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.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Word from Jerusalem

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


Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat