U.S. Jewry feel betrayed by Netanyahu following Omar, Tlaib debacle

WZO Diaspora Affairs head Gusti Yehoushua-Braverman spoke to the ‘Post’ about the damaging effect of the incident on Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

August 19, 2019 19:49
3 minute read.
Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, chairwoman of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Aff

Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, chairwoman of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Affairs. (photo credit: SASHA PRILUTSKY/DVISION)

“It’s not a secret that many American Jews are Democrats – they felt that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, in taking this position has betrayed them.”

These were the words of Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, chairwoman of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Affairs, speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Monday about reactions she has received from her constituents and other American Jews following the debacle surrounding Israel's decision to bar entry to Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

“The scores of heated and furious calls I received as the head of the [WZO] Department of Diaspora Affairs, as well as the harsh condemnations from Jewish bodies known for their unqualified support for the State of Israel, indicate that a redline has been crossed,” she said.

In a column commenting on the matter, which she also sent to the Post, Yehoshua-Braverman wrote that this decision, “unfortunately proves, yet again... [the Israeli government’s] insensitivity to the inner feelings of the second largest Jewish community in the world.

“It seems that, at this point, the Israeli motto ‘don't be just, better be smart,’ did not guide the decision makers in the State of Israel,” she wrote.

The congresswomen announced that they had plans to visit the Jewish State. First, Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, said that Israel would allow the two BDS-supporting leaders to enter the country, despite a 2017 law that would allow Israel to ban them.

Then, in a move that appeared to be pressured by US President Donald Trump, Israel announced it would not allow the congresswomen in. 

The move, said Yehoshua-Braverman, caused immense damage to the image of the State of Israel among the [general] public, and the Jewish community in the United States in particular.”

She made it clear that the “refusal of entry to persons advocating boycotting Israel, and thus calling for our destruction, is a fundamental right that we have as a state.

“In fact, Israel is not the first country to do so… The list of persons prevented by Western countries from entering their borders is long and impressive,” she continued, citing examples like the Netherland’s barring Turkish ministers, and the Obama administration barring UK citizen Luke Angel from entering the US for sending a drunken email to the White House in 2010.

However, during a phone conversation with the Post, she explained that in her mind, Netanyahu is the prime minister not just of Israel, but the entire Jewish people.

“We need to be smarter than this,” she said. “We know that they are biased – everyone knows this,” she said referring to Omar and Tlaib’s pro-boycott sentiments. "But by allowing them into the country, we could have presented another face of Israel. She said Israel could have used their visit as an opportunity to fight their biased attitude.

Yehoshua-Braverman highlighted that this decision has also damaged a lot of the work Jewish Democrats have been doing to present Israel “in a good way." She said that Israel’s decision to bar Tlaib and Omar “pulled the rug” from beneath Jewish Democrats’ feet.

“At the end of the day, he [Netanyahu] is playing a dangerous game on our backs – the backs of both Israelis and the Jewish community.

“Precisely now, when a tremendous effort is made within the Jewish community to maintain bipartisan support for Israel, the Israeli government's decision to take part in internal US struggles and side with the Republicans against the Democratic Party – when many of its supporters are members of the Jewish community – is no less than a Casus Belli [an act that allegedly justifies conflict],” she wrote in her column. “This inconceivable reality forced Jewish federations and organizations to come out publicly and firmly against the Israeli government.”

She said the situation between Diaspora Jews and Israel is in a state of emergency: “This is an emergency call before the crash.”

Related Content

Pedestrians walk past a yeshiva in the South Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, April 9, 2019.
September 21, 2019
How one Jewish school processes arrest of a teacher who preyed on children