Where Are America’s Jewish Leaders?
Israel is once again facing major new international military and political challenges. Yet despite our dysfunctional political system and the chaos associated with the impending elections, we have never been as militarily secure as we are today. We share a broad consensus across the nation and, allowing for minor nuances, any government elected will almost certainly maintain the broad outlines of the current security policy. These can be summed up as a desire to separate from our neighbors but an inability to do so until we have a partner for peace and can ensure our security. Alas, as of now that is not even on the horizon.
However, we need to brace ourselves because our international position is becoming increasingly fragile. The Europeans are intensifying their biased policies against us, and Britain may soon elect an outright antisemitic leader.
The continued support of the US government at this time is thus immensely important. But there are perturbing developments.
President Donald Trump has thus far been a very good friend to Israel but displays erratic tendencies and at times ignores his own advisers as exemplified recently when he announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria. There are also unsubstantiated but disturbing hints that the American peace plan may have some unpleasant surprises that Israel may find unacceptable. At the same time, the Democratic Party’s radical and anti-Israel wing is growing, and is already threatening the favorable congressional bipartisan consensus toward Israel that has prevailed for many years.
Today, Israel’s principal supporters in the United States are the evangelical Christians, whereas the Jewish community is utterly disunited, and betraying its loyalty and obligations to the Jewish state.
This did not happen overnight. Its origins go back to the Obama administration. Prior to that, Jewish leaders never hesitated to speak out against government policies considered inimical to the interests of Israel or the Jewish people.
When Barack Obama was elected president, this mood changed. He began to treat Israel as a rogue state, grovel to the Iranians, describe Israeli defenders and Arab terrorists as moral equivalents, and finally declined to veto the most biased and despicable resolution ever passed against Israel by the UN Security Council. The response by the majority of the American Jewish establishment, who were previously never reticent about raising their voices, was a deafening silence.
Apart from the Zionist Organization of America and a number of smaller groups, the vast array of religious, political, and social Jewish groups failed to react. Some tried to justify their inaction by arguing that criticizing Obama would only increase his hostility.
Of course, a major factor contributing to the silence was the evolution of increasing numbers of “non-Jewish Jews,” so ignorant of their heritage that they regarded social justice and their Democratic political affiliation as the foremost factors in their Jewish identity.
Veteran Jewish leaders who did understand the situation were fearful that criticism of Obama would jeopardize their funding.
Prior to Trump’s election, Jewish organizations were meticulous in seeking to maintain a bipartisan stance. But once he was elected, hysteria swept through the Jewish community. Many progressive rabbis and lay leaders decided it was their duty as Jews to oppose him, even on issues that had no direct bearing on Jewish interests. Speaking as Jews, some went so far as to accuse Trump of being a racist, an antisemite, and even a Nazi sympathizer.
This despite the fact that, to date, Trump has unquestionably been the most positive president toward Israel and has a converted Jewish daughter who is religiously observant. He introduced significant beneficial policies such as ceasing financial aid to Palestinian terrorists, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and promoting the case for Israel at the UN and international forums.
The most striking example of this Jewish anti-Trump agitation is the Anti-Defamation League, whose mandate is to fight antisemitism and bigotry. Today it has become a radical extension of the Democratic Party. Dispensing with a long tradition of bipartisanship, it openly lobbied against Senate confirmation of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state. It concentrated on radical right antisemitism and soft-pedaled the greater threat from the left; refused to endorse anti-boycott legislation on the grounds that it limited freedom of expression; and generally failed to react with any vigor against Muslim and extremist anti-Israel elements who abuse — sometimes violently — Jewish students and suppress pro-Israel activity on college campuses.
The purported human rights movement Black Lives Matter incorporates anti-Israel passages in its platform and campaigns against anti-boycott legislation. Yet it is still endorsed by the ADL and enjoys the support of many Jews — a clear demonstration of how Jewish identity has become submerged by progressivism. Indeed, left-wing Jews wishing to be regarded as “progressive” are discovering that a prerequisite to their acceptance requires a hostile attitude to Israel.
The much-publicized Women’s March was a blatant example of toxic antisemitism and rabid anti-Israel agitation deliberately being adopted by a movement ostensibly committed to human rights. The leaders include unashamed antisemites like co-chair Tamika Mallory, who refuses to recognize Israel or dissociate herself from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, America’s most notorious antisemite, who refers to Jews as “satanic” and “termites.”
An even more disturbing event is the unprecedented election of openly anti-Israel agitators to Congress, with the support of Jews. Among these is Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who was photographed at an event with Abbas Hamideh, who openly promotes Hamas and Hezbollah, and likens Zionists to Nazis.
Another is the freshman Democratic legislator Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Somali-American who is bitterly anti-Israel and enthusiastically promotes BDS. She has described Israel as “evil” and an apartheid state, and claimed that it had “hypnotized the world.” She also accused Jews of harboring “dual loyalties.” One of her acts after her election was to meet with antisemitic activist Linda Sarsour.
But what must have shocked and sent shivers down the spines of Jews even remotely supportive of Israel was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s appointment of this antisemitic newly elected congresswoman to the prestigious and powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees foreign aid and such national security issues as terrorism and the proliferation of non-conventional weapons.
Belatedly, some Jewish organizations are now protesting. Had they spoken up earlier, this radicalization might have been stemmed and the appointment of an outright antisemite to this sensitive position could have been preempted.
This past decade has been one of unprecedented passivity and cowardice by the Jewish establishment. It failed to speak out against Obama’s anti-Israel bias and remained silent when the ADL, J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, progressive rabbis, and other Jews engaged in the primitive defamation of Trump from Jewish platforms.
Yet the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, comprising 51 affiliates, which remained silent over the past 10 years, saw fit to sanction Morton Klein, president of the ZOA, the one organization that ignored political correctness and assumed the primary voice speaking out against Jewish left-wing hysteria. It censured him personally and his organization for insults and ad hominem attacks.
Klein condemned the cowardly behavior of purportedly mainstream Jewish bodies like the Presidents’ Conference itself, AIPAC, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and Jewish federations that failed to criticize other Jewish organizations slandering Trump from ostensible Jewish platforms.
American Jews are now at a turning point. They should set aside their pettiness and vindictiveness, and recognize the appointment of Democratic legislator Ilhan Omar to the Foreign Affairs Committee as a final wake-up call and unite to oppose the rapid radicalization of the Democratic Party, before it is too late.
American Jews are free to support or oppose Trump. But they should do so as American citizens, not as Jews. And if there is a case for or against Trump with regard to Jewish issues, a consensual statement should be made by mainstream leaders — one that will not detract from bipartisanship. What is now taking place has defied all precedents and is fomenting needless antisemitism among Trump’s supporters, who represent half the electorate.
If the Jewish leaders do not reverse the tide, most American Jews will be betraying Israel and, in the process, obliterating what little is left of Jewish identity.
It would be a tragic situation if future generations of American Jewry continue to evolve into “non-Jewish Jews” or disappear completely. Should that happen, Orthodox Jews and evangelicals will remain the sole supporters of Israel in the United States.