The American presidential election may be over a year away, but two leading
Jewish organizations are already gearing up to assist Barack Obama in his effort
to win a second term.
In a highly unusual move, the Anti-Defamation
League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have joined forces to
launch what is being billed as a “National Unity Pledge for Israel.”
document, which is being widely circulated to garner signatures, ostensibly
seeks to promote bipartisan support for Israel. It says “the Jewish community
has had a strong interest in ensuring that American support for Israel is one of
the critical strategic issues that unites rather than divides parties and
officials,” and speaks of the need for American voices to be “raised together in unshakable support for our friend and ally.”
Don’t let all the gallant
fluff about unity fool you.
This pledge has far more to do with domestic
American politics than it does with preserving Israel’s standing in public
It is nothing less than a nakedly transparent attempt by liberal
American Jews to bolster President Obama’s sagging support among members of the
tribe and deflect criticism from his hostile record toward Israel.
so subtly, the document suggests that the “US-Israel friendship should never be
used as a political wedge issue.”
But behind that seemingly harmless
rhetoric lies a far more calculated agenda, one that seeks to stifle debate and
silence criticism of the Obama administration. A critical clue to the
initiative’s real aim can be found in a statement that accompanied its release,
by ADL national director Abraham Foxman.
“We want the discourse on US
support for Israel to avoid the sometimes polarizing debates and political
attacks that have emerged in recent weeks,” said Foxman, “as candidates have
challenged their opponents’ pro-Israel bona fides or questioned the current
administration’s foreign policy approach vis-à-vis Israel.”
Since when is there anything wrong with questioning a presidential
administration’s approach to Israel? For decades, American Jews have stood up in
defense of the Jewish state when presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W.
Bush sought to manhandle Jerusalem. They have gone to the political barricades,
lobbied congressmen and organized rallies, petitions and protests when
There is something ludicrous and un-American for the ADL and AJC
to now suggest that challenging Obama’s policy towards Israel is somehow
damaging or detrimental. It defies logic and common sense and should be
Foxman and friends seem to have forgotten that
debate, discussion and yes, even disagreement are precisely what democracy is
all about. There is no political, intellectual or moral justification for this
heavy-handed attempt to hush up Obama’s critics.
Those behind the move
should be ashamed of themselves.
THE TIMING of this “unity pledge” is
hardly coincidental. Just last month, a survey conducted by AJC found a growing
sense of dissatisfaction among American Jews with Obama and his
For the first time since Obama was elected, the number of Jews
expressing disapproval of his presidency exceeded those who voiced approval, by
a margin of 48 to 45 percent.
And when asked for their opinion of his
handling of US-Israel relations, 53% said they disapproved while just 40%
While Obama is still likely to win a majority of the
Jewish vote, hardly anyone expects him to come close to winning the 78% that he
is said to have won in 2008.
Among the general electorate Obama is facing
an increasingly difficult political environment, even as his Jewish support is
Hence the “unity pledge” proffered by the ADL and
The two groups, which generally compete with one another for press
coverage, donors and prestige, have suddenly found common cause in trying to
help the president.
By taking political sides and casting their lot with
the Democratic incumbent, the ADL and AJC have revealed themselves to be
partisan players rather than truly impartial Jewish organizations.
this light, their pledge only demonstrates just how unrepresentative they truly
are of American Jewry as a whole.
Instead of defending Jewish rights and
interests, they are acting like an extension of the Obama campaign.
believe many American Jews will see right through this ploy and reject it out of
A growing number of them recognize that Obama is bad for Israel; it
is crucial that they continue to hammer this message home in the run-up to next
Israel does indeed need broad bipartisan American backing and
support. But it cannot come at the expense of the most basic freedom of all: the
right to disagree.
The writer is chairman of Shavei Israel
(www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that assists lost tribes and
hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.