Is American Jewish leadership intimidated?…asks Isi Leibler

November 5, 2014 by Isi Leibler
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I would hesitate writing this column had I not served as a national Jewish leader who faced similar dilemmas to those confronting the American Jewish leadership today, many of whom I was engaged with in various battles against enemies of the Jewish people and Israel.

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Yet, with considerable regret and notwithstanding notable exceptions, I believe that today the major leaders within the American Jewish establishment are failing to stand up and be counted, despite chilling signals that the United States administration is about to abandon Israel, effectively revoking the U.S.-Israel alliance on which we are deeply dependent. There are even hints that U.S. President Barack Obama may forgo the U.S. veto at the United Nations Security Council that protects Israel from censure and sanctions — which could have disastrous repercussions. This is taking place at a time when much of the world regards Israel as they did Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

Another serious issue is that Obama has again breached a solemn undertaking and appears prepared to consummate a deal with the Iranians, enabling them to achieve nuclear status.

Tensions have escalated over the past 12 months and the vicious and humiliating manner in which the Obama administration has treated Israel, its purported ally and the only democratic state in the region, is unprecedented. The administration’s condemnation of Israel‘s “disproportionate response” and directive to withhold replenishment of arms during the Gaza war, is hardly the behavior of a genuine ally.

In contrast, the Obama administration serenades Iran and Qatar which promote global terrorism, kowtows to Saudi Arabia despite its horrific abuse of human rights, and embraces Turkey’s anti-Semitic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has failed to make a single concession, opting to merge with the genocidal Hamas. He deliberately incites hatred of Israelis, having just last week hailed the murderer of the 3-month-old Israeli baby as a shaheed (martyr) and extended condolences to the family of Rabbi Yehuda Glick’s attempted assassin, whom he described as “rising to heaven while defending our people’s rights and holy places.” Abbas’s adviser Sultan Abu Al-Einen said that the “bullets were a beacon that will continue to shine for years to come.” Yet the Obama administration remains circumspect and respectful of Abbas while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is treated with contempt and derision.

What is especially galling is that in the midst of regional upheaval with millions of people being displaced, hundreds of thousands butchered and the world confronted by a snowballing threat of Islamic barbarism from ISIS and other terrorist groups, Obama remains obsessed with Israel’s need to make concessions that would undermine its security and create long-term existential threats. It is bizarre that he spends more time condemning Israel for building homes in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem than on the carnage taking place in the region.

And yet, despite all of the above, the Jewish leadership seems to have hibernated. The only voices consistently protesting against the bias and condemnations directed against Israel are the Zionist Organization of America and the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which was the first to respond with a well-deserved fusillade against the “chickenshit” outburst, demanding an apology and repudiation.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a rare criticism of the White House, demanded that the anonymous official whose remarks were “inappropriate” and “counterproductive” be “held to account.” But Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, effectively trivialized the incident, saying that “the White House statement [which distanced itself from the comments without condemning them] should bring closure to the issue.”

Amazingly, the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned the outburst in harsher terms than the Jewish establishment, expressing “surprising disappointment at the profane and inappropriate language” employed.

The issues at stake here are far beyond the vulgar language and the hostile exchanges between Obama and Netanyahu. They relate to the foundations of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

These are times when one would expect the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (whose raison d’etre is surely to respond to such situations) and the American Jewish leadership to publicly protest at the manner in which Israel is being treated.

Remaining silent and relying on the ZOA and other small groups to defend Israel, conveys the false impression that the committed American Jewish community is alienated from Israel and prefers to remain aloof while the Obama administration bashes the Jewish state.

Most Jewish leaders with whom I communicate admit that they consider Obama’s behavior toward Israel as reprehensible.

Many seek to rationalize their behavior by stressing that they are lobbying vigorously behind the scenes and maintain that public criticism of Obama would encourage him to become even more extreme.

This is the classic Diaspora approach of the “Trembling Israelites.” It has been proven wrong in the past and American Jewish leaders, to their credit, were always robust and outgoing in exercising their democratic right to promote the Jewish standpoint. We have learned over the years that while shtadlanut (silent diplomacy) is indeed necessary, it can only be effective when backed up by a public campaign.

At this crucial turning point in the relationship with Israel, my real concern is that American Jewish leaders are simply fearful of directly confronting the president and that the allegedly powerful Jewish lobby lacks the backbone to stand up and be counted.

The absence of direction and leadership has already resulted in further erosion as displayed by Gary Rosenblatt, the respected editor of The New York Jewish Week, who produced an editorial titled “Bibi takes on the world” blasting Netanyahu for confronting the “leader of the free world” and “jeopardizing Israel’s relationship with its most important allies” for electoral reasons. Rosenblatt is a Zionist and a courageous and outspoken journalist. Only two weeks earlier, he had penned an editorial, “Blaming Israel isn’t the answer,” castigating the global anti-Israeli tsunami.

But his latest editorial was unfair and extremely damaging. The Jewish Week was founded by the Jewish Federations, and Rosenblatt conceded to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic (who exposed the “chickenshit” comment) that in the past there would have been “hell to pay in the community” for such an editorial on Israel, but now “that is no longer the case.”

Goldberg cited the editorial as evidence that Jewish leaders were “uneasy” about Israel’s direction. He referred to discussions by unnamed Jewish officials questioning Netanyahu’s policies. He went on to state that Israel should be trying to “negotiate in good faith” with the duplicitous Abbas and impose a settlement freeze on Jerusalem and the settlement blocs until such time as negotiations with the Palestinians have clarified which territory will remain within Israel. Needless to say, pigs will fly before the Palestinians agree to such an accommodation.

This is the approach that the Obama administration will adopt in their forthcoming effort to renew negotiations after the mid-term elections. Whereas most Israelis feel that the prime minister would be well advised to cease making public announcements about construction, the vast consensus would never agree to a construction freeze in the settlement blocs and especially not in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Certain myths and falsehoods need to be dispelled. Israel is not creating new settlements. To the contrary, the only real change on the ground in the last decade has been the dismantling of settlements in Gaza which were transformed to launch rockets. Nor are any Arabs being displaced or Palestinian land being appropriated. The entire area engaged in current settlement is about 3% of the former Jordanian occupied territories. The Oslo accords never required limits to settlement growth and certainly not natural growth of existing communities.

That is the message that AIPAC and Jewish leaders must urgently promote. They must also firmly and publicly condemn the biased policies adopted against Israel by the administration and lobby Congress to prevent Obama from abandoning Israel during his remaining two years in office.

Failure by the Jewish leadership to act now will massively undermine the entire Jewish community as a political force in America, sending a message to the American people and Congress that American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel. This would invariably impact on the very high levels of support that Israel currently enjoys.

It will also weaken the will of Jewish students to stand up and fight for themselves at the campuses, many of which have been transformed into anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic cesspools.

The Jewish leadership has an enormous responsibility to provide direction. Hopefully they will move in this direction, preventing analogies between today’s American Jewish establishment and the disastrous era of Rabbi Stephen Wise and his colleagues, who failed to stand up to President Franklin Roosevelt’s indifference to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.


9 Responses to “Is American Jewish leadership intimidated?…asks Isi Leibler”
  1. Michael Burd says:

    I tend to agree with Gill unfortunately due to assimilation, apathy and the passing away of the older pr0- Zionist Jewish generation American jews have fallen out of love with Israel.

    The current American Jewish community have clearly shown their love of the democrats first regardless of their parties Arabist ,dhimmi -like stance.

    The combination of large Muslim immigration with the intimidation against Jews and Israel they promote in the US particularly on Campus , left wing Media , the growing American alliance with the Oil Rich Arab thiefdoms such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the passive nature of the reducing younger Jewish generation I fear for Israel’s American ongoing support.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    It’s not so much the “trembling Israelites in the Diaspora’ as the ‘comfortable Israelites’, made so comfortable over the years within their own station and with their own status that they don’t want to rock the boat. They’re also made soft by their lifestyle and self-perpetuating bonhomie, together with inflated image, resulting from the cocoon in which they live. It’s all hardly surprising given those circumstances, and is not limited to Jewish leadership in America. We need representation in the top ranks of leadership by people who properly understand the realities and care enough about those realities to be publicly outspoken.
    Silence and working behind the scenes! It would be a joke if it were not so grim.

  3. Paul Winter says:

    I agree with you, Gil, but I would just add a few points.

    The USA Jews are so desperate to be just like everybody else that they fail to take a moral stand on Israel. As a guy called Neil Sher said years ago, they behave like guests in their country. Standing up for Israel jeopardises their comfortable existence. That is why they have remained quiet about the cruel and illegal imprisonment of the USA’s own Prisoner of Zion, Jonathan Pollard.

    They also have the arrogant USA mentality that one can always strike a deal, blinding themselves to the fact that the Middle East is different; its always winner takes all. Nouri al Malake, the erstwhile Iraqi PM one said that his way of negotiating is to break his opponent’s back and when that person is lying helpless on the floor to put a knife to his throat and then say: now we negotiate.

    The USA Jew and all the oh so superior intellectuals refuse to entertain that the dispute between the Jewish state and its mohammedan enemies is religious. A religious difference is one that is ideologically and not reality based. An ideological difference cannot be resolved and all reality based approaches are a waste of time and a hindrance.

    With regard to Obama, the liberal Jewish electorate is so thrilled that it got a black man elected, thus validating its stance, that they overlook the fact that that man is not only an enemy of the Jewish state, but that he is an enemy of every value that the USA stands for. And for that the USA’s Jewry deserves contempt.

  4. Adrian Jackson says:

    If you are an American your loyality is to America not a second country. The same should apply in Australia. I have never support this duel citizenship concept. You can only be loyal to one country.

    • Paul Winter says:

      I am of two minds regarding dual citizenship. One of my sons-in-law is a USA citizen and he has taken out Australian citizenship. As long as Australia and the USA are on friendly terms, I see no problem.

      Your comment on Isi Liebler’s article does raise some concerns because you imply that Jews in the USA or in Australia are dual citizens. The overwhelming Jews in the USA and in Australia are not Israeli citizens.

      You insinuate that Jews in Australia and the USA and elsewhere act as in the interests of Israel rather than in the interest of the countries in which they live. But that was the point of Liebler’s complaint: USA Jews fail to confront the Obama administration’s betrayal and abuse of its only true ally and the only democracy in the Middle East.

      Now Jews have a historic and spiritual connection to the land of Israel and a moral connection to a people with a shared history, religion and language of prayer. It baffles me why people who respect and understand that Australians Aborigines wherever they live have a connection to their land, their people and their dream-time, but deny those same connects to Jews.

      It also baffles me why the question of dual citizenship only rears its head when it comes to Jews. Nobody questions the loyalty of Australians of Italian or Iraqi descent voting in Italian or Iraqi elections. Australian Jews do not vote in Israeli elections because they are overwhelmingly not dual citizens.

      When Australian Jews express concern for Jews in Israel, especially after the Holocaust, their loyalty is called into question a concern that does not extend to even those communities whose sons go overseas to join in jihad or plot terror against Australian citizens.

      The question of dual loyalty, or more precisely to loyalty to the Jewish people has been around for a long time. Jews were not part of European people until Napoleon granted them citizenship. Loyalty to nation states was questioned by European states, even when Jews fought loyally and bravely in armies. It came to the fore in the Dreyfus trial, in pogroms, in Nazi demonology and in the USSR with its persecution of “rootless cosmopolitans” (Jews). It was acted upon in Arab countries which ethnically cleansed their Jewish populations who had lived there for centuries before the mohammedan conquests.

      And that bring me to the nub of my concern. The dual loyalty charge is only made against Jews. And when a charge is made only one group and none other, it is discrimination. In the case of Jews, that discrimination has a name: antisemitism.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        In what is called “liberal democracies” the notion of loyalty to a country is conflicting as it is philosophically redundant, it does not make sense. Countries, as political entities, are defined by the ideology they espouse. Loyalty to Nazi Germany means precisely that !!!
        Do yourse want examples to support my point !!!??? Here’s one, Marlene Dietrich considered even well after May 1945 as a traitor by most Germans.
        I will state here that, if – G-d forbid – Australia joins Iran and North Korea together with ISIS and Hamas against Israel and, conversely OUR values ( re Nth Korea), I will be marching alongside people like Paul Winter and he will with me, igaz, edes Apam !!!!( “is that so, my dear Ol’ mate” good old Hung).

        • Paul Winter says:

          Yes Otto, under such circumstances you and I would march together and a great many of our friends – Jew and non-Jew – would join us.

          More important than marching in solidarity is your point that loyalty to a nation state depends on identifying with its principles. And on a practical level politicians like Carr & Co. turn on Israel cynically prostituting themselves to the enemies of Israel, Australia, the West and the 21st century merely to get some votes, I get very worried.

          The issue would then become not the loss of my loyalty to my country, but my country’s betrayal of its values and its obligations to me as a citizen.

          • Otto Waldmann says:

            Here, my dear marching friend, we are dealing with the complex issues of politicians and their ethics meet well established prejudice, in our case let’s pick antisemitism. When combo realised, we ( the Yids) are in real tzures. Fortunately I don’t know what is guaranteed to keep our Australia out of the possible trouble in other places. Yet, would you have thought in a million years that….Sweden will turn stupid !!!!

            Anyways, the musings whereby a new Amerike generation is departing from the old Zionist tradition is as invalid as is the old generation’s kvetching of its own values being abandoned by a lesser humanity. Traditionally old kakess view the world through their newly acquired impotences and that “prick envy” cum projection of their own passed youth onto the current smashing looking, a lot more liberal profiles one runs into at any shopping mall. I am now in Bucharest where I spent my younger and vivacious years and let me tell you…….I attached castors to my jaws so they can roll easier on the pavement, not to mention that Florence keeps an eye on me so that I keep my eyes NOT on the scenery.
            To continue our more important topic, the new generation Americans and Aussies are quite dependable when it comes to support for Israel. Idiotic/blind party allegiances are found everywhere and , if some Yids cannot be detached from their Democratic obsessions, look at the prevailing political scene where it REALLY matters, the two (US) Houses and thus Israel is in safe hands, Democratic kykes or not.

  5. Gil Solomon says:


    When will you ever face reality?

    As I wrote in a piece that was forwarded to you and others on my mailing list, American Jews on the whole are so left wing that they will vote Democrat come hell or high water. When it comes to Israel, they are, in my opinion, the morons of the diaspora having lost all contact with their Jewish heritage.

    They will support Obama no matter what.
    The vast majority have no idea of the facts on the ground, have no understanding of the issues at stake and have certainly no concept that the current occupier of the Oval Office, by his insane demands and veiled threats, call it what you may, is working feverishly for Israel’s destruction.

    Your hope for American Jewish leadership to show some direction, some purpose, some “anything” seems overly optimistic to me.

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