On the day she announced that she would support the Iran deal, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz got up on CNN and cried. She was anguished, she said, torn between Israel’s security needs and President Obama’s negotiated deal.
Wasserman-Schultz, arguably the most powerful female Jewish member of Congress, is the US representative for Florida’s 23rd congressional district with a very large Jewish constituency. She spoke about her “Jewish heart” and the fact she is a “Jewish mother.” She cares deeply about her Jewish family and relatives and would never want any harm to come to the Jewish people.
I believe her.
And yet she chose to support the deal but cried while doing so. A friend of mine who is a financial supporter of hers told me she did the same at a private meeting a few weeks before the vote.
But while tears are nice, resisting the barbarity of Iran is nicer.
One of the foundations of Jewish teachings is that action, not words, is what counts. Emotions, speeches and feelings are all fine and well. But what really matters are results. Sympathy alone cannot feed a starving child and compassion and tears will not a drowning man save. And while personal prejudices and improper character traits must be corrected, the really important question is: Did someone receive the help they needed or not? Most times words are much easier than action because those who choose to act often take a risk in doing so.
When it came to saving Jewish lives, a number of political leaders in the United States, some of whom could be characterized as anti-Semites, faced this difficult dilemma of offering mere words or taking courageous action. Their choices sometimes led to unexpected, ironic results.
Harry Truman’s diary revealed that he harbored deep anti-Semitic feelings.
In it, he wrote, “The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do they have any judgment on world affairs... The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish...”
He also expressed his opinion that “...when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog.” Obviously such sentiments are shocking and inexcusable.
But this same Harry Truman faced the very difficult choice of whether or not to recognize the newly founded State of Israel. At the time America’s foreign policy-makers were almost unanimously against providing any legitimization or recognition, and immense pressure was being applied to Truman to abandon this new Jewish state. His secretary of state George Marshall, whom he admired immensely, sent him a crushing message stating, “I said bluntly that if the president were to follow Mr. Clifford’s advice [to recognize Israel] and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the president.”
As defense secretary James Forrestal summed it up, “There are 30 million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other. Why don’t you face up to the realities?” Yet Truman refused to abandon the Jews and knew that supporting the state was the only right thing to do. Had he chosen not to, the already questionable chances of survival for the small, newly formed state would have nosedived. Truman may have had troubling opinions toward Jews, but when the time came, he made the difficult decision to do the right thing.
Truman shed no tears for the Jews. For all we know, he may not have cared much for them. We know that his mother-in-law was certainly an out and out anti-Semite. It is reported that she would not allow a Jew to step foot in her house.
But when Israel needed him, he stepped up to the plate.
A more radical example is Richard Nixon who seemed to be an outright anti-Semite. In released tapes from his meetings in the White House, Nixon expressed constant anti-Semitic beliefs. He once remarked, “You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana are Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists.” He also once said, “Jews are [an] irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”
These are disturbing opinions held by a man who was the world’s most powerful leader.
But in 1973 the Arabs carried out a surprise attack on the State of Israel and the Jewish state was in the greatest danger it had been since its founding.
And this same prejudiced Nixon faced the decision of words or action. He endured enormous pressure from Congress and even his own cabinet to not get involved with the war and not send any aid to Israel.
The Gulf states had already announced a 70 percent price increase for oil during the war, and then declared a total boycott on oil shipments to the US once they learned of Nixon’s determination to aid the Jewish state. This oil embargo would cause the price of oil to skyrocket from $3 a barrel to $12, and this only increased the opposition Nixon was facing from the political establishment.
But Nixon wouldn’t be deterred. He knew that defending the Jewish state and preventing a second Holocaust was the right thing and sent more than 110,000 tons of supplies to Israel by air and sea.
Regardless of the views he harbored toward Jews, Nixon took action at the critical moment and saved the Jewish state from destruction.
Now, once again, Israel’s existence is imperiled by an empty agreement that will allow the Iranian radical regime to become a nuclear power and give it billions of dollars for increased terrorist activities. The ayatollahs who rule Iran proudly proclaim and are busy plotting the destruction of the Jewish state. The public debate and behind the scenes wrangling over support or rejection of the Iran deal may ultimately decide the fate of more than 6 million Jews living in the Land of Israel.
At the crucial moment, when lines were being drawn, and commitments put to the test, every single vote for or against the deal could have been the one to turn the tide.
Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and had the power to influence this important vote one way or the other. She faced the same dilemma as Truman and Nixon, whether to give in to the powerful forces of the political establishment, or to stand up for what is true and right, and take the action necessary to ensure Israel’s safety.
But what Wasserman-Schultz offered us was tears rather than action, emotion over substance. I have no doubt that she loves and cares about Israel. But who cares about her feelings? It’s what she does that matters.
When the chips are down, I would take the anti-Semitism of a leader like Truman or Nixon who nonetheless stands up with courage to save Israel over the river of tears shed by a proud Jewish woman who fails in her responsibility to stop an Iranian nuclear holocaust. It is ironic when a non-Jew with prejudiced opinions is in touch with the Jewish principles of action and responsibility more than a prominent Jewish leader who forgets that saving life overrides every other consideration.Shmuley Boteach is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his upcoming The Israel Warriors Handbook.