Dr. Oz is silent on Israel and the Middle East conflict - opinion

More than anyone currently running for public office, Dr. Oz knows how big the stakes are for freedom in the Middle East at this juncture in history.

 Dr. Mehmet Oz (photo credit: REUTERS)
Dr. Mehmet Oz
(photo credit: REUTERS)

If elected, Dr. Mehmet Oz would be the first Muslim senator in American history. In his candidacy there exists the hope for reconciliation in a critical religious and cultural divide in America, with Mehmet serving as a powerful bridge, between American Muslims and Jews in particular.

But this will not happen if the Dr. Oz campaign continues to bury the Middle East and Israel as an issue.

More than anyone currently running for public office, Mehmet knows how big the stakes are for freedom in the Middle East at this juncture in history.

Born in America, he grew up in a Turkey that was a great Islamic republic: democratic, free, and a strong ally of Israel. But then Recep Tayyip Erdogan came with his Muslim Brotherhood connections and eviscerated Turkish freedoms and democracy.

I visited Turkey a few years ago and could not access Facebook and Twitter, which the Turkish tyrant represses as a matter of course, along with the regular imprisonment of Turkish journalists.

Erdogan is a vile antisemite

Just last year he said of Jews that murder “is part of their nature” and “they are only satisfied by sucking blood.” He said he had spoken to “a Jewish prime minister” who told him that it was his “greatest pleasure” to kill Palestinians.

Credit the Biden State Department, which immediately condemned the remarks. “The United States strongly condemns President Erdogan’s recent antisemitic comments regarding the Jewish people and finds them reprehensible.”

Mehmet visited Israel with me in 2013, along with both our families. He knows that Israel is the model democracy of freedom for Arab and Jew alike. He knows that His fellow Turks must now live in fear of criticizing their rulers, as do countless other hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the Middle East.

He also knows that Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are all dedicated to Israel’s annihilation, and that the Jewish state needs public American support, especially as it confronts the economic pressures of a growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement attempt to choke the Jewish state into submission.

So why has Dr. Oz, aside from the odd position paper on his website, been so silent on Israel? How is it that, eight months into his campaign, he has not once given a speech pledging support for America’s foremost ally? Why the deafening silence on Israel?

For many years Dr. Oz and I discussed the lamentable state of American discord and how it could be healed only through values. We examined universal Jewish values on the Oprah and Friends Radio Network, where we were both hosts, and in public forums both in the United States and Israel.

I always believed that Mehmet would one day leverage his phenomenal celebrity as arguably the world’s most famous physician to run for office.

I also believed he would run a values-based campaign that would seek to elevate the best angels of the American nature: to have Americans discover their deepest, truest selves, and inspire citizens to bring about a renewal of the republic. Finally, I was sure that, given his long relationship with the Jewish community, he would be a fierce and vocal advocate for Israel.

Now, as he enters the final stretch in his bid to become United States senator from Pennsylvania, he has the opportunity to fulfill that promise, but only if he decides that these are campaign priorities.

To be sure, Mehmet is not the only candidate who has found it necessary not to prioritize a discussion of values and freedoms in the Middle East in the quest to be elected. American politics are incredibly fractured, and bludgeoning an opponent will get you more news than inspiring the electorate. But America needs healing right now, and Mehmet is a doctor. He should rise to the occasion and heal.

I am not naive. I know that politics is a blood sport, and I know that right now people are focused on high gas prices and inflation. But Americans have always responded to the language of freedom.

Critics have faulted Mehmet for tacking to the hard Right in his Republican primary fight. Like some candidates, he questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election and filmed a TV ad firing an assault rifle. Others have said that this is America. Play along or be defeated.

But what does this have to do with public support for Israel, which is one of the core platforms of president Trump and his base, with Trump having been the most pro-Israel president in American history?

Bridges between Muslims and Jews

I HAVE spent much of my life building bridges between Muslims and Jews. I have always been sickened by bigots who say that Islam is a backward, warlike religion. Let them visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Let them see the technological marvels and peace with Israel that was crafted without the Jewish state having to cede an inch of land.

Are they aware that the greatest rabbi of all time, Maimonides, served as the personal physician to the greatest Muslim ruler of all time, Saladin?

I was always drawn to Mehmet being a proud Muslim. When we were in Israel in 2013 we actually prayed at the tomb of Maimonides together in Tiberias.

In Jerusalem, Mehmet and his wife, Lisa, sought to go up to the Temple Mount. Mehmet was immediately admitted because he’s Muslim. Lisa, being Christian, was denied entry by the Wakf Islamic religious trust guards, who control Judaism’s holiest site. I told Lisa not to take it personally. Jews are also not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, a statement that would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.

But not once, in any synagogue or any place in Israel, were Mehmet or Lisa, as Muslim and Christian visitors, denied any access to any Jewish holy site. Indeed, they were warmly welcomed by rabbis, citizens, settlers, and the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The first potential Muslim senator in the United States should be a vocal proponent of freedom in the Middle East. Mehmet’s position of publicly endorsing a Palestinian state is at odds with even President Joe Biden, who just told Mahmoud Abbas that now is not the right time.

Mehmet knows firsthand that a Palestinian state would be taken over immediately by Hamas, which would brutalize the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria just as it has done in Gaza.

And as he professes to embrace president Trump’s policies on Israel, Mehmet should come out, as have former secretary of state Pompeo, Sen. Ted Cruz, and others, to support Israeli annexation of the main settlements and residential areas in the ancient biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.

Yes, Americans want to hear about domestic issues like the soaring cost of milk and gas. And yet, the president of the United States just went to Saudi Arabia to implore it to increase oil production to bring down domestic energy prices.

Mehmet has the tools to be a great voice on Muslim-Jewish peace and tolerance. But everything will come down to whether he can articulate a commitment to values-based politics and speak out – publicly and forcefully – for the great hope for freedom in the Middle East, the Jewish State of Israel.

The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author or 36 books, including The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.