Do mainstream Jewish organizations represent the interests of the Jewish community or Obama?
Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
Last month, we learned that in addition to targeting groups that that oppose abortion and that support limited government and lower taxes, the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service has apparently been singling out non-leftist pro-Israel groups.
According to numerous media investigations, beginning as early as March 2009, a consortium of powerful forces including the Palestinian Authority, The New York Times, columnists in The Washington Post, administration-allied anti-Israel groups including J Street and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the State Department lobbied the IRS to discriminate against these pro-Israel groups.
They alleged that since these groups opposed the administration’s policy of coercing Israel to vacate Judea, Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem, they had no right to receive tax-breaks as nonprofit groups.
There is no legal basis for the claim that US groups which lawfully oppose government policy should be barred from receiving nonprofit status.
Since Israel’s presence and the presence of Jewish civilians in Judea and Samaria is completely legal, there is also no justification for vilifying those in the US or in Israel who support and work to expand that presence.
True, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy is to delegitimize the Jewish presence in these areas as a prelude to eliminating it. If nothing else, the contrast between Secretary of State John Kerry’s peripatetic efforts to restart peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel on the one hand, and his demonstrated indifference to the convulsions now engorging Egypt, not to mention the Obama administration’s generally lackadaisical attitude toward the Syrian civil war on the other hand, make that point.
Like President Barack Obama, Kerry has adopted the PLO’s position that talks between the Palestinians and Israel must be based on presumptive Palestinian sovereignty of all territories illegally captured by Egypt and Jordan in Israel’s War of Independence up to the 1949 armistice lines (falsely, and misleadingly referred to as the 1967 borders). Implicitly, the administration supports the PLO’s demand that for a Palestinian state to be formed, those areas – as well as much of Jerusalem – must first be ethnically cleansed of Jews.
The administration’s obsession with coercing Israel to make massive concessions to the PLO is based on its belief that the Palestinian conflict with Israel is the greatest source of all instability and anti-Americanism in the Arab world.
Every day, the utter folly and madness of this position is revealed. For the past two-and a- half years, it has been exposed in the chaos that has taken hold in state after state throughout the Arab world, and in the fanatical forces released by this chaos. True, Jew hatred is endemic throughout the Arab world. But as the demonstrations from Cairo to the killing fields in Aleppo have shown, this hatred has little impact on the actions of the hundreds of millions of people in the Arab world. When supporters of Egypt’s ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi yell “[Interim President] Adly Mansour is a Jew,” they are not suggesting they will put aside their differences with Egypt’s military government if Israel reaches a peace deal with the PLO.
Thirteen years ago this month, the Palestinians rejected peace and statehood at the Camp David summit. Since then, not a day has passed when they haven’t taken some action that made clear they have no intention whatsoever of ever making peace with Israel. Their identity is based on the negation of Jewish peoplehood and Jewish rights.
Just last week, this state of affairs was grotesquely reinforced when the Palestinian Authority’s television station presented two little girls reciting a poem in which they castigated Jews as “filth,” the “most evil among creations, barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs,” whom Jerusalem will “vomit” out, and who are condemned to “humiliation and hardship.”
But the folly of the US’s Middle East policy has made no difference to the foreign policy establishment, which has connived, according to media reports, to deny pro-Israel groups that reject this position their legal right to nonprofit status by siccing the IRS on them.
One of the most notable aspects of the story of alleged IRS discrimination against nonleftist pro-Israel organizations has been the silence of the mainstream American Jewish groups in the face of this apparent persecution.
What does the silence of major American Jewish groups on this issue tell us about the nature of these organizations that claim to speak for the American Jewish community? Obviously the alleged ideological discrimination toward predominantly Jewish pro-Israel organizations by the federal government is a matter that the overwhelming majority of American Jews find objectionable not to mention frightening.
And yet, the largest American Jewish groups have said nothing. They have not demanded any explanations from the IRS or the State Department. They have not demand apologies from the New York Times, J Street, the Arab American Anti-Discrimination or anyone else for maligning lawful organizations that operate well within the boundaries of law.
It’s possible that they are silent because they are afraid.
Groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have multi-million dollar budgets and they prize their access to the White House and the State Department.
Their leadership may fear that by objecting to anti-Israel discrimination, they will stop getting invited to White House Hanukka parties or that they themselves will become the targets of unjustified Federal investigations.
Perhaps it is fear. But perhaps they are silent because they share the goal of silencing voices that refuse to accept the Obama administration’s assertion that it is pro-Israel to support the establishment of a Palestinian terror state in Israel’s capital and in its historic and strategic heartland.
Perhaps they wish to muzzle Jews who refuse to accept that it is pro-Israel to be anti-Israel.
Last month two rising Israeli political stars, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, expressed their opposition to a Palestinian state. In addition to stating his own opposition to such an entity, Danon also noted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state is shared neither by the majority of the members of the Likud’s Knesset faction, nor by the majority of the ministers in his coalition government, and that the government would oppose the establishment of such a state were the issue brought to a vote.
These statements were not unprecedented. Far from it.
In January Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted that a Palestinian state would be an enemy of the Jewish state, saying “There are those who are trying to market [PA Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas as relatively moderate, but his goals are the same as those of Hamas. He does not believe in an agreement based on pre-1967 lines and he is refusing to come to the negotiating table.”
Rather than contend with the substance of these elected leaders’ remarks, or simply give them the respect due to duly elected representatives of the Israeli public, both the AJC and the ADL condemned them for speaking their minds. Even worse, they pretended their condemnations reflected the position of the Israeli government.
As the Zionist Organization of America noted, the AJC falsely claimed that Ya’alon asked Netanyahu to reprimand Danon – his deputy – for speaking the truth.
The AJC and the ADL condemned Danon and Bennett because they claimed that by speaking the truth they harmed the chances of the “two-state solution.”
But of course, that is absurd.
The reason the so-called “two-state solution” has no chance of success is because the Palestinians reject the Jewish state, not because Jews reject another Arab state. Pointing this out is not harmful. It is essential. And hiding this fact is not constructive to Arab-Israeli peace or to Middle Eastern stability.
The only party that benefits from American Jewish groups attacking duly elected Israeli leaders for stating the truth is the Obama administration. It is Washington, not Jerusalem that insistently clings to the ridiculous “two-state solution.”
It is Washington, not Jerusalem that insists a policy of reducing Israel to an indefensible, riven and weak Jewish statelet without its capital city or heartland is the magic bullet for solving everything from the global jihad to Arab illiteracy and misogyny.
By defending the administration’s unhealthy obsession with Israel, these American Jewish groups, with multi-million dollar budgets and automatic access to the media, are promoting an agenda that necessarily rejects the legitimacy of Israeli elections, and the views of the majority of Israelis. And Israelis are not the only people these groups betray by siding with the White House against facts. These positions also pit them against the majority of American Jews.
As the ZOA noted, polls of American Jews carried out by the AJC itself over the past two years show that not only do the majority of Israelis oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state, the majority of American Jews oppose it as well. A Gallup poll taken over the past year showed that the majority of Americans in general also oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The silver lining in this story is that not all American Jews are taking their organizational leadership’s abuse of their values and views lying down. In addition to helping the ZOA to expand its reach, in community after community, activists, generally with no financial assistance, are forming new groups to advance the interests and values of America’s Jews that are being trounced by the major Jewish organizations.
Over the past 10 years independent activists have banded together under an assortment of names – Christians and Jews United for Israel, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, JCCWatch and countless others to do the work that the American Jewish organizational leadership refuses to do.
In New York, JCCWatch has organized protests against the Jewish Federation-funded 92nd Street Y for repeatedly providing forums for outspoken Jewhaters including Alice Walker and Roger Waters to air their poisonous views.
In San Francisco, a nurse named Masha Merkulova founded the Rimon Club in 2011. The Rimon Club organizes events to educate the Jewish community about Israel. The Rimon Club recently formed Club Z, a youth group for San Francisco area Jewish youth that provides them an informal, fun setting to connect in a meaningful and non-apologetic way with Israel and their Jewish identity.
According to senior Israeli officials, and leaked PA documents, after Obama came into office, his senior advisers told their Israeli interlocutors that they controlled the American Jewish community. Under Obama, these Israeli leaders were told, there would be no more American Jewish voices opposing the two-state solution or opposing pressure on Israel.
With J Street, they said, AIPAC would no longer defend Israel.
Maybe they were right. But what is certainly true, is that despite its audits, its alleged denials of nonprofit status, and its American Jewish mouthpieces, the Obama administration has not silenced the American Jews. From coast to coast, authentic, courageous American Jewish groups are forming and organizing. Their members understand that there are things that are more important than multi-million dollar budgets and invitations to White House parties.
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