There were a number of memorable moments at annual The Jerusalem Post Conference, which took place this week in New York City. One of the high points was Post columnist Caroline Glick’s confrontation with former Mossad head Meir Dagan and former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi over the two men’s roles in Israel’s decision not to carry out a military strike against Iran.Unfortunately, the conference, which featured many important speakers, made headlines primarily due to the disrespectful behavior of a few people in the large crowd of participants.During a speech in which he sought to explain and defend the Obama administration’s policy on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was booed several times.The hecklers persisted despite several attempts by the Post’s Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde to silence them.
See the latest opinion pieces on our pageLinde had also asked the participants at the beginning of the conference to show respect for the speakers by refraining from boos or catcalls.Besides Linde, various speakers subsequently defended Lew including National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. It was truly embarrassing to see Lew treated so shabbily.An Orthodox Jew, Lew has a long history of supporting Jewish causes. As aide to House of Representatives speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill in the 1980s, Lew was instrumental in supporting the cause of Soviet Jewry. Without his support, Israel would not have been accepted to the OECD back in 2010. The US Department of the Treasury under Lew has been at the forefront of the effort to enforce the sanctions on Iran both in the United States and around the world.And Lew continues to foster extremely close economic relations between the US and Israel.As the host of the conference, the Post feels obligated to apologize to Lew, to the vast majority of the conference attendees who displayed exemplary behavior and to supporters of pluralistic debate everywhere, for the behavior of some in the audience.We appreciate Lew’s willingness to come to the conference, despite knowing in advance that the Post’s readership encompasses a large range of opinions – including Jews and non-Jews who do not see eye-to-eye with the Obama administration on how best to stop Iran’s nuclear weapon program. Despite being interrupted a number of times, Lew insisted on being given the right to finish what he had to say. He did not allow a few disrespectful members of the audience to dissuade him from getting his message out. The reactions in the crowd are all the more worthy of condemnation because this US administration has done so much to further Israel’s interest – whether in international fora or in the field of military cooperation. We Jews cannot afford to treat our true allies so poorly. We have so few.We at the Post see catcalls and booing as an obstacle to freedom of expression. People less self-assured than Lew might have been intimidated into silence.A centerpiece of the Post’s editorial policy is encouraging an atmosphere of free and open debate. An unprejudiced look at our opinion pages – which feature a wide range of voices from the Right and the Left, Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian – testifies to the Post’s liberal-minded credentials. We are proud of the diversity of opinions to be found daily in our pages.What’s more, the official editorial stance of the Post has been to support in principle a two-state solution with the Palestinians as the only solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, while at the same time noting that Palestinian extremism, not settlements, is the primary obstacle to peace. And though we have been critical of the Obama administration’s approach on stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program, we have never once questioned US President Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security and his deep ties with and understanding of the Jewish people. The Post will continue to invite a diverse group of important decision-makers from both Israel and the US to future conferences, and will not be dissuaded by those who refuse to listen respectfully to speakers who espouse opinions other than theirs.