Whither American Jewry?

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During a recent speaking tour in Canada, MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) shocked some of his hosts when he said that his primary goal in politics today is to bring down the Netanyahu government. Although indelicate, Shai’s comment was not surprising. Kadima is in the opposition. And like all opposition parties in all parliamentary democracies, the primary goal of its members is to bring down the government so that they can take power.



Given that this is the case, it is unsurprising that until this week, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni tried to blame Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for US President Barack Obama’s hostility towards Israel. Far more newsworthy than her criticism of Netanyahu was her public rebuke of Obama this week for his attempt to strong-arm Israel into barring Jewish construction in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood.



On Wednesday Livni said, “Gilo is part of the Israeli consensus… and it is important to understand this for all discussions of borders in any future agreement.”



Indeed. There is an Israeli consensus. The Israeli consensus regarding Jerusalem is based among other things on the understanding that no nation can give up its capital city and survive.



Livni wants to be prime minister one day. For that to happen, Israel must survive until she wins an election. And Israel will not long survive if it surrenders its right to its capital.



One might have thought that American Jews could be counted on to stand by Israel on this issue. But then, one would be wrong.



FOR THE past six years, Republican Senator Sam Brownback has repeatedly submitted a bill to the US Senate that, if passed into law, would revoke the presidential waiver that has allowed successive presidents to refuse to implement the 1995 law requiring the State Department to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. This year Brownback co-sponsored his bill with Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman. As luck would have it, the Brownback-Lieberman bill was submitted two weeks before Obama launched his latest campaign against Jewish building in Jerusalem.



In the 1980s and 1990s, American Jews lobbied hard to get the embassy moved to Jerusalem. But now some American Jewish leaders recoil at the very notion. In response to the Brownback-Lieberman Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 2009, the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle published an editorial last Friday titled, “Bad move, Senator Brownback.”



The newspaper’s editors condemned their retiring senator and called his bill, “a cheap, grandstanding move by a conservative Republican on his way out the door, playing to Jews and Christian Zionists while trying to throw a monkey wrench into President Obama’s diplomatic spokes.”



According to Sen. Brownback’s office, the paper never had any criticism of the same bill when he submitted it during president George W. Bush’s tenure in office. But now, as Israel’s government and opposition stand shoulder to shoulder protecting Israeli control over Jerusalem from assaults by Obama, Kansas City’s Jewish newspaper’s editorial board willingly bucked what it acknowledged are the wishes of “Jews and Christian Zionists,” in order to stand by their man in the Oval Office.



Some of Israel’s most high-profile supporters in the US are conservative talk radio and television hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. But rather than thank them for their support, the Anti-Defamation League, which is supposed to be dedicated first and foremost to defending Jews from anti-Semitism, published a special report this week where it insinuated that they cultivate a climate of hatred and paranoia which could endanger Jews among others.



The ADL report, “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” dubbed Beck the “fearmonger-in-chief,” for his opposition to Obama’s domestic and foreign policies. It similarly castigated the so-called “tea party” movement which has attracted millions of Americans opposed to high taxes, and the townhall meetings this past summer where millions of Americans peacefully argued against Obama’s healthcare policies.



The ADL’s decision to issue a special report attacking Obama’s political opponents and insinuating that Americans who oppose him cultivate an environment in which paranoid and dangerous fringe groups feel comfortable operating is strange given that the ADL never put out a similar report against parallel anti-Bush movements. As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin noted this week, the ADL was more likely to see overt and vicious anti-Semitic statements and placards being waved around at anti-Iraq war rallies than at anti-Obama healthcare and tax policy demonstrations.



Ironically, the ADL has a specific institutional interest in combating leftist paranoia. A recent movie attacking the ADL called Defamation, by leftist, anti-Israel Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir, is currently hitting the film festival circuit in the US and Europe. A major hit among anti-Israel activists and regular anti-Semites on the Left and Right, Defamation accuses the ADL of exaggerating the Holocaust and anti-Semitism to justify what Shamir views as its nefarious aims. Apparently, tribal loyalty to the Left trumps the institutional interests of the ADL.



It certainly trumps the interests of New York University’s Hillel director Rabbi Yehuda Sarna. As James Taranto reported on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, this week Sarna called for NYU’s Jewish community to join NYU Muslims at a rally that both commemorated the massacre at Ft. Hood and denounced NYU professor Tunku Varadarajan for writing a column in Forbes magazine. In his article, Varadarajan committed the crime of stating the obvious fact that Ft. Hood terrorist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was motivated by his Islamic beliefs when he shouted Allahu Akbar and shot some 40 people, killing 13.



Given that people and groups like al-Qaida and Hamas that share Hasan’s views assert that all Jews should be killed, it would seem that the good rabbi would not feel the need to attack professors who point out that Hasan’s views are dangerous. But then, it is no longer strange to see Hillels on American university campuses behaving in a manner that is not in line with what might be considered the interests of either the American Jewish community or the Jewish people as a whole.



Take UC Berkeley’s Hillel center, for example. Since Ken Kramarz, Hillel’s regional director for Northern California, started his job in June 2007, Berkeley’s Hillel has adopted a hostile view towards Judaism and Israel. As pro-Israel community activist Natan Nestel notes, in the past year alone, Hillel held a dance party on Yom Hashoah, and it held a Cinco de Mayo barbecue on Remembrance Day for Fallen IDF Soldiers. It has also failed to hold community Seders for the past two years. Instead, last year, its members hung signs in the Hillel building declaring, “Matza sucks.”



Beyond its derogatory treatment of Jewish and Israeli holidays, Berkeley’s Hillel has allowed an extremist group called Students for Justice for Palestine to participate in its organizational meetings.



SJP calls for Israel’s destruction through unlimited Arab immigration. It also advocates for UC Berkeley to divest from Israel. Edgar Bronfman, Hillel’s International Chairman, has characterized SJP umbrella organization as “anti-Israel… anti-Semitic [and] alarming…”



No doubt owing in part to Berkeley Hillel’s decision to permit SJP members to spread their propaganda at its organizational meetings, Hillel’s student leaders and members participated in SJP’s Israel Apartheid Week this past March.



The student meeting that SJP participated in at Berkeley’s Hillel was sponsored by a group called “Kesher Enoshi.”



This group describes itself as “a progressive Jewish community that engages directly with Israeli civil society. We do this by educating ourselves and others about the day-to-day struggles of people in Israel by making direct connections with hu
man rights/social change organizations in Israel, linking their struggles with those on campus and in the wider community, and building a community of active participants in social change in Israel.”



This mission statement, which says nothing about Zionism, sounds an awful lot like the goal of the New Israel Fund. This month, three Arab “civil society” groups supported to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the NIF published a poster depicting an IDF soldier touching the breast of an Arab woman with the caption, “Her husband needs a permit to touch her, the occupation penetrates her life every day.”



The poster was issued to publicize a conference in Haifa called “My Land, Space, Body and Sexuality: Palestinians in the Shadow of the Wall,” whose purpose was to demonize Israel using post-modern jargon.



Unlike Hillel, NIF is widely recognized as a far-left fringe group. But as Arab Israeli NGOs use the dollars of American Jewish NIF donors to advance their “civil society” programs aimed at delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist, the Reform Movement – which is not a fringe group – decided unanimously two weeks ago to criticize and pressure Israel for what its leadership views as Israel’s unfair treatment of its Arab citizens.



As this column goes to press, if its board members don’t cancel their meeting, the San Francisco Jewish Federation will be grudgingly voting on a resolution that would prohibit it from sponsoring events that denigrate or demonize Israel or supporting organizations that partner with organizations that call for divestment, sanctions or boycotts against Israel.



The resolution follows the Jewish Federation of San Francisco’s decision to co-sponsor the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last summer. That festival featured Shamir’s Defamation, and the egregiously anti-Israel film Rachel, about the late pro-terror activist Rachel Corrie. The film festival was also sponsored by the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace group, the American Friends Service Committee, which hosted a dinner for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York last year, the Rachel Corrie Foundation and other radical anti-Israel groups.



If the vote takes place, it will be a great victory for a small group of local Jewish activists. These individual Jews have banded together because they are deeply disturbed by the federation’s willingness to use community funds to advance events whose basic message is that Israel should be destroyed.



KADIMA’S INTERESTS as a political party place it at loggerheads with the government on almost every issue. But its leaders this week were rational enough to recognize that they must support Israel’s sovereign rights in Jerusalem despite the fact that doing so placed it on the government’s side. Their display of sanity is a clear indication that Israeli society today is healthy and capable of meeting the challenges it faces.



It is clear that most American Jews believe that it is in their interests to support the Democratic Party and the Left. But like the anti-establishment Jewish activists in San Francisco, American Jews ought to realize that on issues like Israel’s survival and their own survival as Jews they ought to stand by their interests even when they seem to clash with their leftist and Democratic loyalties. And they ought to stand by their friends on these issues, even when their friends are conservative Republicans.



It can only be hoped that the San Francisco pro-Israel upstarts’ campaign against the federation was successful yesterday. Then, too, if the American Jewish community is to long survive, these San Francisco Jewish activists’ demand that their community support Israel’s right to exist must be joined by their fellow American Jews throughout the country.



Originally published in the Jerusalem Post. 


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  • Arius 11/20/2009 at 17:42

    It does not surprise me that Western centric Jews (and Armenians, my people) support the Socialist Left political correctness agenda even to the extent to putting their homelands in mortal danger.

  • Marcel 11/20/2009 at 17:57

    The great thing about this pressure from the forces of evil is that it separates the fearful and shallow phonies from the real thing.
    Like gold the impurities are being scraped off and discarded.
    Young David was not intimidated by the giant Goliath into becoming a kapo against his own flesh and blood because He feared God more than he feared the scum.
    Jewish Betrayal of Arabs who speak for Israel
    Nonie Darwish a friend and Director of Arabs for Israel was dis-invited by so called “pro Israel advocates from speaking at Princeton and Columbia” on Nov 18 and 19.
    Below is a letter we sent to the Director of the Hillel organization in Washington DC Wayne Firestone, and also a so called Rabbi – Julie Roth who was instrumental in canceling Nonie’s speech. Rabbi Roth is the director of Hillel at Princeton. Please email her your displeasure in a professional but strong manner at [email protected].
    If any of you have kids at Princeton who have guts have them contact me at [email protected]. We know exactly how to respond but we need some solid Christians or Jews willing to invite us on campus.
    Dear Mr. Firestone:
    It is with sadness and anger that I write this letter to complain about Tigers for Israel and Rabbi Julie Roth part of the Hillel at Princeton and those who capitulated under pressure from the Muslim Student Association to disinvite Nonie Darwish from Arabs for Israel to speak on the campus because these court Jews not to offend them or the Arab money sucking Princeton University administration. These are the same type of Jews on the same campus of Princeton who pressured and literally terrorized by the same pressure groups that canceled our event “the Three Ex Terrorists” in Dec 2005. Our own event was well planned and professionally orchestrated with a team of ten people with a cost of $28,000 which was nearly wasted by some spoilt cowardly Jewish students. Only the ingenuity of our efforts we managed to get the message out to nearly 40 million people through media exposure.
    We have courageous Palestinians willing to die for the cause of Israel and Jews who fear Goliath? Our organization has suffered the same treatment at the hands of many in the Jewish community and yet again Nonie Darwish who runs an organization called “Arabs for Israel” whose father was a hater and killer of Jews was killed by Israel yet she now speaks out for her former enemy, is invited by both Princeton and Columbia by so called pro Israel groups and then dis-invited her because of “pressure by Muslim groups.” The excuse given that “they did not vet her thoroughly” Vet her for what? That she was too pro Israel and spoke the truth about terrorism in Israel from her own experiences as a former Muslim, go figure! Are the leaders of Tigers (Pussies) for Israel not aware of the 850,000 Jews thrown out of Arab lands between 1948 and 1973 through ethnic cleansing by Arabs.
    Hillel who also condemned us for “hate speech” for former terrorists that made their main mission to stand up for Israel. To Hillel exposing Jew hatred is classified as “hate speech”? Are the millions given to Hillel intended to instill ‘Jewishness’ to students through eating bagels and lox on Sunday? Chabad Rabbis can do a much better job instead.
    The lack of pride, knowledge and cowardice from Jewish students is a sad reflection on their parents who have not brought their kids up with a sense of pride in who and what a Jew stands for.
    The lack of knowledge of the history of Israel is breath taking. One example is when I received a call from a Jewish student in Yale law school in his second year in one of the best schools in the country who heads the Pro Israel organization on campus wishing to advocate for Israel who was prompted to invite Walid Shoebat to speak at the University. He wished to ask me more about Walid’s political views being against giving land for peace. I asked him could I ask him a couple of questions first, and he agreed. I asked “Are you very familiar and have you studied the modern history of Israel?” in which he replied “no, I am not very familiar and have not studied the modern history of Israel.” Then I asked him “how he was able to determine his political views concerning Israel, was it from the New York Times, CBS, NBC or CNN?” he responded “yes that is how I formulate my opinion.” I then curtly responded, “young man you are not qualified to ask me a question!” It was pointless
    an avenue with such an uninformed student. How tragic and how sad.
    The problem with advocating for Israel on our campuses is two fold: a lack of courage/knowledge and a lack of a professional approach. Jewish students are for the most scared, uneducated on Israel issues and lack pride in their heritage. The leaders and parents are the same and should hang their heads in shame that they are not willing to take up the battle for their brothers in Israel with knowledge and courage and provide the money, tools and expertise to fight the cause properly. Instead we see betrayal after betrayal of the very people who risk their own lives for what it seems to them a very unworthy and treacherous people. Imagine how Nonie Darwish, Walid Shoebat, Brigitte Gabriel and others feel from this disgraceful show from spoilt, cowardly and ignorant wimps that call themselves “pro Israel advocates”.
    Through our history many Jews have acted in betraying their G-d and their own people. The story of the Golden Calf, the Twelve Spies, the persecution of our prophets, the lack of faith in our rights as Jews and so on. If we think rationally why we have survived as a people based on our own collective behavior as a nation, we should not have survived at all. The only conclusion I can come as a Jew is that we have survived because of G-d himself and his mercy and compassion.
    Yet again some Jews have decided appeasing the enemy is more worthy than standing with their allies and friends. Now we fight on for the people and the land of Israel despite the pathetic weakness of many American Jews.
    Keith Davies
    Executive Director Walid Shoebat Foundation

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 11/20/2009 at 18:25

    When left-wing professors and the liberal media influence American Jews, the results are irrational views against Zionism and conservatives. That explains why venerable institutions like Hillel, Jewish newspapers, and some federations are gradually moving away from unabashedly supporting Israel. In many circles, it is not politically correct for American Jews to be Zionists and conservatives. Unfortunately, most Jews do not realize that their best friends are conservatives and Christian Zionists. Since Israel has gradually lost support from the Diaspora, the center of Jewish thought and life has shifted to Israel.

  • Elise 11/21/2009 at 10:31

    I don’t know why you are surprised by the ADL or any other Jewish American organization. It has long been know within “Jewish “Circles that Republican Jews need not apply. Those that are republicans are forced out or so marginalized that they leave. That is why many formed their own organizatins or leave the Jewish world altogether. These so-called Jewish leaders (like ADL, AJC, UJA etc) refused to challenge Obama on any of his past associations and actions because it went against the liberal-left-wing theology that they adhere to and the left-wing subscribers who pay their bills.Remember these are the same useful idiots that ran Lieberman out of the Democratic party. This is how they raised their children, left wing politics first the fact that you are a Jew well…somewhere it becomes important-maybe. Is it any wonder that the Hillel at Berkley is anything but Jewish and supports the murder of Jews.
    Luckily there are still some of us who are proud enough of our Jewish heritage to raise our childen with that pride as well. But I fear we are dwindling and will one day be an endangered species thanks to our Jewish bretheren.

  • Christina B. 11/21/2009 at 17:44

    As a Christian in the US and a Christian Zionist (although I am not an evangelical), I am very puzzled and disturbed by the self-hating positions taken by Jews in America. They have backed Obama, who is anti-Semitic, and they don’t speak up to defend Israel. They allow political correctness to advance Moslem agendas. Why? Could you explain it in a further article? It would be helpful for the rest of us to understand it.

  • avisolo 11/22/2009 at 12:15

    From personal encounters, most anti-Israel demonstrations in Berkeley are organized by Jews who have never visited Israel, let alone tasted the air of an arab tyrannical regime.

  • Perfected Democrat 11/22/2009 at 19:08

    This phenomena (“The lack of pride, knowledge and cowardice from Jewish students…”) is one of the saddest aspects of our environment today. But it stems not only from parental failure to instill a resilient sense of identity, pride and values. Mainstream American Jewish culture (apparently 78%) is deeply and dogmatically politicized to the amoral (if not immoral) Democratic Party left, superceding all religious and historically compelling consciousness and loyalty; even among people who make outward displays of religious observation, holidays, even some who attend services somewhat regularly. I find myself largely alone emotionally and socially amongst old friends, Jews as well as non-Jews, acquaintances and family as a result of my own, so-to-speak, politically “neocon” alignment, and particularly ardent “pro-resettlement” (“settler” has a connotation which is negatingly shallow) movement advocacy. Look at much of the leading political and national legislative leadership, they’re “Jewish”, and they’re not just going along, they’re the vanguard of the movement which has enabled the Obama culture; as well as their largely silent acquiescence of hostile U.N. policies and culture. I have to wonder why and at what point some insidiously inculcated sense of cultural and deeply personal fear (Shoah and pogrom memory… perhaps), motivating these people and their children, leaves off; and at what point an emotionally detached and perversely smug narcissism becomes dominant…

  • Ron Grandinetti 11/23/2009 at 8:56

    Caroline American Jews are suffering from a disease worst than cancer.
    The liberal left secular progressive germ has infested these wonderful people and is destroying their faith.
    I may be wrong in my analogy but riding the liberal left obama train is similar to the European Jews climbing aboard the train to Auschwitz.
    I say this with a heavy heart as I don’t want to offend any Jew. Having said that I don’t know what it will take for the American Jews to wake up. Wake up and be Jewish again. There is nothing Jews have ever done to feel guilty or ashamed of for them to shed their faith in G-d to be described as self-hating Jews.
    Time to come back to G-d and be bold and proud to be Jewish and you are connected to Israel by faith, tradition and by G-d. Israel needs your support.
    The US is under siege from the secular progressive movement out to destroy the Judeo-Christian principals this nation was founded on.
    Now more so than ever Christians and Jews need to stand together and overcome this siege.
    It begins with filling the churches and synagogues for weekly services, a fading tradition.
    There is a bridge between Jews and Christians, called G-d/God.

  • Stephanie H 11/23/2009 at 22:06

    As an Orthodox student at NYU, I must remark that Rabbi Sarna is an extremely pro-Israel leader, and feels and acts devoted to the entire Jewish community both at NYU and beyond. It is upsetting that his actions, to support Muslim American students on campus, is being skewed. It is unfair to compare these students to Hamas, and unfair to compare Hasan to Hamas.
    As members of the Jewish people, we have a responsibility to protect the identities and rights of other minorities, especially within our own community. Rabbi Sarna has worked towards building positive relationships with all groups on campus, which has painted the Jewish community in a better light for everyone and also enhanced the experiences for students here on campus. I believe the Jewish community as a WHOLE should try to build half of what is happening here at NYU in terms of Jewish diversity, education, pluralism, Zionism, social action and community- something Rabbi Sarna has completely influenced.
    Yes, changes have to happen, and hate and apathy should be addressed where necessary, but the writers and commentors should be slow to judge one of the most exemplary, educated, innovative and Zionistic leaders in America.

  • stephen.luftschein 11/24/2009 at 1:18

    There is an important fact to note.
    Since the passage of the embassy relocation act, the Presidential Memorandum that is required to be signed on an annual basis in order to allow the delay of the building of the embassy in Jerusalem has included a specific re-assertion by the President of the validity of the act and the intention to continue the process of relocating the embassy.
    His majesty Obama has SPECIFICALLY deleted that portion of the memorandum in his first opportunity to sign in March of this year (it is available online at the Federal Register).
    In fact, according to the memo that Obama signed the relocation has been stopped for national security reasons.
    His motivations are clear to anyone who chooses to look.


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