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June 26, 2016 / 20 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘american’

Why are American Jews and Israel Drifting Apart?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

In the last few weeks a number of pundits have proposed similar reasons for the divide between Israel and what is now, unfortunately, a majority of American Jews. They point to the extent to which Jews in America now identify more with their Americanism than with their Judaism, manifested both by intermarriage and by a lack of understanding of what Israel means as a Jewish state.

I want to suggest that the reason is somewhat deeper: the loss of Jewish identity is due to an attenuation of Jewish self-esteem.

America has been very good for the Jews. The generations who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found a land of great opportunities, and their offspring benefited from access to higher education and the booming economy, such that there are few areas of life in which American Jews have failed to excel.

But the State of Israel represents the ‘specialness’ of the Jewish people, which started with the Patriarchs and the M, and has continued through the enslavement in Egypt and the Exodus, the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and the conquest of the Land of Israel, and the Temple service. Despite millennia of exile from the Land and of anti-Semitism, Jewish ‘specialness’ persists to this day. Despite attrition, not only by attempts at genocide, forced conversion but also by assimilation and intermarriage, the Jewish nation has survived and flourished. None of the efforts of nation after nation have succeeded in erasing the underlying identity of the Jews, which is based on the self-esteem of each Jew and the communal self-esteem of the Jewish people.

Throughout the generations and in all the places in which they lived, in the Land of Israel and around the globe, the Jews preserved and continue to preserve their particularity, by means of the use of the Hebrew language for prayer and learning, and, for the last century or so, in Israel, as the vernacular.

Authentic Judaism requires that Jews respect and draw inspiration from the past, that they live in the present and use their abilities for the benefit of mankind, and plan for the future age of the ingathering of all Jews to the Land of Israel and the restoration of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In this way they kept their particularistic national identity in all those centuries in which the vast majority of Jews lived outside the Land.

Authentic Judaism requires devotion of time and energy to learning and performing mitzvoth. It also requires Hebrew literacy, stable family life, and an understanding of the links between Jews of the current generation with those of all past generations and their obligations to the future and to the world. Self-esteem is created and preserved by the strong family, communal and national connections, which are ensured by common identification with the Torah. Authentic Judaism rejects postmodernism, with its distrust and deconstruction of any ideology which is clear and lasting.

In the absence of one or other of these features of Jewish identity and self-esteem, the road to assimilation and the disappearance of a connection with the State of Israel and its Jews is wide open.

Modern movements in Judaism base their content on selected ideas which are taken from parts of the Jewish sources (“prophetic Judaism”) and, translated into terms which purport to be universal, appear to be consistent with values which are deemed to be politically correct: equality, human rights, non-discrimination, internationalism and Tikkun Olam (a misrepresentation of a complicated halachic concept, by which the Rabbis of the Talmud preferred certain rabbinical interpretations over others in the light of specific exigencies).

By doing so, the adherents of these movements are deprived of exposure to the texts and ideology of Judaism, in all their depth and breadth, their dynamism and the interrelationship between each part of the Torah (in the broadest sense) and each other part. In this way, these movements deprive Jews of their self-esteem, their distinctiveness, and ultimately their identity.

Those who identify Judaism only as a national liberation movement, with Israel at the center, may become disenchanted with this or that policy of the Israel government, and their Jewish identity reveals itself only in a hubristic attempt to dictate to Israel how it should behave, usually without sufficient knowledge of or regard for the history, geography or the exigencies of daily life in Israel.

Those whose Jewish identity is centered on commemoration of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism have chosen a negative narrative in which a specific period of Jewish victimhood is central and Jewish self-esteem is absent. The specific anti-Semitism of the Nazi exterminations is often subsumed into a general universalization of racism, without a specific Jewish context.

Those whose Jewish identity is manifested only by attendance at occasional Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, and visiting houses of prayer once or twice a year, or eating “jewish” foods, or having a particular sense of humor, or even donating large sums to Jewish institutions, which are at most nostalgic expressions of loyalty to past generations, are unable to pass a love of Judaism and the Jewish people to their children.

Those for whom the history and authentic ethos of the Jews mean nothing will act and think no differently from the gentiles with whom they mingle, and are at risk of becoming indistinguishable from them (except to anti-Semites).

So the repair of the distancing of American Jewry from Israel requires rigorous rethinking of the relationship between each Jew and his heritage, and between him and his American identity. Reestablishment of Jewish self-esteem is the key to this.

Philip Marcus

Jewish State Police Arrest American Who Gave D’var Torah on Temple Mount [video]

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

If we were to describe the following scene as having taken place anywhere else on the planet, the report would have been followed by several news cycles involving angry Jewish organizations, rabbis, Israeli rightwing politicians and, undoubtedly, Prime Minister Netanyahu, condemning the blatant act of anti-Semitic repression on the part of police, carrying out the anti-Semitic policies of the national government. (See American Jew Arrested for Murmuring Prayers, 2nd Warned to Close Prayer App)

On Sunday morning, a Jewish American tourist wearing a yarmulke stood with a group of fellow Jewish tourists and spoke about the meaning of a biblical verse. A group of black-uniformed police converged on him and accused him of engaging in Jewish prayer, which is against the law in that country. The Jewish man tried to defend himself, arguing that he was merely explaining a biblical verse, “Please, God, save [us], Please God, give [us] success” (Psalms 118:25).

The cops rushed to the man and his group as soon as they heard the words “Please, God” pronounced in Hebrew. The rest of the lecture was in English. The man insisted, in English, that he was merely explaining the verse and not praying. The cops had no patience for lengthy arguments with a Jew and arrested him.

Several other Jewish tourists tried to intervene, explaining that it was a misunderstanding, they wouldn’t have even dreamed of praying there, in a country that punishes Jews who engage in public prayer, it was merely a mention of a verse in the context of a talk. At which point the arresting officer declared:

“On the Temple Mount I decide what’s prayer.”

Yes, the entire scene took place in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish State, where black uniformed police decide what’s prayer and what’s not. On Temple Mount, as part of decades of government policy, state police violate the human right to free worship Jews are entitled to like all the other humans on the planet.

The legal aid society Honenu said in a statement: “The conduct of the State of Israel and Police regarding the suspicion of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount is, first of all, ridiculous, and in addition it is discriminatory and predatory. It is inconceivable that a law-abiding man would be arrested like the lowest criminal for explaining a verse from Psalms. In any other country such an arrest would have been called anti-Semitic.”

We now begin waiting for the angry condemnations from Jewish as well as from human-rights organizations demanding an apology and a quick mending of the gross violation against Jews by the local government.

JNi.Media

Nothing Legitimate about Antisemitic Slur

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw is pleading innocent. Called out for comments made during a Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum held at the House of Commons last week, Straw insists that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about raising points that he says are merely matters of genuine concern.

As the Times of Israel reported, former Labor Party Knesset member Einat Wilf, who took part in the debate, described Straw’s presentation in the following manner:

Wilf participated in the debate and posted some of what she said were Straw’s comments on her Facebook page, saying she nearly fell off her chair when she heard them: “Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem. I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”

The British politician is right when he says criticizing Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitic. But, like many others who want to bash Israel without being branded as Jew-haters, he crossed a very important line when he injected traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish money and insidious attempts to control the policy discussion into the question of how best to advance the cause of peace.

That’s why someone like Wilf, who opposes the Netanyahu government, was so outraged. In doing so, he not only demonstrated ignorance of how American politics works as well as insensitivity to Israel’s position, but also showed the way disagreements with the Jewish state quickly morph into conspiracy theories that are thinly veiled new versions of traditional myths about Jews.

While Straw is neither the first nor the last member of Parliament or prominent Briton to play this game, the fact that someone who was a former foreign minister would not only feel free to vent this nasty stuff, but also think there’s nothing wrong with it, tells you all you need to know about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe.

As for Straw’s charges, they are easily dismissed. Contrary to the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” conspiracy theory thesis, the vast, wall-to-wall bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state is a function of American public opinion, not Jewish money.

As frustrating as it may be for Israel’s critics, support for Zionism is baked into the DNA of American politics and is primarily the function of religious attitudes as well as the shared values of democracy that unite the U.S. and Israel.

Other lobbies (oil interests, pharmaceuticals, et al) have far more money. Hard as it is for some people to accept, the reason why American politicians back Israel’s democratically elected government is because opposing them is bad politics as well as bad policy.

Making such accusations is offensive rather than just wrong because, as Straw knows very well, talking about Jewish money buying government policy is straight out of the anti-Semitic playbook of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The purpose of such claims is not to argue that Israel’s supporters are misguided so much as that they are illegitimate.

That Straw is similarly frustrated with German refusals to try and hammer the Israelis is equally appalling. Germany’s government has, contrary to Straw’s comment, often been highly critical of Israel, but if officials in Berlin have some sensitivity to Israel’s position as a small, besieged nation it is because they understand that the underlying factor that drives hostility to Zionism is the same anti-Semitism that drove the Holocaust.

But the main point to be gleaned from this story is the way Straw has illustrated just how mainstream anti-Semitic attitudes have become in contemporary Britain. It is entirely possible that Straw thinks himself free from prejudice. But that is only possible because in the intellectual and political circles in which he and other members of the European elite move, these ideas have gone mainstream rather than being kept on the margins as they are in the United States.

The ease with which Western European politicians invoke these tired clichés about Jewish power and money is a reflection of the way attitudes have changed in the last generation as the memory of the Holocaust fades and people feel empowered to revive old hate. Chalk it up to the prejudices of intellectuals, especially on the left, as well as to the growing influence of Muslim immigrants who have brought the Jew-hatred of their home countries with them.

Straw may not be alone in not liking the Netanyahu government, but he can’t get out off the hook for the anti-Semitic rationale for his views that he put forward. The pity is, he’s speaking for all too many Europeans when he speaks in this manner.

Jonathan S. Tobin

US Losing Middle East Coalition

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Ever since the seventies, the world has become accustomed to the split in the Middle East, between those countries that support the West – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel, and we might add Turkey to this list as well, and those countries that were members of the opposing, Soviet, coalition: Syria, Libya, Iraq and South Yemen. Lebanon was then between the democratic hammer and the Syrian anvil.

Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the eighties, there were no big shifts in political orientation, and the countries that were faithful to the Western bloc led by the United States remained faithful to it until recently, mainly because a new hostile bloc was formed, led by Iran and supported by Russia and China. The stronger the Iranian threat became, the more the pro-Western countries depended on America for support.

Lately, however, the pro-Western coalition has begun to crumble, and two key countries – Saudi Arabia and Egypt – are searching for a new political crutch, ever since it became clear to them that the American crutch is nothing but “a broken reed” (Isaiah, 36:6). A few more countries can be added to this list, mainly Turkey and the Gulf Emirates.

Saudi Arabia

In an unprecedented move, the Saudi kingdom has refused to become a member of the most powerful body in the world, the Security Council of the UN, a body authorized to deal with the world’s security problems and, with the power of the authority vested in it, can even declare war as a world body on a country that violates its resolutions. The question that immediately arises is: why did Saudi Arabia refuse to become a member of the body that is perhaps the only one capable of dealing with Iran’s military nuclear project? Why did Saudi Arabia reject the opportunity to influence events in Syria from within the Security Council? Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia take advantage of the most important stage in international policy in order to take action against Israel?

The superficial reason is that which the Saudi foreign office published, expressing an ethical position: the kingdom will not agree to enter the Security Council until the Council undergoes reforms that will enable it to fulfill its role, which is to maintain world peace. The obsolete apparatus, the wasteful practices, and double standards used by the Security Council all prevent it from fulfilling its role. There are many examples of this: the Palestinian problem has not been solved despite it having been created 65 years ago, and despite the fact that the wars stemming from it have threatened the peace of the entire region and the world several times. The Council allows the Syrian dictator continue slaughtering his citizens for almost three years without imposing effective sanctions, and the Council has failed to achieve the goal of turning the Middle East into an area free of weapons of mass destruction because it has not managed to create an effective method of oversight for military nuclear projects.

Despite the fact that the Saudis do not speak specifically about Iran in their official announcement, it is clear that their reference is not to Israel, from whom they fear no danger, but to Iran, whose nuclear plans do keep them awake at night. However, it is specifically the Iranian nuclear issue which should have pushed Saudi Arabia to become a member the Council; membership could have granted them an active role in making decisions against Iran, so why not join?

In part, the reasons relate to the way that the Saudis see the international alignment of countries recently but is also connected to the customary culture of honor in the Middle East, without which it would be impossible to understand the behavior of the Saudis, proud sons of the desert.

First of all, a person of honor does not join a club where he is considered a class ‘B’ member. In the Security Council there are class ‘A’ members – the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) who have nuclear weapons and veto power, and there are class ‘B’ members – the ten countries with temporary membership, who are not allowed to attain nuclear weapons and do not have veto power. Saudi Arabia would in no way agree to be a class ‘B’ member of any organization, and would prefer not to join because honor is more important to it than anything else.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Goodbye Columbus, Goodbye America

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Columbus may have outfoxed the Spanish court and his rivals, but he is falling victim to the court of political correctness.

The explorer who discovered America has become controversial because the very idea of America has become controversial.

There are counter-historical claims put forward by Muslim and Chinese scholars claiming that they discovered America first. And there are mobs of fake indigenous activists on every campus to whom the old Italian is as much of a villain as the bearded Uncle Sam.

Columbus Day parades are met with protests and some have been minimized or eliminated.

In California, Columbus Day became Indigenous People’s Day, which sounds like a Marxist terrorist group’s holiday. While it’s tempting to put that down to California political correctness, in South Dakota it was renamed Native American Day.

The shift from celebrating Columbus’ arrival in America to commemorating it as an American Nakba by focusing on the Indians, rather than the Americans, is a profound form of historical revisionism that hacks away at the origins of this country.

No American state has followed Venezuela’s lead in renaming it Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or Day of Indigenous Resistance, which actually is a Marxist terrorist group’s holiday, the whole notion of celebrating the discovery of America has come to be seen as somehow shameful and worst of all, politically incorrect.

Anti-Columbus Day protests are mounted by La Raza, whose members, despite their indigenous posturing, are actually mostly descended from Spanish colonists, but who know that most American liberals are too confused to rationally frame an objection to a protest by any minority group.

About the only thing sillier than a group of people emphasizing their collective identity as a Spanish speaking people, and denouncing Columbus as an imperialist exploiter is Ward Churchill, a fake Indian, who compared Columbus to Heinrich Himmler. Ward Churchill’s scholarship consists of comparing Americans in past history and current events to random Nazis. If he hasn’t yet compared Amerigo Vespucci or Daniel Boone to Ernst Röhm; it’s only a matter of time.

The absurdity of these attacks is only deepened by the linguistic and cultural ties between the Italian Columbus Day marchers and the Latino Anti-Columbus Day protesters with the latter set cynically exploiting white guilt to pretend that being the descendants of Southern European colonists makes them a minority.

If being descended from Southern Europeans makes you a minority, then Columbus, the parade marchers, the Greek restaurant owner nearby and even Rush Limbaugh are all “people of color.”

Italian-Americans are the only bulwark against political correctness still keeping Columbus on the calendar, and that has made mayors and governors in cities and states with large Italian-American communities wary of tossing the great explorer completely overboard. But while Ferdinand and Isabella may have brought Columbus back in chains, modern day political correctness has banished him to the darkened dungeon of non-personhood, erasing him from history and replacing him with a note reading, “I’m Sorry We Ever Landed Here.”

But this is about more than one single 15th century Genoan with a complicated life who was neither a monster nor a saint. It is about whether America really has any right to exist at all. Is there any argument against celebrating Columbus Day, that cannot similarly be applied to the Fourth of July?

If Columbus is to be stricken from the history books in favor of ideological thugs like Malcolm X or Caesar Chavez, then America must soon follow. Columbus’ crime is that he enabled European settlement of the continent.

If the settlement of non-Indians in North America is illegitimate, then any national state they created is also illegitimate.

It is easier to hack away at a nation’s history by beginning with the lower branches.

Columbus is an easier target than America itself, though La Raza considers both colonialist vermin. Americans are less likely to protest over the banishment of Columbus to the politically correct Gulag than over the banishing America itself, which was named after another one of those colonialist explorers, Amerigo Vespucci. First they came for Columbus Day and then for the Fourth of July.

The battles being fought over Columbus Day foreshadow the battles to be fought over the Fourth of July. As Columbus Day joins the list of banned holidays in more cities, one day there may not be a Fourth of July, just a day of Native Resistance to remember the atrocities of the colonists with PBS documentaries comparing George Washington to Hitler.

These documentaries already exist, they just haven’t gone mainstream. Yet.

We celebrate Columbus Day and the Fourth of July because history is written by the winners. Had the Aztecs, the Mayans or the Iroquois Confederation developed the necessary technology and skills to cross the Atlantic and begin colonizing Europe, the fate of its native inhabitants would have been far uglier. The different perspectives on history often depend on which side you happen to be on.

To Americans, the Alamo is a shining moment of heroism. To the Mexicans who are the heirs of a colonialist empire far more ruthless than anything to be found north of the Rio Grande, the war was a plot to conquer Mexican territory. And neither side is altogether wrong, but choosing which version of history to go by is the difference between being an American or a Mexican.

A nation’s mythology, its paragons and heroes, its founding legends and great deeds, are its soul. To replace them with another culture’s perspective on its history is to kill that soul.

That is the ultimate goal of political correctness, to kill America’s soul. To stick George Washington, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, James Bowie, Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and all the rest on a shelf in a back room somewhere, and replace them with timelier liberal heroes. Move over Washington, Caesar Chavez needs this space. No more American heroes need apply.

This is how it begins. And that is how it ends. Nations are not destroyed by atomic bombs or economic catastrophes; they are lost when they lose any reason to go on living. When they no longer have enough pride to go on fighting to survive.

The final note of politically correct lunacy comes from a headline in the Columbus Dispatch about the Columbus Day festival in the city of Columbus, Ohio. “Italian Festival honors controversial explorer with its own Columbus Day parade”.

Once the great discover of America, Columbus is now dubbed “controversial” by a newspaper named after him, in a city named after him .And if he is controversial, how can naming a city after him and a newspaper after the city not be equally controversial?

Can the day when USA Today has a headline reading, “Some cities still plan controversial 4th of July celebration of American independence” be far behind?

Daniel Greenfield

Not Enough Joy and Meaning

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The recent NY Times article on the newly released PEW findings on Jewish continuity paints a bleak future for American Jewry. The study, among other findings, reported that nearly six in ten Jewish respondents (58%) who have gotten married since 2000, have married a non-Jewish spouse. The study also showed that only 20 percent of those who have intermarried are raising their children Jewish by religion.

There are, I’m sure, many reasons for this worsening situation including a serious lack of Jewish education for most American Jews, a more than ever distracting world in which living any kind of religious life becomes more challenging, and many other contributing factors. However I believe there is another cause, which I have seen in my 20 years of outreach to the young and less affiliated: the sheer lack of joy or meaning that so many young Jews associate with Judaism.

More often than not, the perception young people have of Judaism is of a faith filled with rules and restrictions which offers little or no joy or meaning in return.

But why should young Jews be left with any other impression? When Yom Kippur continues to be the most celebrated Jewish experience in synagogue what else should we expect? How many American Jews are present for the somber Yom Kippur service, complete with fasting and chest-pounding/forgiveness asking but are no-where to be found the next week when joyous singing and dancing in honor of Simchat Torah takes place? That balance of reverence and joy is vital to keep our interest and it is so authentically Jewish. In the Temple of old, the Beit Hamikdash, the feeling on Yom Kippur was one of awe and even trepidation as the High Priest performed the service to secure atonement for all of Israel, but the next week that same Temple was filled with a sense of joy and exuberance during the Simchat Beit Hoshava (water drawing ceremony) on which which the Talmud tells us: “Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen true joy.”

Like most synagogues, MJE has always drawn larger numbers for its Yom Kippur services than for Simchat Torah. This year however, for the very first time, we had approximately the same number of participants for both holidays. It took us 15 years but we did it. The same number of previously less affiliated 20’s/30’s who were willing to fast and pray with us on Yom Kippur returned to sing and dance with us on Simchat Torah.

Young Jews desperately need to experience both the serious and lighter sides of Judaism. We can no longer allow our beloved faith to be marketed as a religion of guilt and restriction without even trying to present it for what it truly is: a path which can ultimately bring joy and meaning to contemporary life. And we must learn to properly articulate how the limitations Judaism does place on our lives are important in helping to create that more joyous and meaningful existence.

The goal of our synagogues and Jewish institutions today must be to demonstrate this balance of reverence and joy; fealty to tradition with personnel meaning and relevance. Jewish educators need to be better trained to invest more explanation and inspiration into our prayer services and provide greater depth and insight as to how living a life of Torah can actually improve our lives and make us happier and more fulfilled people.

Otherwise, for most American Jews, why bother?

Rabbi Mark Wildes

What the Syria Crisis Tells Us about the Israel Lobby

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Barely minutes after the news broke earlier this month that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was planning a major effort on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Obama administration’s plan for a limited military operation against the Syrian regime, the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

As always, it’s instructive to note how the notion that American foreign policy is a prisoner of organizations like AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group in America, is an idée fixe on both the far left and the extreme right. Juan Cole, a left-wing academic with a strong online following, grabbed the opportunity to argue that AIPAC, in advocating for what he described as “attacking Syria,” is out of touch with the opinions of most American Jews, who are not evil neoconservatives but solid progressives. The anti-Zionist Jewish blogger M.J. Rosenberg ranted about how “AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war.”

Not to be outdone, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, wrote that in supporting military action, AIPAC was endangering the lives of Syrian Christians, whom he believes are better off under the Assad regime.

Such concern for the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East is touching, but also a tad disingenuous, as The American Conservative has never shown much sympathy for the fate of those Christian communities, from Nigeria to Pakistan, who suffer from Islamist atrocities. When you bring Israel into the equation, however, the magazine suddenly finds its voice.

The combined message here is clear: Syria is Iraq Redux, another “endless war” America is being pushed into by a shadowy Jewish cabal.

Critics of these conspiracy theories have rightly pointed out the anti-Semitic pedigree on display here. The idea that Jews are powerful enough to manipulate their governments from behind the scenes is a staple of modern anti-Semitism. Still, let’s for a moment take the Israel Lobby thesis on its own merits. Is the charge that the “Lobby” is the real authority when it comes to U.S. foreign policy empirically verifiable?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, what the latest developments on Syria demonstrate is that rather than the “Lobby” running the administration, it is the administration that runs the “Lobby.”

AIPAC, along with mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, had been largely silent on the atrocities taking place in Syria. In that sense, they were no different from the other influential groups and individuals who were either undecided on the issue of a limited military operation or firmly opposed to it. It’s no secret that Obama always faced a rough ride in Congress, especially as some of his traditional supporters, like the MoveOn.org PAC, actively opposed any intervention in Syria.

Similarly, the Jewish left is uncomfortable with the prospect of taking on the Assad regime; J Street, a group that once ludicrously claimed to be Obama’s “blocking back” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue, has deserted the president over Syria.

Rather than pushing for war, then, AIPAC and similar groups were drafted in at the last minute to boost support for a president who was looking dangerously isolated. The irony of an administration that includes Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary who famously bemoaned AIPAC’s influence, running to groups like AIPAC to secure backing shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Even so, away from the political point scoring, what this shows is that the influence of pro-Israel groups is something this administration values. Equally – and this is key – these groups will wield that influence when the administration requests that they do so.

Importantly, this is not the first time the administration has turned to the “Lobby” for support on Middle East-related matters. Part of the reason Secretary of State John Kerry was able to galvanize support and publicity for his efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was that he turned to American Jews, whose principal organizations dutifully trumpeted his message. The fact that Kerry’s diplomacy has yielded few results isn’t really his fault, nor is it the fault of American Jews. The stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front is the consequence, as it always has been, of rejectionism among the Palestinians, whose leaders remain distinctly queasy about doing anything that might smack of accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

Any worry about all of this on the part of American Jewish organizations should relate not to accusations of outsize influence but to association with failure. So far Israel has little to show for its decision, under pressure from the Americans, to release Palestinian terrorists ahead of the talks; meanwhile, the Syrian intervention proposal is mired in confusion because of widespread concern that an American-led operation will be too little, too late.

If the Obama administration can be confident of anything, it is that its American Jewish partners will never go so far as to openly criticize the president. Far from being the war-crazed cabal depicted in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, the “Israel Lobby” is in reality an oasis of calm reliability for a president who may just be on the cusp of his biggest foreign policy failure.

Ben Cohen

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-the-syria-crisis-tells-us-about-the-israel-lobby/2013/09/25/

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