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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’

Organization of Major Jewish Organizations: Name Calling Not Productive

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Lest people were wondering where oh where is the conglomeration of major American Jewish organizations and is it going to weigh in on ChickenExcrementGate, you need wonder no longer.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a three paragraph statement which, for the most part, can be summarized as: it’s not nice to call each other names. You know you must behave in public like good boys who are fond of each other, so get with the program.

What it actually said, amongst the “deeply concerned” and “inappropriate characterizations emanating from official sources” not to mention the “real extraordinary cooperation” on “so many levels,” was there’s seriously bad stuff happening in the world right now fellas, so cut it out and focus please.

The statement was released under the names of the current chairman, Robert G. Sugarman, and the executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein.

There were two substantive points made in the release. One was praise expressed for the statement, made by an administration official, that the “recent comments” made in The Atlantic interview were “inappropriate and counterproductive.” The second was asking that “the person responsible be held to account and the appropriate steps by taken by the Administration.”

A little elaboration is in order.

First, the administration official who referred to the name-calling as “inappropriate and counterproductive” limited that criticism to referring to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as “chicken****.” The other insults were left unmentioned, so, presumably, they were not considered by the administration to be either “inappropriate” or “counterproductive.”

Secondly, there was not merely one Obama administration official who was quoted in the interview calling Netanyahu names, there were several, as Goldberg made clear. Not only that, there was a relatively long list of nasty adjectives, including, incredibly, referring to the Israeli prime minister as someone who suffers from a particular form of mental disability. Does the administration find it acceptable for a senior official to use such a term as a way of insulting someone?

Are we back in the world of former secretary of the interior James Watt? He infamously referred to the diversity in his department as great because “I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews and a cripple.” That remark led then-president Ronald Reagan to dump Watt.

So far it looks as though this dust-up is beginning to fade away, especially, as COPMAJO rightly points out, there is so much seriously bad stuff happening that demands serious attention.

It must be harder than herding cats to have the heads of dozens of Jewish organizations agree on anything, especially a written statement chiding – even if ever so slightly – a sitting U.S. president. It’s good to see the outrageous insults directed at the head of the Jewish State did not pass unremarked upon by COPMAJO.

The entire statement follows:

“We are deeply concerned by a number of recent public and private criticisms, personal insults and inappropriate characterizations emanating from official sources. These often anonymous, but no less harmful, declarations undermine the common interests of the United States and Israel on the critical issues which face both countries and the real extraordinary cooperation on the security, intelligence, political and other levels. It is the common efforts of these two great democratic allies to address the threat of Iran becoming a threshold nuclear state, the rise of ISIS and other extremist Islamist groups, the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya, and the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, among other issues of vital significance to both countries, that is of primary importance. It is only natural that there may be disagreements on issues, but we believe those should be discussed privately between the leaders of both countries and there should be no place for personal attacks which undermine mutual confidence and support so essential to advancing the interests of both the United States and Israel.

“We welcomed the statement of the Administration describing the recent comments made by an unnamed US official in an interview in The Atlantic as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘counterproductive’ and noted the frequent visits and exchanges between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. We ask that the person responsible be held to account and the appropriate steps be taken by the Administration.

“We call on officials, media and others in the public arena to consider the consequences of the words and deeds. Apologies do not undo the damage and every manifestation of division between these two allies is exploited by the enemies of both,” said Sugarman and Hoenlein.

A Frank Discussion With The UN Secretary-General

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Last week two delegations, one from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the other from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, sat down for a 90-minute meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon in his office for an open and frank discussion about the latest war in Gaza ignited by Hamas.

Anyone who has met Mr.Ban knows he is a person with deep respect for Jewish values. A former foreign minister of a country (South Korea) with neighbors like North Korea, Communist China, and Russia, he reiterated to the 11 Jewish leaders in the room – including Malcolm Hoenlein, Abraham Foxman, and leaders from Bnai Brith and Hadassah – that “I understand very well Israel’s security concerns.”

The secretary-general and his team took notes as we outlined the Jewish world’s deep concerns:

  • The audacity of the UN Human Rights Council in appointing a commission to investigate the Israeli incursion into Gaza without ever mentioning the name Hamas, which is the only reason Israel had to (re)act in Gaza.

Legal experts we consulted listed at least 19 violations of international law by Hamas, including crimes against humanity victimizing both Israelis and Palestinians.

We have no doubt the current commission will attempt to outdo the outrages of the original Goldstone Report, an investigation so fatally flawed that it was later disowned by Judge Goldstone himself.

Heading the new legal lynching is a Canadian jurist who previously urged that former president Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu be put on trial.

  • Why, we asked the secretary-general, wasn’t the Human Rights Council investigating the underground terror tunnels whose sole purpose was to kidnap Israelis and launch a mega-terrorist strike on Rosh Hashanah?
  • How is it, we asked, that UNRWA, the UN agency mandated to help Palestinian “refugees,” would allow its facilities to house Hamas rockets and then return them to the terror group when word got out? Why didn’t any of the thousands of UNRWA employees who know exactly from where Hamas is firing rockets inform the secretary-general that Hamas was violating international law by situating its launchers in heavily populated neighborhoods, sometimes just a few meters from UN facilities, in order to attack Israeli civilians?

We didn’t accept the secretary-general’s explanation that UNRWA is not there to make political statements; after all, during the fighting UNRWA officials repeatedly gave interviews to the international media criticizing Israel’s actions.

We suggested to Mr. Ban that he himself had crossed a line with his rush to judgment in characterizing Israel’s attack on a UN school as “criminal,” when it wasn’t at all clear who was responsible for the attack.

  • Why, we wanted to know, does he insist that 75 percent of the Palestinian casualties in Gaza were civilian, when Israel has provided the names and ages of 900 Hamas terrorists killed in the conflict?
  • And why does he criticize Israel for “disproportionality” when it is confronted with Hamas’s strategy of weaving its military and terror infrastructure in heavily populated civilian areas with many mosques and hospitals?

We pointed out that if these new “rules” had been in place at the end of World War II, Winston Churchill and the president of the United States would have been the leaders put on trial at Nuremberg.

  • The secretary-general was also asked how it was that UNICEF, an organization devoted to protecting children – and one heavily supported by Jewish philanthropy for 50 years – condemned Israel for targeting children when in fact the opposite was true.
  • We raised the issue with Mr. Ban of the toxic attacks on Jews in Europe, Australia, and the Americas and urged him to take all necessary measures to ensure that the next UN General Assembly, which meets during the High Holy Days, doesn’t turn into another hate-fest against Jews.
  • Finally, we told the secretary-general that if the rights of democratic countries to respond to naked aggression against their citizens are further curtailed, the only winners of future wars will be the terrorists.

Overall, the Jewish leaders were quite disappointed with many of the points the secretary-general offered in response.

White House Puts New Lipstick on Old Pig a/k/a Unity Government

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

An anonymous senior White House official allegedly told the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the U.S. would cooperated with a Palestinian Unity Government, despite the participation of the terrorist group Hamas.

The way the Unity Government is being promoted, it will be run by “technocrats” and not by representatives of Hamas or Fatah. How anyone appointed by the two parties will not be members of those two parties is difficult to understand, but that is the confection being promoted by those involved, and it is eagerly being ingested by the Americans and others – including 28 European Union foreign ministers – interested in moving forward “peace talks” which also have little grounding in reality.

The Unity Government is allegedly going to be put in place next week.

The United States has consistently asserted that it will not work with Hamas because Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel, won’t commit to nonviolence and won’t abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian Arab agreements.

Mahmoud Abbas, the acting leader of the Fatah party and of the Palestinian Authority, also, at least in Arabic, does not recognize Israel, applauds violence and honors murderers of Israelis and has never honored the commitments made by his party during the Oslo period, or any other period. But because Abbas often makes statements in English that the west is able to pretend means Abbas supports the necessary principles, the U.S. views him as a moderate, worthy partner for peace negotiations.

Now Hamas is being given a strategy for making acceptable its unalterable hostility towards the Jewish state by claiming its members are not officially part of the new Unity government.

An anonymous senior White House official told Haaretz that the U.S. will work with the new government as long as it abides by the conditions, even if it has Hamas’ support. A meeting of 28 European Union foreign ministers last week took a similar position.

“We want a Palestinian government that upholds those principles,” the White House official told Haaretz. “In terms of how they build this government, we are not able to orchestrate that for the Palestinians. We are not going to be able to engineer every member of this government.”

While the news was treated as a surprise by some, just a few months ago Middle East adviser to the White House Philip Gordon told American Jewish leaders that the new Palestinian Authority unity government deal between the Fatah faction and Hamas terrorists “isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Gordon discussed the issue with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at a special briefing, at which he suggested the U.S. will take a “wait and see” posture.

Israel’s position remains that it will not negotiate with any government backed by Hamas.

 

The Vote Heard ‘Round the World

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

To the chagrin of supporters who confidently predicted otherwise, J Street failed to receive the votes it needed for admission into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. So now, they have a new spin.

Had J Street won the vote, of course, its supporters would have claimed the vote was a victory for a “wider range of views on Israel” and, of course, democracy. But having failed in their efforts, supporters have responded with unbecoming condemnation of that same democratic process. The Conference of Presidents followed its by-laws which require a new applicant to receive the support of two-thirds of the members present, with at least three-quarters of the total membership in attendance.

“An analysis of the vote,” argues the Forward, “indicates that J Street enjoyed the support of liberal groups, Reform and Conservative organizations and several major players, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The majority voting against it were right-wing and Orthodox organizations, as well as smaller groups with no clear ideological leaning.”

The Conference has 49 voting members, of which 17 supported the admission of J Street, 3 abstained, 22 voted against, and the others didn’t care to attend. To claim that the majority of the members, 34 organizations, are right-wing, Orthodox, or have no clear ideology, is untrue and ridiculous.

In this case, perhaps more than most, the vote represented the consensus of the American Jewish community, which regards J Street and its policies to lie beyond the pale. Even the Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman, in announcing that he would vote in favor, said he did so, not because the ADL supports J Street’s views, but to define American Jewish advocacy more broadly.

Nonetheless, Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs has responded to the vote by announcing that the Union of Reform Judaism may consider dropping out of the Conference of Presidents entirely. Similarly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, has claimed the vote was unrepresentative, and called on the Conference of Presidents to examine their structure – claiming that J Street would have won the popular vote of the organizations’ memberships.

It is interesting to note, the Reform and Conservative movements each have 4 votes in the Conference: Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American (Reform) Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism and ARZA, Association of Reform Zionists of America, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assemly (of Conservative Rabbis), Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and Mercaz, the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement. They constituted almost half of the positive votes that J Street received, and they claim the system was unfair; it was, in their favor, and they still lost the vote.

In addition, the Conference by-laws were last updated under the committee chairmanship of Rabbi Joel Meyers, then, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism. This reminds me of the kid in the school-yard who makes the rules, in his favor, but when he loses the game, claims it was unfair.

In making these declarations, Rabbis Jacobs and Schonfeld presume to speak for the aggregate membership of the Reform and Conservative synagogues nationwide. Is the majority of the membership of AIPAC not comprised of Reform or Conservative Jews? Needless to say, they don’t support J Street. Many Reform and Conservative Jews that I have spoken to in the last few weeks have told me, that they believe that J Street is not healthy for Israel. I wonder what the individual members of these movements really think.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements like to say that they represent the majority of American Jews. The recent findings of the Pew report debunk that myth. Today, unfortunately, the “Jews of no religion” are the fastest-growing Jewish group; they care little, if anything, about Judaism or Israel. How many families in these movements joined congregations because membership (and Hebrew school) were prerequisites for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and not because they endorse the positions or policies advocated by the Rabbis?

Mainstream American Jewish Groups Reject J Street

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

In a rebuke to the relatively young but very well (and oddly so) financed group J Street, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations decisively rejected the group’s bid for membership.

J Street has only been in existence since 2008, but it shot out of the starting block with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank and the backing of a wide array of well-connected American (mostly) Jews (mostly) who were itching to establish a new standard for the American Jewish community’s attitude towards Israel.

J Street’s backers are the ones who bridle at the idea that American Jews should feel a strong inclination to support and respect the Jewish State’s assessments of the level of threat it can survive with. They also chafe at the notion that those whose jobs and whose lives are put most at risk as the result of Israel’s security compromises are the ones who are entrusted with making the decisions about how and where and, especially, when, those compromises will be made, if at all.

But J Street’s star rose along with President Barack Obama’s election to office. The first year of its existence, J Street was already invited into the pantheons of American political and media power.

With the kind of cachet that adheres to those close to positions of wealth and power – for it is, as always, wealth and power that gives prestige, even if the wealth and power belongs to those who claim to disdain such “conservative” markers of strength, J Street’s coffers were well-stocked and its dance card was always filled.

But on Wednesday, April 30 – the day after, by the way, the latest effort to impose a “solution” on parties whose elemental problems are far from solved – the royal court of mainstream American Jewish organizations shut the door firmly in J Street’s face.

The Conference has 50 members, only 42 of whom voted. And while the vote was supposed to be confidential, over the past few days several organizations made public statements about their positions.

Few were surprised when the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the parent body of the Jewish Community Relations Councils, came out declaring it was going to vote in favor of including J Street.

Fewer still were surprised that the staunchly pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America came out strongly against admitting J Street to the Conference of Presidents.

But some were surprised that the Anti-Defamation League announced it planned to vote in favor of inclusion, and perhaps not everyone could have predicted that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism movement voted to welcome into the inner circle a group which had long fought hard against economic sanctions to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The final vote was a resounding one against including the group that (usually) refers with the tagline “pro-Israel, pro-peace.”

According to the bylaws of the Conference of Presidents, J Street needed a full 2/3s membership vote in its favor. It didn’t even get a simple majority. In the end, only 17 members of the Conference voted in favor of including J Street, 22 voted against it, and three voting members abstained.

Members of the Conference told the Jerusalem Post “what J Street is doing is exploiting the situation to get visibility.”

In other words, hubris – which is what propelled J Street out of the starting gate is also what slammed the door shut in its face.

 

US Reform Jews Following Same Path as in 1940s

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom haShoah. Although I agree with those who say that preservation of the historical record is a necessary part of preventing its repetition, I am very uncomfortable with its use to produce an emotional catharsis, which often stands in the way of facing the real threats against the Jewish people today. The same people who cry over the dead Jews of the 1940s often have no problem taking anti-Zionist positions today — or supporting politicians like Barack Obama, whose policies are inimical to the continued existence of the Jewish state, and therefore the Jewish people.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) as seems not to have noticed Yom haShoah this year — at least, I can’t find anything on its website. Individual congregations, like the one in our town, are holding commemorative events. Possibly they have decided to deemphasize the observance.

But the URJ’s drift in the direction of anti-Zionist politics hasn’t stopped. Under the leadership of its President Rabbi Richard ‘Rick’ Jacobs, we find the URJ supporting the phony ‘pro-Israel’ organization J Street in its bid to join the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. J Street — which called for a cease-fire on the first day of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, which supported an anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security council (which the US vetoed), which consistently opposed sanctions on Iran, which supported the conclusions of the Goldstone Report (later repudiated by its author) that accused the IDF of war crimes in Gaza and introduced Goldstone to members of Congress, which has invited viciously anti-Zionist and pro-BDS speakers like Mustafa Barghouti, Rebecca Vilkomerson and James Zogby to its annual conferences, but which refused to allow liberal Zionist Alan Dershowitz to speak — is anything but pro-Israel. It is, however, very pro-Obama.

It is ironic, then that the liberal wing of the Jewish establishment in the US is following the same path as it did in the 1940s, when, out of loyalty to a liberal president and his party, it worked against the true interests of the Jewish people. The danger is not as immediate today as it was in the dark days of WWII, although the Iranian nuclear project, which is being facilitated by the policy of the Obama Administration, could very quickly change this.

I am therefore taking this occasion to republish the following, which I wrote several years ago. It is even more timely today.

—————————————————————

The failure of the liberal Jewish establishment, then and now

by Vic Rosenthal, 8/7/2011

400 mostly Orthodox rabbis march to the White House on October 6, 1943. Roosevelt avoided meeting with them.

It’s well-known that the Roosevelt Administration did little to help European Jews during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, part of the blame falls on American Jewry, which was sharply divided about how to respond — a fact which caused good men in the government to hesitate, while it gave antisemites an excuse to resist taking action.

The NY Times has published a piece by Isabel Kershner that may bring more attention to the shameful stupidity of the Jewish establishment during that period:

The Bergson group formed in 1940 when about 10 young Jews from Palestine and Europe came to the United States to open a fund-raising and propaganda operation for the Irgun, the right-wing Zionist militia. The group was organized by Hillel Kook, a charismatic Irgun leader who adopted the pseudonym Peter H. Bergson. [Samuel] Merlin was his right-hand man.

J Street Seeking a Seat at the Conference

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In a move that will surprise nobody, for its effort to become a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has the backing of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The JCPA has long been clamoring to include J Street as part of its “big tent” approach to Jewish communal life. And no wonder, the two organizations are closely aligned on most issues, domestic and foreign.

What should also come as no surprise to anyone, those American pro-Israel organizations which see their major focus as global security, including Jewish communities worldwide generally and the Jewish state in particular, such as the Zionist Organization of America, are opposed to ushering in yet another organization into the 50 strong member group which they see as engaging in moral equivalency between Israel and her Arab neighbors.

The issue comes to a vote April 30. And members on both sides of the vote are busily lobbying people to make their voices heard by those who will be voting.

The Conference of Presidents includes most of the major Jewish organizations with which most people are familiar, but there are others who are members that would probably surprise most people.

For example, everyone expects such groups as the ZOA and the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League to be members, the same goes for the offices of the major branches of Judaism. But what Workman’s Circle (a blend of “workers’ rights” mit a bissel Yiddish?) Not to mention the Jewish Labor Committee(“The Jewish voice in the labor movement, and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community.”)  Then there’s the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society which is still very much involved in the needs of immigrants, but not too many of whom are Hebrews.

Other organizations such as CAMERA (which deals with media bias against Israel) and Hadassah and Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Federations and the National Council of Young Israel all also have seats at the Conference of Presidents.

Early word was that the J Street leadership came in for heavy grilling by members, especially with respect to their support for and frequent partnering with organizations which advocate for various forms of economic and legal warfare against Israel, known as the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) movement.

An article in the Forward earlier this month revealed that J Street failed to garner the approval of a critical committee which would have smoothed the way to membership. That article explained that in order for J Street to gain admission there would have to be a 75 percent quorum present, and a two thirds vote.

According to the mission statement of the Conference of Presidents, at least one of the two primary issues on which the Conference focuses should signal a serious battle regarding the admission of J Street, the other one, only slightly less so: “The Conference is at the forefront mobilizing support to halt Iran’s nuclear program and to counter the global campaign to delegitimize Israel and the Jewish people.”

J Street was an early and consistent opponent of sanctions against Iran and when it ultimately was flanked to the right by the U.S. administration, it only slowly and very begrudgingly accepted the need for sanctions. J Street was once again a major cheerleader against enacting legislation that would provide for the immediate resumption of sanctions should Iran fail to comply with the obligations the U.S. understood it to have undertaken in the agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1.

There also continues to be a matter of say one thing, do another, with respect to the BDS movement. Although J Street consistently publicly claims to oppose the use of BDS, the J Street U members have been amongst the biggest cheerleaders of divestment resolutions on U.S. campuses (with Cornell University being a notable exception.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/j-street-seeking-a-seat-at-the-conference/2014/04/24/

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