Traditionally, Diaspora Jewish leaders speak up on behalf of Israel, frequently
even taking the lead on issues in which geopolitical considerations made it
problematic for the Jewish state to be engaged. Examples abound: the plight of
Soviet Jewry, the campaign to rescind the UN resolution equating Zionism with
racism, the World Jewish Congress exposure of Kurt Waldheim as a war criminal
and, more importantly, achieving restitution for Jewish assets plundered by the
Nazis from various bodies including the Swiss banks and insurance
However, with the erosion of cabinet solidarity after the
Rabin era, the intimate relationship which existed between Diaspora Jewish
communities and the Israeli government and its ambassadors rapidly
In stark contrast to former charismatic leaders like David
Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and even Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu is inclined to release trial balloons to test the waters of public
opinion rather than articulate his policy in advance to the nation. This was
exemplified by the contradictory rumors floated from government sources before
it was resolved not to concede to the outrageous Turkish demands in the wake of
the Mavi Marmara affair.
Combining the vagueness of publicly stated
government policies with the dramatic upsurge in anti-Israel hostility, it is
not surprising that most Diaspora Jewish leaders are now far more hesitant than
in the past to criticize their host governments over Israel-related
The change in behavior is especially obvious with American Jewish
leaders who were formerly renowned for their feisty domestic and global
initiatives on behalf of Israel.
AIPAC continues to effectively lobby the
case for Israel on a bipartisan level in Congress but its role is, by
definition, limited to this arena.
However, over the past six months, the
principal organizations involved in public affairs – the Conference of Major
American Jewish Organizations (Presidents Conference), the American Jewish
Committee (AJC), the Anti- Defamation League (ADL), and Bnai Brith International
– while remaining unreservedly committed to Israel have generally been reluctant
to explicitly challenge the Obama administration’s pressures and one-sided
demands upon Israel.
AMERICAN JEWS are understandably hyper-sensitive
about a further erosion in the bipartisan relationship, a crucial factor in
maintaining public support for Israel. Yet reluctance to publicly criticize
their president contrasts sharply with the dramatic Jewish grassroots backlash
against Obama exemplified by the stunning upset in the New York’s 9th
Congressional District, a largely Jewish-populated electorate – where the
Democratic candidate, an Orthodox Jew, was defeated by a Roman Catholic
In addition, many Democratic congressmen have themselves
uninhibitedly contradicted their president by supporting Israel.
the extraordinary support which emerged when Netanyahu articulated the case for
Israel in Congress, since then the Israeli government has consciously avoided
airing its differences with the US administration. There are even rumors that
Israeli officials encouraged Jewish leaders to remain silent to avoid further
alienating the administration.
Irrespective of the merits of such an
approach, it would be a major blunder for Israelis to encourage American to
behave passively while the Obama administration treats Israel, its ally, in such
a shabby manner.
Take for example the Turkish imbroglio and US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton’s intense pressure on the Israeli government to
apologize and concede to their outrageous demands. One can imagine how Begin or
Rabin would have reacted had the US pressed them to capitulate over such an
issue, but our government decided not to respond. Yet why should American Jews
not express indignation at the chutzpah of their government pressuring Israel to
apologize for its soldiers defending themselves against terrorists? The same
applies to Obama’s statement about the 1967 borders with swaps. Israel
(mistakenly, in my opinion) may feel constrained in responding to the ongoing
pressure in order not to antagonize those countries wavering over the UN
Palestinian statehood issue.
But surely American Jews, angered by their
government’s one-sided demands, which place Israel at such a disadvantage,
should not feel inhibited about protesting against such behavior.
WAS a notable absence of Jewish response to the US endorsement of the despicable
UN Human Rights Council resolution to criminalize religious “stereotyping”
specifically as applied to Islam. The resolution proposed by the Islamic states
sought to prevent any public criticism or discussion of Muslim infringements of
human rights or criticism of Islam – a clear repudiation of freedom of
expression. One would have even expected Jewish liberals to protest against such
In talking points for commemorating the September 11 terrorist
attacks, the Obama administration listed countries which had suffered from
terror. As on a previous occasion, Israel, which has endured more terrorism pro
rata from Islamic fundamentalists than the other countries mentioned, was
notably omitted from the list. Yet the only organization protesting this glaring
omission (as other issues) was the Zionist Organization of America
The same applied to the outrageous parting shots by retiring
secretary of defense Robert Gates, who castigated Netanyahu for his
Again, only ZOA protested against this boorish
Public opinion in the United States is currently overwhelmingly
supportive of Israel. But this should not be taken for granted and it would be
shameful to rely on Christians and conservative friends of Israel to publicly
protest against the double standards employed by the Obama administration in its
relationship with the Jewish state.
To make matters worse, presumably in
their zeal to retain their “liberal” credentials some Jewish leaders seem to
compete with one another to defame evangelicals who support Israel.
was exemplified by the vitriolic attacks leveled against Glenn Beck, who visited
Israel to express solidarity with the Jewish people and launch a global movement
committed to supporting the Jewish state. “If the world goes down the road of
dehumanizing Jews again, then count me as a Jew and come to me first,” he said.
What more could one ask from a friend? Besides, Beck’s support for Israel has
had a major impact, especially in the United States.
One is not obliged
to identify with all policies espoused by allies, but during such difficult
times, when many of our former liberal supporters have abandoned us, to condemn
someone displaying the courage to support us in this current hostile environment
without imposing any reciprocal demands is simply inexplicable.
Beck, who passionately defends Israel against the barbarians at our gates, has
an infinitely better understanding of Middle East politics than his critics and
should be commended by all friends of Israel.
We return to the original
question. Why are most reputable American Jewish leaders off the radar and
reluctant to publicly confront the excesses of the administration? If, for
purported diplomatic reasons, the Netanyahu government has asked them to remain
silent, this would be scandalous. Diaspora Jews living in a democracy like the
US do not require a green light from the government of Israel to speak up and
protest if they believe that their government is applying double standards
against Israel, its ally. If Jewish leaders persist in remaining silent, their
kinsmen at a grassroots level will simply continue bypassing