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Jewish Leadership Needs To Step Forward Now


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“Humanity sympathizes with a strenuous aspiration.
It can’t have respect for people who lack self-respect.”
Pierre Van Paassen, The Forgotten Ally

We’ve heard from many Israelis who feel demoralized and abandoned due to the lack of any strong and meaningful statements or vigorous public demonstrations sponsored by major Jewish organizations in support of Israel’s position on Jerusalem.

They feel the recent treatment of Israel by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and various administration spokesmen has amounted to an unprecedented humiliation of the Jewish state and a willful isolation of it among the community of nations.

They are also alarmed by the silence of the American Jewish community in light of the Obama administration’s statements and measures that give license for Arabs within Israel and on its borders to renew intifada-style rioting.

Further, they feel the brazen and haughty manner in which the White House, with the whole world watching, treated the prime minister of Israel — the de facto representative of the Jewish people — should not be tolerated. Such behavior only encourages other Western countries, as well as Arab nations, to treat Israel as a diplomatic pariah and to even question Israel’s very legitimacy.

Israelis are not looking for yet another statement from establishment Jewish organizations in favor of a peace process or a two-state solution, nor do they want to hear how the administration’s handling of Israel “disrupts” negotiations.

What they are looking for, and what the establishment Jewish groups should produce, are expressions of outrage at the mistreatment of Israel and the attempts to portray the Jewish state as being the prime impediment to a successful war on terror – charges that bring to mind the blood libels hurled at Jews throughout history.

Israelis – - and indeed much of the Jewish world – - are awaiting the establishment groups’ affirmation that the entire city of Jerusalem must remain under Jewish sovereignty; that it is Israel’s eternal, united capital; and that Jews must not be outlawed from building and living in all its neighborhoods.

Further, it is apparent that the Obama administration is engaged in an attempt to overturn the will of the Israeli people who voted for the current prime minister and his coalition partners. Israelis see such an effort — and rightly so — as a belittlement not only of their sovereignty but of their basic right to determine whom their leaders should be.

The past few weeks have been witness to an unwarranted but purposeful rebuke of the State of Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people. We would have liked to see establishment Jewish leaders displaying the courage to stand up, with pride, for Jews and for Israel.

Instead, we got a silence that conveyed the message that Jewish communal leaders are interested more in being on friendly terms with the administration than on doing their duty by announcing to the world that this cannot be tolerated.

The silence of the established Jewish organizations has been a marked contrast to the outspokenness of the relatively new, left-leaning J Street – an outspokenness that has made J Street the most visible group speaking out about these issues in the Jewish community.

No doubt, many of our leaders are working behind the scenes to repair the rupture of the last three weeks. In this case, however, it is simply not enough and evades the real issue. The world at large has seen a public embarrassment and rebuke of the State of Israel go unanswered. Unless it sees a strong Jewish response, it will assume that such treatment of Jews and the Jewish state is now acceptable and de rigueur.

The world must hear. The world must see. It takes little courage to meet with other leaders behind closed doors. The courage that is needed now is the courage to tell the world that Israel and the Jewish people will not tolerate that which no other nation or community would tolerate. Failure to openly show such courage will only guarantee that this will happen again, even if and when this particular crisis is “smoothed out.”

Leaders are not simply men and women who work behind the scenes. Leaders are those who have enough conviction and pride to boldly, and with enthusiasm, defend their people. The American Jewish community expects and deserves that type of leadership from those who claim to be its leaders.

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About the Author: Beth Gilinsky is founder of Jewish Action Alliance and can be reached through www.standwithisrael.wordpress.com or at (212) 726-1124. Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a columnist for various publications, can be reached at rabbispero@yahoo.com.


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We’ve heard from many Israelis who feel demoralized and abandoned due to the lack of any strong and meaningful statements or vigorous public demonstrations sponsored by major Jewish organizations in support of Israel’s position on Jerusalem.

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