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The View From Henry Siegman’s Knees


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In this week’s Jewish Press front-page essay, Gilead Ini methodically shreds even the slightest pretense of objectivity maintained by Henry Siegman, formerly of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Jewish Congress and a prolific writer on the Middle East.

Ini focuses primarily on Siegman’s writings since the start of the Sept. 2000 intifada, but Siegman’s been remarkably consistent in his pro-Palestinian advocacy, as is immediately apparent from the following Media Monitor column which originally appeared in May 2000 and is reproduced here in its entirety:

Henry Siegman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, is a prime exemplar of the liberal Jewish mindset that recognizes no enemies other than Jews who stand unapologetically for Jewish causes. As such he has a long history of obligingly – nay, enthusiastically – bending the knee and presenting his posterior for the paddle blows of all manner of Jew haters, an exercise in masochism he prefers to call “constructive dialogue.”

Not that this should come as a shocking revelation to informed readers. The noted attorney Alan Dershowitz, far from anybody’s idea of a right-winger, has labeled Siegman a “frequent Israel basher and apologist for leftist enemies of Israel and the Jews.”

(Dershowitz speaks from personal experience. In 1987 he filed a libel suit against Jozef Glemp, the Polish cardinal who implied that a contingent of American Jews, in Poland to protest the presence of a Carmelite convent on the grounds of Auschwitz, had intended to destroy the convent and kill the nuns inside. On the very day that Glemp was set to sign a statement of retraction, Siegman and his American Jewish Congress colleague Robert Lifton met with the cardinal – and, according to Dershowitz, criticized the Jewish protesters “for contributing to anti-Semitism in Poland.” An emboldened Glemp decided not to sign the retraction.)

And The Jerusalem Post several years ago coined the inspired term “Siegman Syndrome,” which Dershowitz describes as the actions of “unelected and unrepresentative Jewish ‘leaders’ who do considerable harm to the interests of the Jewish community by their repeated appeasement of anti-Semites and apologetic attitude about Jews who fight back.”

More recently, in 1997, on the eve of Madeleine Albright’s first trip to the Middle East as U.S. secretary of state, Siegman and a cohort of like-minded individuals signed an open letter imploring her not to focus her attention on the need to combat Palestinian terrorism. An equally urgent need, insisted Siegman and company, was for the Israelis to renew the then-stalled negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

And just a few weeks ago Siegman once again exposed himself as a serial prostrator, this time in the pages of The Jerusalem Report, the Labor Party pep sheet that masquerades as an objective newsmagazine.

In a column titled “Peace Requires More Than Treaties,” Siegman let loose the following observation, troubling from any Jewish source but chilling when delivered by someone who for years actually led a major American Jewish organization:

“The notion that Palestinians should be grateful for whatever concession Israel makes to them, even if these concessions don’t begin to amount to viable statehood – as so far they clearly do not – defines an Israeli arrogance that is the root cause of Arab hostility toward Israel [italics added].”

There you have it. “The root cause of Arab hostility” – presumably the very hostility behind all the deadly pre-state Arab rioting, the attempt to strangle the new state of Israel at birth, the ensuing decades of war, terrorism and economic and diplomatic blackmail – is, in the warped view of Henry Siegman, “Israeli arrogance,” a term perhaps not coincidentally much beloved by Arab apologists.

While conceding that “the Arab media are full of malevolent and nonsensical accusations against Israel,” Siegman insists that “Israeli treatment of Palestinians … is often shameful” and that “Arab perceptions of a consistent pattern of Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians are, unfortunately, grounded in reality.”

He concludes his lamentation by sobbing, “As long as such Israeli actions and attitudes continue, the peace process is unlikely to succeed.”

Would anyone argue the point that when it comes to anti-Israel invective, the crudest Arab propagandists writing or broadcasting from Tehran or Cairo are mere pikers compared with Henry Siegman, all too often referred to as a “Jewish leader” by those who know no better?

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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