Ex-Diplomat Martin Indyk’s Alleged ‘Repuslive Remarks’ About Israel and Jews Raise Concerns
JNS.org — Several Jewish organizations and leaders are expressing alarm over revelations of a series of harsh, disparaging remarks about Israelis and Jews made by a former US diplomat and mideast expert.
Martin Indyk — who served as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, followed by a stint as the Obama administration’s envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — is being urged to clarify comments he made in a tape-recorded private conversation from 1989, in which he reportedly said Israelis are “paranoid,” “arrogant” and “think the rules of society do not apply [to them]” because “they are the goy’s rules.”
Indyk, who is Jewish himself, also reportedly applied this assessment to the character of Jews generally, saying that Jewish people “would do whatever they can to avoid paying taxes,” and believe it is justified to “find a way to ignore the law or get around it.” He added, “In my own family, my grandfather used to stay up nights to figure out how to avoid paying taxes.”
Professor Eunice G. Pollack, an historian of antisemitism and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, told JNS.org that Indyk’s reported statements “echo three of the most infamous centuries-old tropes of antisemites.”
“You have an updated version of the classic ‘Jewish swindler,’ combined with the ‘disloyal Jew’ who evades his patriotic duty to pay taxes, and the millennia-old ‘arrogant Jew’ who, in a more religious era, was accused of deriving his arrogance from his partner, Satan,” said Pollack.
The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, has called “on Ambassador Indyk to immediately clarify whether or not he made these horrific statements.”
Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, told JNS.org, “I hope he didn’t say such things, and if he did, I hope he will disavow them. Either way, he needs to address the controversy.”
Indyk’s alleged comments were made while he was executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and were brought to light in 1995 by Amcha-the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, after Indyk was nominated as ambassador to Israel. At that time, neither the news media nor senators involved in his confirmation hearing gave the allegations any attention.
Indyk has not responded to multiple requests for comment by JNS.org.
This is not the first time Indyk’s remarks about Israel have drawn criticism.
Adam Kredo, a senior foreign policy writer for the Washington Free Beacon, told JNS.org that Indyk “is known among reporters for anonymously criticizing Israel in the press, for planting stories meant to pressure the Jewish state into making concessions [and for] leading the Obama administration’s efforts over the years to discredit Israel and blame it for the failure in peace talks.”
In recent days, Indyk — currently the vice president and director for foreign policy at the Left-leaning Brookings Institution think tank — has taken to mainstream and social media to defend the Obama administration’s recent condemnations of Israeli settlements at last week’s United Nations Security Council vote, and then in Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on Wednesday.
Indyk accused Kredo of spreading “fake news” after the journalist reported that US Vice President Joe Biden was involved in lobbying on behalf of the UN resolution against settlements, accusations Biden has denied.
He also engaged in a heated Twitter exchange with an Israeli official. After Indyk wrote that the UN measure was not an attack on Israel but aimed only at “settlers, who undermine peace negotiations [and] are hurting Israel,” Reuven Azar, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, responded, “Please don’t lie to your followers. This pro-BDS resolution is unprecedented.” Indyk shot back, “Diplomats are sent abroad to lie for their country. But that doesn’t include accusing people of lying. Leave that to your political bosses.” Azar responded, “We’ll keep fighting for our country and you’ll keep lecturing us.”
Indyk ended the exchange with a sarcastic, “Happy Hanukkah to you too.”
Robert Satloff, who currently occupies Indyk’s former post as executive director of the Washington Institute think tank, weighed in on Azar’s side, tweeting, “I disagree w/my friend @martin_indyk.”
Indyk has also vocally opposed President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of attorney David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel, writing in a tweet that was quoted in The New York Times and elsewhere, that Friedman would be “a great ambassador for the deep settler state. But David Friedman needs to be US envoy to all Israelis. Is he up for that?” He expanded on these thoughts in an interview with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, saying Friedman’s call for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to western Jerusalem is “incendiary” because it “would imply that the United States was recognizing Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, including the Arab part… which has the third-holiest mosque in Islam.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, criticized Indyk for “[forgetting] to mention that what he calls ‘the Arab part’ of Jerusalem includes a large Jewish community, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, which contains the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world. That mosque is the third-holiest site to Islam, but Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) is Judaism’s holiest site.”
Cooper added that “the current status quo, in which the US does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory, is patently unfair.”
The president of EMET, Sarah Stern said Indyk’s denunciation of Friedman is “very ironic” if Indyk himself is guilty of making those “repulsive remarks” in 1989.
Stern added that Indyk’s “judgment and objectivity” were “severely undermined” two years ago, when it was revealed that he had accepted a $14.8-million contribution from the government of Qatar — the world’s largest financer of the Hamas terrorist organization — for the Brookings Institution.