What a disturbing sight to behold.
In the past few days, the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to berate Israel over the approval of a Jewish housing project in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
Angered by the timing of Israel’s move, which came during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, a parade of senior American officials have done their utmost to publicly dress down the Netanyahu government.
Using terms such as “condemned” and “deeply negative,” Biden, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs and State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley all decided to pile on the Jewish state in the diplomatic equivalent of an angry mob pouncing on its prey.
Meanwhile, last Friday, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg reportedly summoned Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren for a reprimand, which was followed by a 45-minute phone call from Clinton to Netanyahu.
Indeed, from the tone and the sheer number of responses, an uninformed observer could be forgiven for thinking Israel had committed some egregious, unpardonable sin against America, rather than simply deciding to move forward on a real estate project in its sovereign capital.
But perhaps the harshest response came from David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, who went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to denounce the Israeli move.
Referring to Biden and Clinton’s reproof, Axelrod said, “Both the vice president and the secretary of state reflected the president’s thinking – this was an affront, an insult, but most importantly it undermined this very fragile effort to bring peace to this region. And” – he added somewhat ominously – “for this announcement to come at this time was very, very destructive.”
Did he say “destructive”? Who does Axelrod think he is kidding?
Consider the following.
On March 11, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket into southern Israel, marking the second time in the past four weeks they have carried out such an attack.
Thankfully, no one was injured in this latest assault, but neither Axelrod nor Clinton nor any other American officials saw fit to mention it, even though it is hard to think of anything more “destructive” than an explosive projectile hurled at civilian population centers.
And yet, when Israel decides to build some new apartments in an already-existing section of Jerusalem, Obama’s people suddenly find their voice?
But what was even more troubling about the administration’s response is that it lends credence to the discriminatory notion that certain places should be off-limits to Jews simply because they are Jews.
Vice President Biden himself was born in the city of Scranton. Ironically enough, just 90 miles south lies a town named New Jerusalem, Pennsylvania.
Were the vice president to suggest that the right of Jews to live and build in New Jerusalem, Pennsylvania, should be restricted in any way, he would immediately be denounced as a racist and an anti-Semite, and rightly so.
Yet when he suggests that Jews should not be permitted to build freely in Jerusalem, Israel because they are Jews, it is inexplicably accepted as being reasonable.
Call it what you will, but this opposition to Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem is nothing more than an archaic form of bigotry. You can’t post a “No Jews Allowed” sign, and expect us to view it any differently.
To suggest that Jews or any other ethnic group should not be allowed to live and build freely in a certain area because of who they are is something that went out of fashion in the United States back in the 1960s, and I can’t think of a good reason to begin applying it here in Jerusalem today.
Civil rights for Jews, like any universal human right, cannot be restricted in time or place. They must be applicable regardless of where a person chooses to live.
This is especially true when it comes to Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Jewish people.
Our connection to the Holy City stretches back more than three millennia. Indeed, over 3,000 years before the PLO was founded, Jews were living, working and praying in Jerusalem.
Now, following in our ancestors’ footsteps, we have returned to reclaim what is rightfully ours.
So step aside, Mr. Biden, and please do not interfere.
Like it or not, nothing can stop this historical process from unfolding.
Michael Freund, whose Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the third week of each month, served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999. He is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.