that Iran’s threats of genocide against Israel are serious and that Teheran should not be permitted to continue building nuclear weapons.

Presumably, if the National Jewish Democratic Council decided to invite Dermer, he would speak to them too. Maintaining friendly relations with both parties has been a cornerstone of Israeli and Zionist policy going back to the days before Israel even existed. In 1944, Jewish activists (led by Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the current prime minister) helped convince the Republican Party to include in its platform a first-ever plank calling for the rescue of Europe’s Jews and creation of a Jewish state. Other Jewish leaders then persuaded the Democrats to match that pledge in their own platform. Bipartisan support for Zionism and Israel has been an integral part of American political culture ever since.

For Susan Rice, of all people, to have made such a charge on the eve of midterm elections is rich with irony.

In the spring of 1994, Rice was director of Africa Affairs for the National Security Council, under President Bill Clinton. Reports began pouring in about machete-wielding militias of the Hutu tribe in Rwanda carrying out nationwide massacres of the country’s ethnic minority, the Tutsis. What were Susan Rice and other U.S. officials saying about all this behind the scenes?

Samantha Power gave us the answer. Before she became America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Power wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book called “A Problem from Hell,” concerning America’s responses to genocide. She found a Defense Department memo revealing that the State Department was “worried” that acknowledging that genocide was underway in Rwanda “could commit [the U.S.] to actually ‘do something.'” Rice was quoted as saying to her colleagues, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [midterm] elections?”

When Rice was nominated in 2012 to become President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, she was asked during her confirmation hearings about that Rwanda-midterms remark. She replied that she did not recall having made that statement.

Israelis, with their keen sense of history, may recall how the State Department responded in 1942, after receiving overwhelming evidence that the Germans were annihilating millions of Jews in Europe. The British government suggested to the U.S. that they issue a joint statement acknowledging and condemning the mass murder. One Roosevelt administration official objected on the grounds that if they issued such a statement, the Allies “would expose themselves to increased pressure from all sides to do something more specific in order to aid these people.”

Rice has suffered more than one memory lapse when asked about genocide. A WikiLeaks cable in 2010 quoted a disturbing exchange between Dr. Rice and the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, architect of the Darfur genocide. The ICC prosecutor told Rice that Bashir had amassed a secret $9-billion stash. The prosecutor wanted to publicize that information in the hope of turning the Sudanese public against Bashir. But the U.S. never publicized it. After the cable was leaked to the press, a reporter asked Rice about it. She replied that she “didn’t recall” being told about the $9 billion.

Last year, Rice visited Rwanda. Afterwards, she described how in 1994, six months after the genocide ended, she walked through “a church and an adjacent schoolyard where one of the massacres had occurred [and] the decomposing bodies of those who had been so cruelly murdered still lay strewn around what should have been a place of peace. … We saw first-hand the spectacular consequences of the poor decisions taken by those countries, including my own… .”

What keeps Dermer and other Israeli officials up at night is the fear of history repeating itself. However the midterm elections turn out, America will still be deeply divided, and the Israelis will continue seeking support from both parties for action to pre-empt Iranian genocide. The alternative is to face the prospect that one day, some State Department official will stroll amidst the rubble of the former State of Israel, expressing belated remorse about not having acted.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, DC. His most recent book is “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith.
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  • Noellsq

    As long as the President is in the white house with his big ego Israel will suffer

  • Lauren Goldman

    Why President Hussein, I do believe that is a bus you are throwing Israel under.

    His actions during the latest war with hamas have shown his true intent; set Israel up for destruction. In the middle of this conflict, America stopped the shipment of all weapons to Israel (not just Hellfire missiles as was reported in our press), supposedly to ‘review the process for supplying weapons.’ This is not done by an ally.

  • Reform School

    Despite the Obama Administration’s policy and tactics to subvert the Constitution (which is the supreme law) of the United States of America, that document contains not one word concerning political parties. Two-party control of every facet of the government of the United States (rather than its collective citizenry) is an aberration its first president notably warned against upon his retirement. Reaching-out to America should be directed at citizens, who [despite a hostile Leftist press] still overwhelmingly support the Jewish State, no thanks to Israel’s political class, which ALL parties appear unable to do effectively. Were it not for the notable efforts of foreigners like British atheist Pat Condell http://www.patcondell.net, the battle for western “hearts and [formerly] minds” might have gone the way of the dodo bird.

  • BARBARA SHABO

    This information needs to be circulated in the mainstream press and media. We need a “Frontline” report on this like the one they just produced on the rise of ISIS.

  • Selina Owen

    God will allow the old and bring in the new Jerusalem.

  • steven L

    At the 2010 Democratic convention the democrats dumped Israel and the majority of left American Jews.
    Rice and the US history of opportunistic political Alzheimer syndrome. What you don’t want to remember, you can’t treat.

  • EthanP

    The problem isn’t in Congress, regardless of tonight’s election. It remains at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Obama wants to bolster Iran and it’s bomb. And he and his minions are prepared to sacrifice Israel to do so.

  • Efram

    The answer is, and always has been, for Democrats in congress to openly oppose Obama and support Israel. It is nothing short of criminal that these congressmen and senators have acquiesced to Obama’s vicious policies.

    • Gabrielle Grossman

      I agree 100%. Congresspeople of both parties should shout to The People that Iran’s nuclear pursuits and terrorist pursuits are serious threats to ourselves as well as Israel, and must be confronted! It’s so obvious, with Iran’s demonstrations, flag burning, big and little satans, etc.! They have declared themselves our enemy many, many times, but we are still pretending they are nice and reasonable! All the way back to 1979 seizure of our embassy in Tehran! And Pres. Reagan rewarded them with weapons in an effort to get the hostages released on his inauguration day! And then, again, he rewarded them in the Iran Contra Scandal! (I’m not even mentioning the hundreds of American Marines killed by Iran’s Hezbola in Lebanon in 1983!–with no U.S. response!). Since ’79 the Iranians have become emboldened! Now, they think the U.S. is a paper tiger and they can do anything they want, including snuff out Israel.

  • Lucille Kaplan

    What a stunning piece of journalism. Superb research and analysis. I only hope that should Samantha Power ever be asked to detail or otherwise stand by her documentation of Rice’s politicization of genocide, she (Power) doesn’t herself suffer the kind of memory lapse that seems to afflict Rice so often.

  • judithg

    substitute “iran” for “germany”. simple as that.

  • Paul

    Oh my God please save Jerusalem in Jesus name. Amen!

  • rulierose

    my heart aches for my Israeli brothers and sisters. can you hold on just two more years, until we’re rid of this dreadful administration? even Hillary Clinton would be preferable than Obama.

    and in January, Hashem willing, a Republican Senate will take over and start supporting our closest ally in the Middle East, not undercutting them in favor of the Iranian mullahs and Hamas.

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