Jewish groups line up to denounce Boteach ad on Susan Rice

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the New Jersey-based author and pro-Israel advocate, took out an ad in the NY Times attacking Susan Rice after she criticized Netanyahu.

By JTA
March 1, 2015 04:45
2 minute read.
US national security advisor Susan Rice

US national security advisor Susan Rice. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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 A wall-to-wall array of Jewish groups condemned an ad accusing National Security Adviser Susan Rice of turning a blind eye to genocide.

“Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide,” said the ad appearing in Saturday’s New York Times, touting a talk on Iran this week in Washington hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the New Jersey-based author and pro-Israel advocate.

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As soon as the Sabbath ended, Jewish groups rushed to condemn the ad. The American Jewish Committee called it “revolting,” the Anti-Defamation League called it “spurious and perverse”, the Jewish Federations of North America called it “outrageous” and Josh Block, the president of The Israel Project, said it was “entirely inappropriate.”

Marshall Wittmann, the spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which will host Rice on Monday at its annual conference, said, “Ad hominem attacks should have no place in our discourse.”



Also condemning it were the Orthodox Union, J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement. In a combined statement, the leaders of the Reform movement’s various arms called it “grotesque,” “abhorrent” and a “sinister slur.”

The ad notes Rice’s recent complaints about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next week, organized without consulting the White House. Netanyahu plans to speak against nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers, which Obama backs. Rice said last week that the way the speech was organized was “destructive” to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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The ad also notes a controversy from the 1990s, when Rice was on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff and reportedly advised against describing the mass killings in Rwanda as “genocide.”

“Ms. Rice may be blind to the issue of genocide, but should treat our ally with at least as much diplomatic courtesy as she does the committed enemy of both our nations,” it said.

In an interview, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who directs the Rabbinical Assembly, said Rice deserved an apology from Boteach.

The ad “is completely inconsistent with the record of friendship and loyalty this public official has shown Israel and the Jewish people,” Schonfeld said.

Rice grew close to pro-Israel and Jewish groups during her stint, in President Barack Obama’s first term, as U.S. envoy to the United Nations., through her efforts to head off attacks on Israel and to protect vulnerable populations in Sudan.

“It is not up to Shmuley Boteach to make it appear this is the way the Jewish community treats our friends,” Schonfeld said.

Boteach, whose talk on Monday will take place in a Senate office building and will include Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist, and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), has appealed in his publicity to AIPAC activists to attend the talk.

AIPAC, like many of the groups that have condemned the ad, is skeptical of the nuclear Iran talks.

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, a group that has been pronouncedly skeptical of the talks, on Twitter described the ad as an “inappropriate ad hominem attack” that “doesn’t advance discourse on key issue of Iran.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, who heads the JCPA, the public policy umbrella for the community, said the ad was a blow against bipartisan support for Israel.

“It’s a sad moment for the Jewish community to have this ad appear,” he said in an interview.

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