On Saturday, November 14, my organization, The World Values Network, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times that highlighted Secretary of State John Kerry’s amoral and unfair statements regarding Israel and terror.
Kerry has unfortunately shown a pattern of blaming the victim and ignoring the most glaringly obvious facts when it comes to Israel’s basic security. He has all too often made moral equivalences between Israeli victims and Palestinian terrorists. He has held Israel to double standards that he holds no other nation on earth to, and has shown a soft bigotry towards the Palestinian leadership and people by not holding them accountable for past words or actions, nor requiring them to take substantial actions to work towards peace. He simultaneously has applied all types of pressures and threats to Israel as though they are the sole party responsible for bringing about an end to the conflict.
Our ad highlighted in particular Kerry’s recent incendiary statements that gave justification to Israelis being murdered by Palestinians. He stated, “And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years. Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement.”
Putting aside the fact that there has absolutely been no massive increase in settlements, Kerry’s statements lent legitimacy to Palestinian murders of Israelis. He seemingly forgot to ever publicly condemn the fact that both the PA and Hamas have repeatedly called for the murder of Jews and have glorified violence and “martyrs” by naming dozens of schools, public squares, and streets after these killers. Abbas’ incitement that he “welcomed every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem” met with deafening silence from Kerry.
Kerry’s off-the-cuff remarks regarding the Paris attacks and the Charlie Hebdo
massacre only added fuel to the fire. He stated, “There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.” Once again, Kerry seemed to be giving a justification to the radical Islamic attacks perpetrated against completely innocent human beings. Could there be any excuse or legitimacy behind the killing of seventeen people, all because a newspaper was edgy and offensive? I have heard these types of justifications from extremists on the farthest ends of the political spectrum, but I never thought I would hear words like these uttered by our secretary of state.
That is why I was so pleasantly surprised when Secretary Kerry, on his most recent trip to Israel, stated, “No people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives, with scissors, cars.” He added that his conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would entail how “to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence, and to find a way forward to restore calm and begin to provide opportunities.”
These unequivocal, unqualified statements from Kerry condemning the barbaric violence that Israelis have had to endure has been a sharp departure from his past statements. I welcome his reversal and thank him for his support of Israel and his defense of innocent human life.
While no one can claim to know John Kerry’s motivations, it is arguably more than just a coincidence that these statements declaring Israel’s right to fight back against terrorism and stating clearly in no uncertain terms that there is no moral justification for terror attacks against Israel came soon after our ad was published for the 1.3 million readers of The New York Times
I often receive phenomenal pushback against our ads and widespread attacks from Israel’s critics around the world. I am currently in the UK where I’ve been defending Israel in media interviews that could make one’s hair stand. Today a presenter asked me outright how I could support Israel’s Nazi policies. Yesterday, no less than a former head of the American Jewish Committee wrote in The Nation
comparing me to Joseph Goebbels for the Kerry ad. Yes, taking out an ad defending Israel’s Jews from being stabbed in the stomach makes you a genocidal Nazi. It remains to be seen whether the American Jewish Committee will condemn the unhinged remarks of its disturbed former head.
I was also maligned by Rabbi David Seth Kirshner, who said I had committed a “crime” by forcefully expressing my objections towards the Obama administration’s actions toward Israel and their failures to stop Iran from acquiring a nuke. In Kirshner’s view, we can express our view, but we must “do it nicely.”
I personally have always been guided by the teachings and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who marched, agitated, and did everything possible to bring an end to racial oppression. Dr.
King taught us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Well, the daily stabbings and shooting of Jews, in the backdrop of daily threats to annihilate all Jews, is a threat to civilized people everywhere, and that is why I felt compelled to speak out, and to do it as loudly as possible.
Fortunately, Kerry’s 180-degree turn shows how much public officials are listening. I believe in speaking truth to power and calling out our elected officials. They are elected for one purpose only, and that is to serve and protect the people.
Kerry’s change in tone and words has demonstrated the power of our national advertising campaigns and there have been other strong examples as well, like our ads against Israel-hater and former UN Gaza Commission head, William Schabas.
Not because our ads are particularly persuasive, although I believe they are powerfully so. But because of the power of moral arguments can never be suppressed.
But whatever his reasoning, we welcome and applaud Secretary Kerry’s unconditional condemnation of terrorism against Israelis, Jews and all humanity. Only by stating clearing that there is never justification for murdering innocent people will we finally stop the brutal scourge of terrorism.Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He will shortly publish
“The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.”