US political attitudes towards Israel have changed - Joe Lieberman

Former US senator Joseph Lieberman warned of the danger of losing bipartisan support in Congress for Israel.

Joe Lieberman

"Attitudes to Israel in American politics have changed. We all need to do more work," former US senator Joseph Lieberman said in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Lieberman was speaking at a panel discussion at the Cassia Hotel within the framework of a “Passover in Jerusalem” program organized by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, in which the majority of participants, including guests and speakers, were Americans.

"Attitudes in America are affected by what happens in Israel and the policies of the Israel government."

Joseph Lieberman

“Attitudes in America are affected by what happens in Israel and the policies of the Israel government,” Lieberman continued.

He and other speakers commented on the reversal of trends.

Has support for Israel in Congress switched sides?

Although there has long been bipartisan support for Israel, there was a common perception that the Democrats in Congress were more supportive than the Republicans.

The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (credit: PIXABAY)The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (credit: PIXABAY)

Now, however, it’s the Republicans who polls indicate are dramatically more supportive.

Lieberman warned of the danger of losing bipartisan support. “We must not let that support go away,” he said.

Among the other issues discussed was whether there is a difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Lieberman said that in the same way as it was difficult to define an obscenity, “I know one when I see one.”

Likewise, he knows antisemitism when he sees it. Even though he never personally suffered from overt antisemitism, he has always been aware of its presence in America.

He never tried to hide the fact that he was Jewish, and even if he had wanted to, he remarked, it would have been impossible. He illustrated this observation by citing Bernie Sanders, “who is not very Jewish, but everyone knows he’s Jewish.”

“Israel is not beyond criticism, but it has to be reasonable criticism,” said Lieberman.

Relating to combating antisemitism and anti-Zionism, Lieberman advocated uniting with non-Jewish allies to fight these phenomena.

“America has to learn the lesson of truth,” he said.

Aryeh Lightstone on antisemitism, Donald Trump and party lines

While it has been widely acknowledged that the Trump administration was more pro-Israel than any other US administration, some people argue that despite all he did for Israel, former president Donald Trump could not resist making antisemitic remarks.

Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, who had worked closely with former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, came to Trump’s defense, saying, “It was not elegant, but it was not antisemitic.”

Lightstone claimed there was a narrative that had been perpetuated so often that it became part of a myth in which certain people believed.

Acknowledging that there is widespread antisemitism in America today, Lightstone said antisemitism was neither Republican nor Democrat.

“A country that allows rampant antisemitism will fail,” he declared.

Danny Ayalon: The UN is the "most antisemitic body on the world stage"

Within the context of antisemitism, former Israel ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon listed the United Nations as being “the most antisemitic body on the world stage where Israel is frequently condemned.”

Ayalon noted that children learn in school that the UN is good, so anything the UN says must be true, even when it’s not.

The Palestinians do well at the UN, he explained, because 22 countries in the Arab League plus non-aligned countries, and those dependent on Arab oil, vote in support of Palestinian issues.

The most common of these is occupation, he said, despite the UN ignoring Morocco’s occupation of the Sahara, the Turkish occupation of part of Cyprus, Russian occupation of territories in Georgia and Ukraine, as well as occupations by other countries.

Praising Trump for having discredited the UN, Ayalon said, “One of our jobs today is to discredit the United Nations.”

Facing antisemitism on college campuses

Former MK Dov Lipman spoke of the problems faced by Jewish students in combating antisemitism and anti-Zionism on college and university campuses across America. He said that teaching them how to defend Judaism and Israel had to start much earlier. It’s too late by the time they get to college. It should start in grade school, so that they will be better equipped by the time they get to college, he stated.