April 4, 2010
Obama and the Deafening Silence of American Jewry
When it came to protecting the right of the Libyan Ambassador to the UN living immediately next door to me in Englewood, my Democratic Congressman, Steve Rothman, found his voice, issuing a three page press release about a deal he had brokered with the State Department 27 years ago for the Libyans to bizarrely remain in a New Jersey suburb. But when I asked Rothman, who is Jewish, to give me a comment on Obama’s degrading treatment of Israel’s elected officials and the Administration’s opposition to Jews building in all parts of Jerusalem, his Chief of Staff sent me an email that said the Congressman was “away for the holidays so we won’t be able to provide you with a statement.”
Attitudes like these on the part of influential Jewish members of the American establishment explain why Obama has been allowed to get away with his appalling treatment of Israel. Yes, it is we Jews who allow it, afraid to take a stand against a President who is rapidly emerging as the new Jimmy Carter.
Don’t think Obama isn’t listening.
When it came to endorsing a recent Congressional vote to label the Turks’ slaughter of over one million Armenians during the first World War a genocide, Obama quickly broke a campaign pledge, and a moral duty, to do just that and publicly distanced himself from the term genocide in order not to offend the Turkish government. And when it came to hosting the Dalai Lama at the White House, the President of the world’s sole superpower quickly bowed to Chinese bullying, not only refusing to greet the great humanitarian publicly but sending him out through the service entrance of the White House where the Dalai Lama was photographed surrounded by giant bags of garbage. But when it comes to treating America’s most reliable ally like a pariah nation, Obama has no fear of the American Jewish community because he’s convinced there will be no price to pay. The Jews are too timid to react.
How sad that we Jews have become so politically pathetic. Although there were grave suspicions about Obama’s position on Israel before the campaign, greatly compounded by his having sat through 20 years of vitriol toward Israel from his own pastor, American Jewry gave Obama the benefit of the doubt. Nearly eighty percent of American Jews voted for him against a proven friend of Israel in John McCain. But fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Amid the Jewish propensity to blindly pull the Democrat lever in every vote without even thinking, if Obama gets anything more than twenty percent of the Jewish vote in 2012 it will be a manifestation of a community which simply doesn’t know how to stand up for its itself and has contempt for its own interests.
And spare me the lectures on dual loyalty. If there is one thing the American people have learned it’s that the Israeli people are their canaries in the coalmine. Attacks that Israelis experience first just presage what Americans will later face. Why? Because the Islamic nations hate Israel for the same reason they hate America. Israel is a bastion of freedom in a region of tyranny. The Mullahs are religious, the Arab dictators mostly secular. But what they share in common is an absolute desire to rule absolutely. They hate Israel and America for its freedoms. They know that elections will knock them out of power and, like Saddam, they would face trial for crimes against humanity.
Ahmedenijad hates his own people even more than he hates Israel, brutalizing and slaughtering them in the streets whenever they stand up for themselves. The last thing the House of Saud wants is democracy, preferring to plunder their country’s oil wealth and concentrate it in the hands of princes of the blood all of whom live like kings. The same hatred of liberty is harbored by all the other Arab potentates who have oppressed their people for decades, from Mubarak who has been in power for three decades, to Kaddafi and the Assads who have stolen power for four.
The same is true of Israel’s policies of human rights. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where gays can march openly. Any attempt to do so in Riyadh would end with the marchers all being decapitated. Of course, we don’t have to worry about that in Iran since Ahmedenijad assured us in his lecture at Columbia that Iran has no homosexuals.
And this applies even more importantly in the area of women’s rights. Israel is the Middle East’s greatest champion of women’s rights, with women enjoying all the freedoms of men. But the Islamic countries do everything in their power to oppress women, afraid of the possible corruption women would bring if they showed an ankle or drove a car.
Rather than pressuring Jews not to build condos in Jerusalem, Obama ought to pressure the Arabs to liberalize and democratize. He ought to use his considerable eloquence to state the obvious truth. That until such time as the Arabs allow their citizens to be free, there will never be peace in the Middle East. Israel is the solution rather than the problem. The more Arab countries emulate its market economy and liberal democracy, the more our oppressed Islamic brothers and sisters will prosper. They will not need scapegoats, like Jews, to vent their understandable frustration at their wretched, impoverished lives, all brought about by clerics and dictators whose steal their money and their freedoms.
According to many estimates, Muammar Kaddafi is the richest man in the world, with a net worth of over $70 billion. That a thief and a murderer of that magnitude is allowed to own a tax-free mansion next door to me where we, honest and hard working Americans, pay for his police protection and trash removal, is a travesty of truth and justice.
When American Jews stand up to the lie that Israeli intransigence is the reason there is war in the Middle East, they end up helping their Arab brethren as well. Because the last things the five hundred million Arabs who live under state censorship and political oppression need is their rulers and clerics finding a convenient scapegoat upon whom to place the blame for their people’s suffering.
And every time Obama falsely puts the blame on Israel for the Middle East’s tensions, he puts another nail in the coffin of future Middle East freedom and Arab democracy and liberty.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. His most recent book is ‘The Blessing of Enough: Rejecting Material Greed, Embracing Spiritual Hunger. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.