Latest update: February 5th, 2014
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, ads will appear in numerous New York City area Jewish media, castigating a list of 58 angry New York Jews.
Why? Because those angry Jews publicly admonished newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for daring to appear at a pro-Israel event, declaring his support for the sponsoring organization and for Israel.
The pushback is coming from a small, quickly mobilized group of business and other professional New York residents who want it known that “AIPAC, like the JCRCs and the Federations are the backbone of the American Jewish community and they represent mainstream American Jewry. Mainstream Jewry expects and appreciates support for Israel from its elected officials.”
What is going on?
DE BLASIO TOLD AIPAC HIS DOOR IS OPEN
In an unscheduled appearance at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee event on Jan. 23, to which the media were most decidedly not invited, Mayor de Blasio gave a fairly run-of-the-mill pro-Israel speech. No biggie pretty much anywhere in North America, and certainly not in New York City.
As Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, one of the New Yorkers who took out the ad told The Jewish Press, the mayor gave a solid, pro-Israel speech. But “these myopic, progressive New York Jews are so foolish, they don’t care that AIPAC supported Rabin and Barak when they were each prime minister. Whatever government is democratically elected, that’s who AIPAC supports. But no, these people have to put their own selfish, progressive interests ahead of everything.
“When you start attacking the mainstays of the Jewish community, when AIPAC is unacceptable, that reveals a pathological selfishness,” Wiesenfeld growled.
For some reason, a gaggle of the “tolerant” progressive New York Jewish crowd, responded – shall we say, intolerantly – to what they saw as a possible betrayal of their progressive values by the most “progressive” of White politicians to make it to the top rung of city politics.
The public dressing-down of de Blasio came in the form of a letter which was sent out on the cheap electronically, then became viral, and ended up (for free) on the pages of the progressives’ darling Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.
The angry epistle took de Blasio to task for foolishly telling a mid-town AIPAC crowd that New York City Hall’s doors will remain open to them. According to the public letter, de Blasio told the AIPAC crowd, “When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily, ’cause that’s my job.”
But this group of angry New York Jews had some news for Mayor de Blasio. They told him that AIPAC does not speak for them. They told him that his job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding or be at its call.
“AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us,” they explained.
For the few sentient Jews who do not know, perhaps it needs to be explained that AIPAC’s positions always reflect the positions held by whatever Israeli government is in office. When the far left is in power, AIPAC’s positions mirror those of the far left. When the center or far right are in power, AIPAC supports the positions of the leadership of those factions.
To say it more plainly, the Angry 58s reject Israel’s democratic process and shun the most centrist pro-Israel organization there is. They reject their mayor’s recognition and support for that democratic process and publicly humiliate him for daring to say so.
WHO ARE THE ANGRY 58?
In the Angry 58 signatories are many whose names don’t raise an eyebrow. For example, it was no surprise to see Peter Beinart’s name, or Eve Ensler, or Lotty Cottin Pogrebin (and her husband, Bertrand – who knew there was one?) Same dull nods for Anne Roiphe and Gloria Steinem. Of course, the only surprise seeing the name Rebecca Vilkomerson – she heads the extremist Jewish Voice for Peace, staunch promoters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and ardent opponents of AIPAC – was to learn that she is a New Yorker.
But scattered amongst the non-surprises are some names that shocked Wiesenfeld and Judith Rosen, another sponsor of the ads which will appear on Wednesday. Those are names such as Ruth J. Abram, whom Wiesenfeld said is the daughter of a former president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Morris Abram. Also a real surprise, they said, was seeing the name of Esther-Ann Asch.
Asch was a longtime leader with the FEGS Health and Human Services System, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency. In a recent UJA-Federation publication, there is a story which focuses on Asch. The article begins with a quote from her: “my whole life, basically, has been a Federation life.”
The ads that will run on Wednesday state that Israel currently faces an existential threat from the Islamic dictatorship of Iran, and compares the Angry 58 with Jews who, in 1943, urged President Franklin Delano Roosevelt not to meet with rabbis attempting to beseech him to save those European Jews who had not yet perished in the Shoah.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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