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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘AIPAC’

Time-Honored White House Diplomatic Traditions on Israel

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

For those readers who have become avid fans of the soap opera unfolding in the White House around the drama between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a tidbit just for you.

On Friday, as the White House press corps was engaged in its usual back-and-forth with spokesperson Josh Earnest, they finally managed to force a truth from his lips: The President and the Prime Minister, he said, have a “fundamental disagreement” about diplomatic talks with Iran.

Netanyahu “doesn’t share [Obama’s] view,” Earnest admitted. But still, he claimed, those “differences of opinion” don’t undermine the “unshakable” American commitment to Israel’s security.

On America’s terms, of course. And if it happens to prove mistaken and an existential threat to the Jewish State, which is about the size of New Jersey, well. . .

<menacing music>

As it happens, most members of Congress also have a “fundamental disagreement” with the President about the diplomatic talks with Iran, it seems. Not just the Republicans, who comprise the majority in both houses, but there are a fair number of Democrats who also believe Iran is using the talks simply to gain more time for its covert nuclear development activities.

And Iranians have long made it clear both in the street and in their mosques that their targets will not be limited to Israel; America is in the cross-hairs as well. Members of the intelligence community are well aware of it, as are members of Congress and the Israeli government.

So as early as last October, U.S. Rep. John Boehner was talking to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer about inviting Netanyahu to address the Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat. The formal invitation was made public last week – and accepted as well – to the apparent “surprise” of the White House.

It’s a bit hard to believe that any of The President’s Men – or Women – could be caught off guard. But let’s leave that bit for quiet contemplation.

It turns out the annual AIPAC conference is being held in March this year – a “must” for every Israeli head of state, and Netanyahu is no exception. The address to Congress made much more sense scheduled around AIPAC, and was penciled in for the same week.

Utter fury at the White House. Sarcastic remarks from press secretary Josh Earnest, with a reference to the Speaker of the House making a “departure from protocol.” On the Prime Minister’s visit, Earnest was altogether tight-lipped, saying his boss was “reserving judgment.”

Later reporters were told that neither Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Israel’s head of state while he is in Washington for both events.

Imagine. One of America’s “closest allies” comes to the capital and neither the President nor the Secretary of State makes time to meet with him, when the United States shares military, intelligence, economy, academic and who knows how many other priorities with Israel.

Not to mention their “differences of opinion” that are so important to work out – something that one would believe an administration so committed to the process of “diplomacy” would consider a priority.

The White House spokesperson tried to put a good face on it.

“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” he explained Thursday.

Netanyahu: War Against Terror Lost if Based on Hypocrisy

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks at his meeting with AIPAC leaders on Wednesday, Jan. 14:

“I think the war against terror will not succeed if it’s founded on hypocrisy, and I’ve yet to hear any world leader condemn the comments by Erdogan, not one.

“Now he said that Israel should not have been represented in the march in Paris, and the reason he gave, was our actions to defend our citizens against the thousands of rockets hurled at our cities by the terrorists of Hamas.

“I believe his shameful remarks must be repudiated by the international community, because the war against terror will only succeed if it’s guided by moral clarity. That means that the terrorists and their supporters must be condemned, and those fighting terror, like Israel and the United States, must be supported. It’s as simple as that. And I think we’re going to be tested by these issues of moral confusion versus moral clarity and courage versus cowardice again, and again, and again.

“This is not a one-shot battle.”

Why Are Student Leaders and Jewish Bruins Under Attack at UCLA?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

There will always be that one person who does not like you. There will always be that one person who thinks you can do no right. And while you acknowledge your own faults, that one person sees them as far greater than anyone else’s. Implicit in this is the antagonistic relationship between two people, between two differing belief systems, and two differing ways of thought. Unfortunately, this is the situation we have learned to accept when it comes to the relationship between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups. On campuses across America, this dynamic is no different.

It seems, however, that during the past year at the University of California, Los Angeles, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian tensions have reached a climax—partly because there are no longer just two voices fighting against each other, but multiple voices fighting against one. UCLA has seen the mobilization of self-identified minority communities banding together in order to combat the terrors they believe Israel inflicts on the world, and a concerted effort by pro-Palestinian organization to exploit this to their advantage and silence pro-Israel voices on campus.

By going to university, you expect to find yourself, to make friends, and to define beliefs that will guide you for the rest of your life. All of this is happening for me at UCLA, but in a high-pressure situation I could never have anticipated. More than anything else, this was made clear to me during the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) debate over an anti-Israel divestment resolution.

The resolution in question called for divestment from Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and Cemex, claiming that all these companies committed human rights violations against the Palestinian people. If passed, the resolution would be purely symbolic, since the Regents of the University of California had already declared that they would not divest from any companies that maintain operations in Israel.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian organization, authored the resolution, which was sponsored by three council members. SJP has long been active on campuses across America and its ideology is well known. Its website states,

As a solidarity organization, we support the Palestinian call for three basic rights, outlined in 2005: The right not to live under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the right to equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. As a group, we focus on supporting these rights instead of advocating for a particular political solution (such as one or two states).

The issue most pro-Israel students had with the resolution was that it did not allow a dialogue on whether or not Israel committed human rights violations; it assumed Israel’s sole culpability without looking at any event in a historical context. Bruins for Israel (BFI), the primary pro-Israel group on campus, was thus the most vocal organization opposing the resolution.

BFI is an entirely mainstream and moderate group. As outgoing President Miriam Eshaghian has said, “By framing factual current events in a historical context, we give the campus community the tools to comprehend the turmoil…. We advocate for a negotiated two-state solution: A Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state…. We stand firmly against any form of delegitimization of Israel as a Jewish state.”

To BFI, the resolution was part of the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state, and therefore had to be strenuously opposed.

The USAC meeting to vote on the divestment resolution was scheduled for February 25, 2014. For weeks before the deciding USAC meeting, both pro-divestment and anti-divestment groups lobbied individual council members intensely, bombarding them with fact sheets, presentations, explanations of historical context, and, in some cases, friendships that proved to be false and exploitative.

Rejection of J Street Best Possible Outcome…for J Street

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

A backlash has been growing in the aftermath of the failed bid by J Street for admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The group that represents the largest denomination of American Jewry, the Union of Reform Judaism, is demanding that the Conference change its one group, one vote policy while also openly threatening to leave the umbrella group. An official of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly is also demanding changes.

Meanwhile liberal commentators are blasting the Conference for its 22-17 vote to deny entry the left-wing lobby and making extravagant claims about this vote symbolizing the growing alienation of the Jewish establishment from the wishes of most of those it purports to represent.

Which means that, all things considered, the defeat at the Conference was the best possible outcome for the left-wing organization that came into existence not to fit in and cooperate with existing Jewish groups and coalitions but to blow them up. The negative vote enables J Street and its various left-wing sympathizers to play the victim and boosts their agenda to first delegitimize groups like the Conference and AIPAC and then to replace them.

But while it is understandable that the Reform and Conservative movements would join the lament about J Street’s defeat in order to assuage some of their liberal constituents who support the left-wing lobby, they should be careful about advancing any agenda that could undermine umbrella groups like the Conference.

While such organizations can seem at times to be irrelevant to the day-to-day business of American Jewry, they still serve a vital purpose. If the non-Orthodox denominations help J Street destroy them, they will soon learn that not only will it be difficult to replace them but also they and their constituents will not be well served by the politicized chaos that follows.

Only hours after its defeat, J Street was already attempting to make hay from the vote with a fundraising e-mail sent out to their list. It read, in part:


Thank you, Malcolm Hoenlein and the Conference of Presidents.

Yesterday’s rejection of our bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community – or even its prevailing views.


Thus despite J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami’s public expression of disappointment about the vote, the group was clearly prepared all along to exploit a rejection to further its campaign to brand both AIPAC and the Conference as out of touch. J Street came into existence hoping to do just that, but over the course of the last five years failed miserably to do so.

Though J Street’s raison d’être was to serve as a Jewish cheerleader for Obama administration pressure on Israel, it has little influence on Capitol Hill and has even, to its dismay, sometimes been repudiated by a president it supports unconditionally. Thus it hopes to use this incident to gain more traction against mainstream groups.

But those, like Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, who are using this vote to bash pro-Israel groups should be asking themselves why so many members of the Conference, which already includes left-wing organizations like Americans for Peace Now and Ameinu, would vote against adding one more to its ranks. The reason is that many centrist groups clearly resented J Street’s unwarranted pretensions to speak for American Jewry and to undermine the broad-based AIPAC.

The Conference was created to provide a way for a diverse and cantankerous Jewish community a single structure with which it could deal with the U.S. government. And though its members have often disagreed, and true consensus between left and right is often impossible, the Conference still provides Congress and the executive branch an address through which they can reach a broad and diverse coalition of Jewish organizations.

The Three Little Kosher Pigs

Monday, April 28th, 2014

It is always amusing to see the look on the faces of fellow American Jews when they discover that I am a Republican. Lacking originality, they typically say, “A Republican Jewish woman? Now that’s an oxymoron!” Well no, not at all.

Sadly, Israel has become a partisan issue. But it is the Republicans who are her staunchest supporters. Yet ironically, the vast majority of American Jews, whose progressive values are flaunted with elitist moral authority, have found a home in the Democrat party — the one whose members boo any mention of God and Jerusalem and whose policy makers formulate plans and strategies that are simply dangerous for Israel.

As we finish celebrating Passover during which time we remember our peoples’ exodus from bondage in Egypt to a life of freedom in Israel and observe Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — it is an appropriate time to reflect on the state of Jewish Zionism in America.

What does it say about a people who align themselves with  political organizations that at best feign support for Israel for fundraising purposes but in reality take measures that could possibly harm that country’s long-term survival? In the face of existential dangers including growing Islamic fundamentalist death threats that are ignored around the world (including in the UN, EU and US) and growing apathy of Jews in the diaspora, perhaps a brief history of the Jewish peoples’ struggles against anti-Semitism is worth a revisit.

A modern version of Jewish history can be analyzed through the lens of the Three Little Pigs. In the Jewish version of this fable, the Jewish people are the three pigs (the kosher version, of course) looking to build a home to live as Jews in peace. The anti-Semites are the big bad wolf (of which there is no shortage) intent on ripping the pigs from their homes and destroying them.

The Jews in ancient times built houses of straw that were blown awayby anti-Semitic wolves during the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, and centuries-old pogroms. By the time they reached the shores of Europe in the later part of the 20th century, Jews built wooden homes believing themselves safe to practice their religion among the wolves in sheep’s clothing. We all know how that ended.

In the Jewish version of the story, the third pig represents two brothers that I’ll call Cain and Abel. Abel smartly moved to the land of Israel. The Jews in Israel learned their lessons of history, recognized their responsibility as God’s Chosen People, and built homes of bricks. And every time the big bad wolf attempted to climb down the chimney and destroy them, they further fortified their cities with concrete walls and missile defense systems. After thousands of years of wandering the global desert, they understood the gift – and obligation – bestowed upon them by God. To call these Jews survivors would be an understatement.

Cain moved to the U.S. and presents quite a different story indeed. American Jews have not learned the lessons of history and ignore their responsibilities to God and the Jewish people as a whole. Instead of building houses of bricks they have chosen to build a “big tent.”

They emulate their European ancestors who focused so intently on assimilating into society that they could not see the fires of the Holocaust burning around them. They worship false idols and pray at the Torah of abortion rights, environmentalism, and socialism much the way the Jewish people fell for the golden calf while waiting for Moses to descend Mt. Sinai with God’s Commandments.

Like their ancestors, American Jews may find themselves forced to wander a desert of secular empty activism in the hopes of one day returning to their homeland if they do not wake up to the dangers surrounding them. A big tent is no way to survive when big bad wolves are looking to destroy you.

Mayor Barkat to American Leaders: Ensure Jerusalem’s Unity

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat is currently conducting an official visit to the United States. During his visit in Washington he met this week (Apr. 1) with leading Congressmen, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R – IN) and Chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs Congressman Edward Royc (R – CA).

Barkat presented Jerusalem’s development over the past years and reviewed the challenges currently facing the city. He discussed with the Congress members Jerusalem’s status in the international arena, and asked them to ensure that Jerusalem stay unified. On their part, the Congress members discussed the battle they are waging against the financial and academic boycotts on Israel and vowed to continue fighting the de-legitimization of Israel and Jerusalem.

Later on Barkat met with Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and discussed with him the challenges facing the Holy City.

AIPAC hosted the Mayor at a special dinner where he dined with senior commentators, lobbyists and Israel supporters in Washington. Barkat presented his vision for Jerusalem, emphasizing Jerusalem’s openness and accessibility to adherents of all religions, and that the city has experienced economic and physical growth. Barkat thanked AIPAC members for their uncompromising commitment to Jerusalem’s safety and unity.

Pro-Israel Activists Must Go on the Offensive and Reach Out

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

If there is one thing that pro-Israel activists can learn from their adversaries, it is how to effectively convey their message and engage in outreach to other groups within American society. Unfortunately, as we speak, too often pro-Israel activists are too much on the defensive, not enough on the offensive, and fail to reach out to potential allies. They prefer to respond to the accusations made by the other side, rather than make claims of their own.

For example, when I worked as content manager for United With Israel, a hasbara organization with over two million followers on facebook, the organization decided to take a stance against the nomination of Chuck Hagel to the position of US Secretary of Defense. At that time, I proposed that the organization should try to reach out to feminists due to his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape, Democrats that opposed his nomination because he is a Republican, and gay rights activists who were disturbed that he opposed the appointment of an ambassador to Luxemberg merely because of his sexual orientation.

Naturally, pro-Israel activists had their own reasons for being opposed to his nomination. Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defemation League stated, “Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel.  His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling.   The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former President Jimmy Carter.”

However, United With Israel decided not to reach out to disenchanted Democrats, gay rights activists, and enraged feminists, preferring instead to stick only to their own pro-Israel interests. Their behavior was systematic of failed Israeli hasbara tactics, which in the end resulted in Hagel’s nomination to be US Secretary of Defense. The pro-Israel interests were not sufficient to defeat Hagel’s nomination. For such a campaign to be successful, pro-Israel activists needed to reach out to the gay rights community, feminists, and the outraged Democrats.

Pro-Israel activists need to understand that they don’t have to have their interests always coincide with other interest groups in order to collaborate with them to achieve a common purpose. One can be a religious observant Orthodox Jew and have ones own opinion related to homosexuality, the Democratic Party, and abortion (even though most religious Jews would accept abortion in cases of rape or when the life of the mother is at stake).

Yet, one can still collaborate with people who value those interests in order to achieve a common goal. For sure, many of the Muslim anti-Israel groups that are reaching out to the homosexual and feminist community don’t agree with these interest groups on many fundamental issues. They understand that in the long run, overlooking those differences in order to obtain an ally is more important than any other consideration.

Another instance of our failed Hasbara approach is that all too often, our articles respond to allegations from the other side, rather than make accusations of our own. For example, when an Egyptian columnist recently stated that Israel should compensate the Egyptians for the jewels they stole from them during their exodus out of Egypt and for the Ten Plagues, I wrote an article attacking this Egyptian columnist’s statements in JerusalemOnline. I agree that it was important as a journalist to respond to his ridiculous assertions and expose them. Yet in retrospect, some Israeli columnist who speaks Arabic should have evaluated all of the articles written by Ahmad Al Gamal and written an article going on the offensive, with a headline to the effect stating, “Egyptian Columnist is an Anti-Semite.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/pro-israel-activitists-must-go-on-the-offensive-and-reach-out/2014/04/02/

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