This past week I endured phenomenal criticism from close colleagues amazed that
I have vouched for my friend Samantha Power as United States Ambassador to the
The emails and phone calls have been relentless, some of
the attacks vicious.
Shmuley, how could you? Power hates Israel. She
attacked the Jewish state in a 2002 video and spoke of the possibility of Israel
committing genocide against the Palestinians. She is a radical leftist. You have
betrayed your pro-Israel credentials, etc, etc.
That’s kind of rich given
that I find myself on every Jew-hating and Israel-hating website as one of the
world’s most ferocious defenders of Israel, who ran for the United States
Congress while having a daughter serving in the Israel Defense
But I know Samantha personally and all an individual has in this
world is their good name, and if it’s being unfairly sullied it deserves to be
protected. Here are the facts: Samantha Power is arguably the world’s foremost
voice against genocide.
As a member of a people who were exterminated at
the rate of 10,000 per day just two generations ago, her 2002 Pulitzer-prize
winning book A Problem from Hell moved me deeply. But beyond mere words,
Samantha is credited with being the most influential voice in President Barack
Obama’s decision to bomb Muammar Gaddafi and stop him from slaughtering his
people. Power is exactly what the United Nations – a weak and often immoral body
that allowed genocides like the one in Rwanda to take place without any kind of
intervention – needs.
I am well aware of the criticisms from the
pro-Israel camp against Samantha. She allowed me to address them with her
directly in an on-therecord meeting at the White House.
What I like about
Samantha more than anything else is that she is a real person who speaks
candidly and unguardedly. She is warm, accessible, genuine and human.
principal complaint leveled against her stems from an interview she granted in
2002 in Berkeley, California while she was on tour to promote her book, which
had unexpectedly become a best-seller.
She was asked by a TV interviewer
to respond to a “thought experiment” as to what she would advise an American
president to do if it seemed either party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
were moving toward genocide. Samantha answered that preventing such a genocide
would entail America being prepared to alienate a powerful constituency – by
which she meant the American-Jewish lobby – and sending in a protective force to
prevent another situation like Rwanda. For these comments Samantha has been
dubbed an implacable enemy of Israel.
But in our conversation Samantha
rejected this notion utterly. She acknowledged that as an academic untested in
media relations, she erred terribly in answering any kind of hypothetical
She said she greatly regretted her response, and
that if she really believed Israel could ever, God forbid, move toward
atrocities against the Palestinians she would have expressed that view not in
some silly book promotion but within the book itself, where she details the mass
atrocities of the 20th century.
Yet, in all 664 pages she never even
hints at Israel being possibly guilty of ever practicing of such atrocities. Her
only focus on Israel, she said, was on an internal Israeli government
investigation which faulted Ariel Sharon for not having foreseen the Arab-on-
Arab slaughter of Sabra and Shatilla, forcing Sharon’s resignation as minister
She also mentioned that her former professor at Harvard, Alan
Dershowitz – arguably Israel’s most stalwart defender – called her after her
book was published to applaud her for not remotely associating Israel with
atrocities, the way others had done. This week, at a dinner I hosted in Times
Square honoring Elie Wiesel, Dr. Oz, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, I asked
Professor Dershowitz to present the Adelsons with their Champion of Jewish
identity award, and he wrote a column likewise strongly defending Samantha’s
nomination to the UN.
Later, Ambassador Michael Oren likewise publicly
We Jews are the people who taught the world that every
human being, created in the image of God, is of infinite value. Yet here
Samantha Power, an important writer in modern history who holds Western
democracies accountable for their inaction through repeated genocides in the
20th century, is being dismissed as an enemy of the Jewish state based almost
entirely on a fragment of a single interview lasting about twoand- a-half
Most significantly, whatever her intention was in the
unfortunate interview – and there is no question that she should have told the
interviewer that his question was an absurdity – it is not something she
believes or has practiced. On the contrary, Power was largely responsible for
the United States destroying the military capability of a genocidal Arab leader
who was not only killing innocent Arabs but was, along with Iran, Israel’s most
In her capacity as senior adviser to the president on
multi-lateral affairs, Power was also instrumental in the United States refusing
to attend “Durban II” in 2009, which would have been, like “Durban I” in 2001,
another UN-sponsored Israel hate-fest.
In a column last week, I mentioned
that I had hosted Power at a meeting of 40 Jewish leaders at the offices of
Michael Steinhardt, founder of Birthright Israel, where she became extremely
emotional, to the point of being unable to continue her presentation, as she
responded to those who falsely accuse her of hating Israel.
I have spent
a large part of my life fighting Israel’s enemies in public forums. But as
important as it is to expose those who are our enemies, it is equally important
to exonerate those who are not. Samantha Power has helped to honor and sanctify
the memory of six million Jews murdered in history’s worst genocide and has
repudiated any earlier misunderstandings about Israel. Judaism teaches that a
person is judged primarily by their actions, and Power has lectured all over the
world about the Holocaust and has used her influence to prevent a dictator from
killing more of God’s children. These are heroic actions that ought to be
applauded rather than criticized.
The author is referred to by The
Washington Post and Newsweek as “the most famous Rabbi in America” and won the
American Jewish Press Association’s highest award for excellence in commentary,
he hosted “The Shmuley Show” on “The Oprah and Friends Radio
Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.