Sebastian Gorka and the Truth about Jewish Liberals and American Politics

Sept. 6 2017

In a recent radio interview, the outgoing White House counterterrorism adviser claimed that his pro-Israel positions were the source of much of the criticism directed at him during his tenure. Gorka went on to suggest that the “liberal elements of the American Jewish population have basically become anti-Israeli. It’s the greatest, saddest paradox.” But, writes, Jonathan Tobin, Gorka misunderstands the Jewish left—much as the Jewish left has misunderstood him:

[L]ike all such generalizations, any attempt to describe all liberal Jews as anti-Israel is a slander. Some . . . have turned on Israel and have swelled the ranks of groups critical [of Israel], like J Street, with many others backing anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace that support the BDS movement. But most liberal Jews are still pro-Israel and many play a role in maintaining support for Israel via AIPAC and other groups.

But the avalanche of attacks on Gorka—including many from Jewish sources, some of which were unfair—was real. What was confusing about it, for him, is that he didn’t understand why being pro-Israel cut him no slack from liberal Jews. The reason for their antipathy is no secret. Gorka was an editor at Breitbart.com before his stint at the White House, and he’s returning to the website. . . . Donald Trump’s style is both inspired by and deeply appealing to Breitbart’s readers.

So far as liberals are concerned, that means it’s open season to assail those associated with Breitbart or President Trump. For Gorka, that meant a deep dive into his background as the son of Hungarian exiles. . . . Most of what was discovered was more a matter of guilt by association than proof of anything damaging. . . . The low point was reached when the Forward published a story about his son’s high-school science project. . . . Though the story was withdrawn, the Forward has yet to . . . explain this breach of journalistic ethics. . . .

All liberal Jews don’t deserve to be labeled as Israel-haters, and Gorka’s support for the Jewish state shouldn’t earn him immunity from all criticism. But neither should it have been ignored in a rush to demonize someone who, whatever you may think of his politics, was eager to be an ally of the Jewish people at a time when we can use all the friends we can get. That so many Jews are unmoved by that fact is, as Gorka correctly notes, a sad paradox.

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More about: American politics, Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Liberal Zionism

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations