A Time to Mourn, Not a Time to Accuse

Oct. 30 2018

Since the massacre of worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, many have rushed to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the American president. At least two well-known Jewish journalists—almost immediately after the attack—took this claim one step further by holding Jewish supporters of Donald Trump accountable for the murders as well. Rabbi David Wolpe responds:

My synagogue is on the west side of Los Angeles. On a rough guess, about half of my congregants support Donald Trump. Many of those who do, but certainly not all, are from the Persian community. We have had frank discussions. They know I deplore many of the things he says and I oppose much of what he does. . . . They also know that we respect and listen to one another, that I do not preach politics at them but do speak with them and learn from them, and that our relationship in many cases is one not only of affection but of genuine love.

So when I see major American Jewish figures tell me that my congregants are illegitimate, my blood boils a little bit. After the tragedy in Pittsburgh, perhaps because I spend so much of my time at the bedside of the sick and dying, I expected that the first impulse of Jews in particular would be simply to offer messages of sorrow and condolence [rather than to suggestion that] more than half of my Shabbat-morning congregants, and in some more traditional synagogues almost all of them, should have the doors barred against their entry; that Jews who make minyans, pay shiva calls, underwrite nursing homes and kindergartens—people who make Judaism possible . . . for other people—should be cast out of our midst because of the levers they pull in the privacy of a voting booth. And what, after all, would a Jew who fled from Iran know about anti-Semitism—or protecting the Jewish community?

[M]y congregants are not the ones who are dangerous, and refashioning blood libels so that Jews are the perpetrators is ethically appalling—and communally toxic.

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More about: American Jewry, Donald Trump, Jewish World, Persian Jewry, Politics & Current Affairs

 

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