Posts

American Jewish friends: Are we talking about you or someone you know?

Netanyahu obama israel

Bibi tête-à-tête Obama.

We were prompted to post an earlier version of this on my Facebook page in response to a Jewish Press op-ed by Varda Meyers Epstein, “How Could we Have Known: Jews who voted for Obama.” A native of Pittsburgh who made aliyah to Israel; she ably cataloged a number of warning signals about President Obama who has proven to be a cunning transformationalist.  Here are Ms. Epstein’s opening and closing tropes.

Beginning in 2007, those of us who saw the writing on the wall began campaigning against Obama. We knew he was bad for Israel from the things he said in interviews and from the people he hung out with, past and present. We posted articles that slammed him on social media and we lost friends for our insistent and incessant need to make our case: the one that would save Israel and Israeli Jews.

[…]

You want to tell me you really didn’t know about Obama’s hatred for the Jews and for Israel? Sorry, but I’m having trouble buying that story. But at the very least, you need to come out from under that rock and get a little, um, daylight. You’ve been looking a little pale since Tuesday.

We added to Ms. Epstein’s dossier with those of our own  thereby expanding on her theme.  After posting it on my Facebook page we received a welter of  “likes” and positive comments  from Australia, Canada, Israel and the U.S.  My chaver, ZoA stalwart in Philadelphia, Steve Feldman, who runs the Israel Activism Facebook page, thought it was “stupendous”.  A bit of hyperbole that, but thanks for the compliment, Steve.  However, I was brought up short by another chaver in Calgary, Bill Narvey, who, while he agreed with what I said, could we please “paragraph “it.  So here is a suitable presentation for Narvey and others.  The title for this piece was borrowed from a headline on Feldman’s Facebook post of what we originally wrote:

[H]ow could normally sensible Jewish Democrats have believed all that hokum about “Hope and Change” back in 2007 from an untried US Senator from Illinois who never completed a full term in office after leveraging a speech at the 2004 Democratic convention and two ghost written New York Times biographies allegedly by Bill Ayres . Who as a State Senator from Chicago voted present 100 times in the Illinois state legislature?

Or allied himself to the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crowd at annual dinners of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee with Michelle and him seated at a table back in 1998 with one of his alleged mentors, the late Columbia Professor Edward Said.  Or when he told his Chicago Pal Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada blog, during his run for US Senate backed by the gullible Chicago Jewish billionaires from the Pritzker and Crown Families of the Standard Club, that he wouldn’t forget both Abunimah and the Palestinian cause when he got to Washington.

Tell them how Obama lied about he had Israel’s back or that there was no diplomatic daylight between the US under his helm with Israel the only democratic ally in the Middle East. Tell them how he undertook secret negotiations with Iran back in the fall of his 2012 re-election using his Chicago mentor Valarie Jarrett to discuss a possible Iran nuke deal with Ali Akbar Salehi in Dubai, her childhood friend from living in Iran with her Chicago doctor father and mother after her birth in Shiraz.

Or ask them to explain how the July 14th announcement of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to cut off Iran from a bomb was followed by a UN Security Council unanimous endorsement a week later. That was less than a day after the Iran nuke pact was submitted to Congress for a review and vote by Rosh Ha Shanah in 2015.

Ask them why Iran’s nuclear infrastructure remains in place and the EU-3 will commit to hardening it preventing Israel from sabotaging it. Ask them if they ever thought a sitting President would use his executive powers to transform this country into just another member of the multilateral Euro-trash socialist club. Ask them why he cozyied up to the Muslim Brotherhood both in the Middle East and here in the US, only to dump them for apocalyptic End times Shiite Iran giving them a free pass to arm Hamas and Hezbollah and boost the Islamic State ranging on Israel’s borders.

Yes, tell your talented chaverim v mispochim who funded and voted for Obama, not once, but twice, that he is laughing at them behind their backs now that he honored his commitment to his Chicago radical and Palestinian fellow travelers. Tell them to watch out for the Palestinian State UN Resolution that may be introduced for a vote soon now that his Iran nuke pact legacy has been endorsed by the Security Council even before the General Assembly UN meetings in September in Manhattan. Tell them to watch him manipulate gullible Jewish Democratic Members of Congress securing a yes vote for the Iran nuke deal enabling him to veto any negative majority GOP and minority Democrat vote by Rosh Ha Shanah.

Tell them all that and ask them finally, why they voted for this destroyer of their children and grand children’s futures here in America and in Israel. Go ahead, ask them that.

Then tell them to watch this NER You Tube video interview with contributing NER editor, Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein in June 2010.  Tell them to note his prescient bottom line assessment of Obama, as “the the most radical President, ever:”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Obama, J Street and the American Jewish Divide

Former Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren is a native of West Orange, New Jersey best exemplifies the special relations between the two allies, Israel and the U.S. Ally-book cover jpgWith the publication of his memoir, Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide (2015), he has another best seller. Previous ones were Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2003) and Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (2007)Having read Ally, I concur with praise from two pundits: Bret Stephens, the Tuesday Wall Street  Journal columnist of note, and Vic Rosenthal, a former resident of Fresno, California, now a Jerusalem resident whose Abu Yehuda blog  posts are a must read about an American  living in Israel.

Bret Stephens’ opening stanza in his June 29, 2015 WSJ column “The President Against the Historianexplains why Oren’s memoir is a must read:

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has written the smartest and juiciest diplomatic memoir that I’ve read in years, and I’ve read my share. The book, called “Ally,” has the added virtues of being politically relevant and historically important. This has the Obama administration—which doesn’t come out looking too good in Mr. Oren’s account—in an epic snit.

Vic Rosenthal in his July 2, 2015, Abu Yehuda blog post, Michael Oren is tired of American Jews, and so am I, addresses  the yawning  divide between Israel and American Jews, another of Oren’s themes in Ally:

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is offended by Michael Oren, on behalf of (non-Orthodox) American Jews. These Jews, like America’s “first Jewish president,” turn out to be very easy to offend: just suggest that Israelis are more qualified than they are to decide the future of their country.

Oren’s new book has offended both Yoffie and the Obama Administration, which has launched an all-out media blitz against him (as far as I know, Obama spokespeople haven’t called him a ‘chickenshit’ yet, but give them time).

Yesterday morning, I dialed into an Israel Project  (TIP)sponsored presentation by Oren. He told the listeners ,unlike the daylight between Obama and Netanyahu over the Iranian nuclear nightmare threat, that there is no daylight across the political divide in the  obsessive democratic cockpit of the Knesset. As Oren tells it, whether Likud, Zionist Union and even Arab parties, all Israel is united that Iran achieving nuclear breakout is “a very bad deal”. Further, he said while some  in the media, the Obama claque of  “senior officials’ and former aides have excoriated him for the early publication  of his memoir, he was heartened that they haven’t addressed the facts of what the Administration has perpetrated. Listen to this recorded  TIP presentation by Oren and the following Q&A.

Oren’s memoir has a lot to say about President Obama and his Administration acolytes isolating Israel over Iran and  Netanyahu’s vigorous defense of Israel  sovereign right of Israel to warn America and the untrusting world about Iran’s nuclear  threat and the very bad P5+1  deal. Perhaps  a  deal about to be announced in Vienna in a few days. Or if not simply kicked down the road.  All while Iran’s  Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei  and Mahdist acolytes of terrorism perfect the means of taking out the “little Satan”, Israel ,with one bomb and the “big Satan”, the  US, with a nuclear tipped ICBM.

Oren clearly takes pride that his well honed skills as a Columbia and Princeton educated historian who earned his PhD in Middle East Studies with the venerable Bernard Lewis.   Not bad for a pudgy dyslexic , pigeon toed 15 year old who shook the hand of the late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin, when the latter was  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the US.  He exclaimed on that memorable occasion that some day he would be Israel’s Ambassador.  A late bloomer in high school Oren fulfilled his quest, slimed down hardened through rowing .  Equipped with his backpack he made aliyah to Israel to go through  grueling  paratrooper training  earn his coveted red beret along with an oath taken  to defend Israel on Masada with his IDF comrades.  He ends up in combat and later as a reserve officer during the Second Lebanon War as a military spokesperson to the foreign press.  Along the way he  meets his  American wife Sally Edelstein, a  Jersey girl, dancer and former San Francisco hippy groupie when she makes Aliyah to Israel and they ultimately form their Israeli family.

Ally  depicts what it was like for an American-Israeli to fulfill his dream as his adopted country’s Ambassador in Washington  Israel’s  interests in the byzantine politics of the Obama era from 2009 to 2013. After leaving Washington, Oren turns home to Tel Aviv to lecture, teach at Harvard and Yale and write his memoir.   Oren is now a member of the Kulanu party headed by former  Likud Communications Commissioner and economic reformer Moshe Kahlon.  Oren is a thinking liberal and  both he and the family are members of a Reform synagogue.  His memoir culminates on a dramatic note when he  and Sally attend  a  Bar Mitzvah celebration for 13 year olds at  Kibbutz Na’an, with one of his former Washington Embassy aides, Lee Moser, mother of  one of the bar mitzvah candidates when a red alert sounds, sirens wail and they scurry for shelter. He writes:

I held Sally’s hand and glanced over my shoulder over my shoulder just as two Hamas rockets roared in. Then with twin booms that rattled the tin overhang  and shook the ground below, the missiles exploded. Iron Dome interceptors, developed by Israel and funded by the United States, scored perfect hits. For moment afterward, as we emerged into the uncertain night, the glow of those bursts hovered over us, beaming like kindred stars.

All  of which brings  us to why he has frosted the J Street  fawning rabbinic leadership of the Reform Movement in America and  earned  both Vic Rosenthal’s and my admiration. This came on the cusp of having orchestrated a  recent viewing and panel discussion of the Americans for Peace and Tolerance documentary, J Street Challenge with Pensacola pro-Israel colleagues; Rabbi Eric Tokajer of Brit Ahm synagogue, Mike Bates, 1330amWEBY general manger of “Your Turn host and Florida State Representative Mike Hill, a U.S. Air Force Academy grad.

Vic Rosenthal notes a similar experience in his Fresno in his Abu Yehuda column:

We tried to bring the local Jewish community – the organizations, the synagogues and individual Jews – along with us. With a few exceptions, mostly people like us who had lived in Israel or had relatives there, we had to drag them kicking and screaming. Most of our pro-Israel events drew the same few supporters.

The local Reform temple was probably the most frustrating. A film critical of J Street, followed by a discussion? Absolutely not, it would be ‘divisive’! The Jewish Federation and Hadassah were better, but it was always easier to organize an event about Jewish culture than Israel.

Is Oren right that American Jews are more interested in helping others than their own? Certainly they were far more upset about terrorism in Charleston than Jerusalem, and far more ready to criticize our Prime Minister than their own Administration. The Reform rabbi threw himself into activities to help the poor and homeless. He is seen on TV on panels with the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center. He is an outspoken advocate of liberal causes, but he did not give a sermon in favor of PM Netanyahu’s speech about Iran before the Congress.

In preparation for the recent J Street Challenge  Pensacola event, we culled excerpts from Oren’s Ally about his views on J Street  and its defenders inside the Obama Administration, illustrative of what  concerns Vic Rosenthal.

On J Street’s inclusion in Major American Jewish organizations meeting with Obama in 2009 p. 78

He promised to be more evenhanded in asking all parties, not just Israelis, to make sacrifices for peace. Yet the meeting would be remembered as a turning point in the administration’s approach toward the Jewish State.

Included for the first time with the mainstream Jewish leaders were the heads of Americans for Peace Now and the newly founded J Street, both organizations stridently critical of Israel and its traditional American supporters.  Their presence rattled the other participants, many of whom had been personally slighted by these parvenus.

The President concluded, “When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs”.

Commenting on the discussion, J Street founder Jeremy Ben Ami cited Obama’s ability to connect with the Muslim World and his immense standing in America and the World. “He was very clear that this is a moment that has to be seized and he intends to seize it.  By contrast the other American Jewish leaders emerged from the meeting concerned about Obama’s departure from the long standing principle of “no daylight” in U.S. –Israel relations.

On J Street’s promotion of the Goldstone Report that Maligned Israel in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 – 2009 p. 102

Though J Street refrained from formally endorsing the [Goldstone Report], activists in the organization escorted Goldstone to Congress for meetings with progressive members.  Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner told the UNHRC of America’s disappointment with the document’s double standards. But he also cited Goldstone’s ‘distinguished record of public service” and called on Palestinians to investigate Hamas abuses. This, for Israelis, was tantamount to asking al-Qaeda to investigate 9/11.

On the contretemps between the Israeli Embassy and J Street P. 107

Irksome was the embassy’s continued imbroglio with J Street. Unlike my predecessor, Sallai Meridor, who had shunned the lobby, I initially engaged it in a dialogue.  I had no illusions about the group, which received funds from anti-Israel contributors, supported every legislator critical of Israel, and stridently attacked mainstream American Jewish leaders. Though J Street defined itself as “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace”, its logo bore no connection to Israel whatsoever, not even the color blue, and portrayed other pro-Israel organizations as anti-Israel. Before becoming Ambassador, I chanced to meet one J Street board member and asked him why he had joined. “I’m uncomfortable with the special relationship,” he told me. “I want to normalize U.S.-Israel ties.”

Outrageously, J Street members hosted Goldstone in Congress and lobbied  against sanctions on Iran. These actions were deeply deleterious to Israel’s security – “they endangered seven million Israelis,” I said –and made interacting with J Street virtually impossible. Both the Prime Minister [Netanyahu] and the foreign minister [Avigdor Liberman] vetoed my participation in its annual conference.

On the Obama White House relations with J Street p. 108

J Street… fashioned itself as the Administration’s wing in the American Jewish Community. Obama acknowledged that fact by sending his National Security Advisor [former Marine General] Jim Jones, one of Washington’s most powerful officials to greet the organization. “I’m honored to represent President Obama at the first national J Street conference.  And you can be sure that this administration will be represented at all other J Street conferences…” Obama’s newly appointed advisor on anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, an early J Street supporter, issued her first denunciation not of anti-Semites, but rather of me for boycotting the summit.

Michael Oren’s Ally might be considered a 21st Century version of Emile Zola’s J’accuse.  Oren , like Zola in the fin de siècle Dreyfus affair,  addresses the calumnies of President  Obama, nurtured  in Muslim Indonesia, creating daylight isolating Israeli PM Netanyahu over nuclear Iran and recognition of a Faux Palestinian State.  Daylight promised  to Obama’s  Chicago anti-Israel confreres, Rashid Khalidi, holder of the Edward Said Endowed Chair on Modern Arab Studies  at Columbia and Ali Abunimah , editor of The Electronic Intifada blog, that he wouldn’t forget them. Oren chronicles how Obama delivered on that promise.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of President Obama and former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, July 2009. Source: White House Photo