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November 6, 2014 7:54 am

Why Don’t America’s Jewish Leaders Stand Up for Israel?

avatar by Isi Leibler

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President Obama speaking on the phone with the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, September 2013. Photo: The White House

I would hesitate writing this column had I not served as a national Jewish leader who faced “Žsimilar dilemmas to those confronting the American Jewish leadership today, many of whom I “Žwas engaged with in various battles against enemies of the Jewish people and Israel.”Ž

Yet, with considerable regret and notwithstanding notable exceptions, I believe that today the “Žmajor leaders within the American Jewish establishment are failing to stand up and be “Žcounted, despite chilling signals that the U.S. administration is about to abandon “ŽIsrael, effectively revoking the U.S.-Israel alliance on which we are deeply dependent. There “Žare even hints that U.S. President Barack Obama may forgo the U.S. veto at the United Nations “ŽSecurity Council that protects Israel from censure and sanctions, which could have disastrous “Žrepercussions. This is taking place at a time when much of the world regards Israel as it did “ŽCzechoslovakia in the 1930s. “Ž

Another serious issue is that Obama has again breached a solemn undertaking and appears “Žprepared to consummate a deal with the Iranians, enabling them to achieve nuclear status.”Ž

Tensions have escalated over the past 12 months and the vicious and humiliating manner in “Žwhich the Obama administration has treated Israel, its purported ally and the only democratic “Žstate in the region, is unprecedented. The administration’s condemnation of Israel’s “Ž”Ž”disproportionate response” and directive to withhold replenishment of arms during the Gaza “Žwar is hardly the behavior of a genuine ally.”Ž

In contrast, the Obama administration serenades Iran and Qatar, which promote global “Žterrorism; kowtows to Saudi Arabia despite its horrific abuse of human rights, and embraces “ŽTurkey’s anti-Semitic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”Ž

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has failed to make a single concession, opting “Žto merge with the genocidal Hamas. He deliberately incites hatred of Israelis, and just last “Žweek hailed the murderer of the 3-month-old Israeli baby as a shaheed (martyr) and extended “Žcondolences to the family of Rabbi Yehuda Glick’s attempted assassin, whom he described as “Ž”Ž”rising to heaven while defending our people’s rights and holy places.” Abbas adviser Sultan “ŽAbu Al-Einen said that the “bullets were a beacon that will continue to shine for years to “Žcome.” Yet the Obama administration remains circumspect and respectful of Abbas while “ŽPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is treated with contempt and derision.”Ž

What is especially galling is that in the midst of regional upheaval with millions of people being “Ždisplaced, hundreds of thousands butchered and the world confronted by a snowballing “Žthreat of Islamic barbarism from Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Obama remains obsessed “Žwith Israel’s need to make concessions that would undermine its security and create long-term “Žexistential threats. It is bizarre that he spends more time condemning Israel for building homes “Žin Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem than on the carnage taking place in the region.”Ž

And yet, despite all of the above, the Jewish leadership seems to have hibernated. The only “Žvoices consistently protesting against the bias and condemnations directed against Israel are “Žthe Zionist Organization of America and the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Žwhich was the first to respond with a well-deserved fusillade against the “chickenshit” “Žoutburst, demanding an apology and repudiation.”Ž

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a rare criticism of “Žthe White House, demanded that the anonymous official whose remarks were “inappropriate” “Žand “counterproductive” be “held to account.” But Abe Foxman, the national director of the “ŽAnti-Defamation League, effectively trivialized the incident, saying that “the White House “Žstatement [which distanced itself from the comments without condemning them] should bring “Žclosure to the issue.” “Ž

Amazingly, the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned the outburst in harsher terms “Žthan the Jewish establishment, expressing “surprising disappointment at the profane and “Žinappropriate language” employed. “Ž

The issues at stake here are far beyond the vulgar language and the hostile exchanges between “ŽObama and Netanyahu. They relate to the foundations of the U.S.-Israel alliance.”Ž

These are times when one would expect the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (whose “Žraison d’etre is surely to respond to such situations) and the American Jewish leadership to “Žpublicly protest at the manner in which Israel is being treated. “Ž

Remaining silent and relying on the ZOA and other small groups to defend Israel, conveys the “Žfalse impression that the committed American Jewish community is alienated from Israel and “Žprefers to remain aloof while the Obama administration bashes the Jewish state. “Ž

Most Jewish leaders with whom I communicate admit that they consider Obama’s behavior “Žtoward Israel as reprehensible. “Ž

Many seek to rationalize their behavior by stressing that they are lobbying vigorously behind “Žthe scenes and maintain that public criticism of Obama would encourage him to become even “Žmore extreme.”Ž

This is the classic Diaspora approach of the “trembling Israelites.” It has been proved wrong in “Žthe past and American Jewish leaders, to their credit, were always robust and outgoing in “Žexercising their democratic right to promote the Jewish standpoint. We have learned over the “Žyears that while shtadlanut (silent diplomacy) is indeed necessary, it can only be effective “Žwhen backed up by a public campaign.”Ž

At this crucial turning point in the relationship with Israel, my real concern is that American “ŽJewish leaders are simply fearful of directly confronting the president and that the allegedly “Žpowerful Jewish lobby lacks the backbone to stand up and be counted. “Ž

The absence of direction and leadership has already resulted in further erosion as displayed by “ŽGary Rosenblatt, the respected editor of The New York Jewish Week, who produced an “Žeditorial titled “Bibi takes on the world,” blasting Netanyahu for confronting the “leader of the “Žfree world” and “jeopardizing Israel’s relationship with its most important allies” for electoral “Žreasons. Rosenblatt is a Zionist and a courageous and outspoken journalist. Only two weeks “Žearlier, he had penned an editorial, “Blaming Israel isn’t the answer,” castigating the global “Žanti-Israeli tsunami. “Ž

But his latest editorial was unfair and extremely damaging. The Jewish Week was founded by “Žthe Jewish Federations, and Rosenblatt conceded to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic (who “Žexposed the “chickenshit” comment) that in the past there would have been “hell to pay in the “Žcommunity” for such an editorial on Israel, but now “that is no longer the case.” “Ž

Goldberg cited the editorial as evidence that Jewish leaders were “uneasy” about Israel’s “Ždirection. He referred to discussions by unnamed Jewish officials questioning Netanyahu’s “Žpolicies. He went on to state that Israel should be trying to “negotiate in good faith” with the “Žduplicitous Abbas and impose a settlement freeze on Jerusalem and the settlement blocs until “Žsuch time as negotiations with the Palestinians have clarified which territory will remain within “ŽIsrael. Needless to say, pigs will fly before the Palestinians agree to such an accommodation.”Ž

This is the approach that the Obama administration will adopt in its forthcoming effort to “Žrenew negotiations after the midterm elections. Whereas most Israelis feel that the prime “Žminister would be well advised to cease making public announcements about construction, the “Žvast consensus would never agree to a construction freeze in the settlement blocs and “Žespecially not in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.”Ž

Certain myths and falsehoods need to be dispelled. Israel is not creating new settlements. To “Žthe contrary, the only real change on the ground in the last decade has been the dismantling of “Žsettlements in Gaza which were transformed to launch rockets. Nor are any Arabs being “Ždisplaced or Palestinian land being appropriated. The entire area engaged in current “Žsettlement is about 3 percent of the former Jordanian occupied territories. The Oslo accords never “Žrequired limits to settlement growth and certainly not natural growth of existing communities.”Ž

That is the message that AIPAC and Jewish leaders must urgently promote. They must also “Žfirmly and publicly condemn the biased policies adopted against Israel by the administration “Žand lobby Congress to prevent Obama from abandoning Israel during his remaining two years “Žin office.”Ž

Failure by the Jewish leadership to act now will massively undermine the entire Jewish “Žcommunity as a political force in America, sending a message to the American people and “ŽCongress that American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel. This would invariably “Žimpact on the very high levels of support that Israel currently enjoys.”Ž

It will also weaken the will of Jewish students to stand up and fight for themselves at the “Žcampuses, many of which have been transformed into anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic cesspools.”Ž

The Jewish leadership has an enormous responsibility to provide direction. Hopefully they will “Žmove in this direction, preventing analogies between today’s American Jewish establishment “Žand the disastrous era of Rabbi Stephen Wise and his colleagues, who failed to stand up to “ŽPresident Franklin Roosevelt’s indifference to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust.”Ž

Isi Leibler’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at “Žileibler@leibler.com.”Ž This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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