The Soft Spine of American Jewish Leaders

Feb. 12 2019

For many decades, mainstream American Jewish organizations were unified in their support for Israel and in encouraging bipartisan friendliness in the political realm toward Jews and the Jewish state. But, writes Isi Leibler, over the course of the last decade many of these leaders have moved away from this stance. One result was seen on Sunday, when the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar broadcast her anti-Semitism on Twitter, this time commenting on the nefarious powers of Jewish lobbyists:

[Once], Jewish leaders never hesitated to speak out against government policies considered inimical to the interests of Israel or the Jewish people. When Barack Obama was elected president, this mood changed. He began to treat Israel as a rogue state, groveled to the Iranians, described Israeli defenders and Arab terrorists as moral equivalents, and finally declined to veto [one of the most egregious resolutions] ever passed against Israel by the UN Security Council. The response by the majority of the American Jewish establishment, who were previously never reticent about raising their voices, was a deafening silence. . . .

Prior to Donald Trump’s election, Jewish organizations were meticulous in seeking to maintain a bipartisan stance. But once he was elected, hysteria swept through the Jewish community. Many progressive rabbis and lay leaders . . . decided it was their duty as Jews to oppose him, even on issues that had no direct bearing on Jewish interests. Speaking as Jews, some went so far as to accuse President Trump of being a racist, an anti-Semite, and even a Nazi sympathizer. . . .

The most striking example of this Jewish anti-Trump agitation is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose mandate is to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry. . . . Dispensing with a long tradition of bipartisanship, it openly lobbied against the Senate confirmation of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state. It concentrated on radical-right anti-Semitism and soft-pedaled the greater threat from the left, refused to endorse anti-boycott legislation on the grounds that it limited freedom of expression, and generally failed to react with any vigor against Muslim and extremist anti-Israel elements who abuse—sometimes violently—Jewish students and suppress pro-Israel activity on college campuses. . . .

But what must have shocked and sent shivers down the spines of Jews even remotely supportive of Israel was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of [Ilhan Omar] to the prestigious and powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees foreign aid and such national-security issues as terrorism and the proliferation of nonconventional weapons. Belatedly, some Jewish organizations are now protesting. Had they spoken up earlier, this radicalization might have been stemmed and the appointment of an outright anti-Semite to this sensitive position pre-empted.

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More about: ADL, American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Barack Obama, Ilhan Omar, Israel & Zionism


The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank