Leaders criticized Obamas tactics more than substance
President Obama invited a small group of Jewish organizations to the White House for a meeting on Monday, July 13 to discuss the increasing concern and fear of American Jews of Obamas hostile policies toward Israel while making no serious demands of the Palestinian Arabs.
Media reports about the meeting were numerous. The media reports included the following:
Jewish leaders left their meeting with President Obama glowing it became clear the bulk of the organized Jewish community is in full support of his peace efforts including the demand for a complete freeze of Jewish settlements the meeting yielded a broad understanding that the administrations decision to take its dispute with Israel to the public will not be challenged by American Jews.
I believe the President got the impression that there is broad support within the community for his policies, and some differences on the tactical level, said Rabbi Steven Wernick, Executive Vice President of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union For Reform Judaism, said in the meeting that expanding settlements was not in the interest of Israel, of the US or of American Jews. Nobody in the room questioned it Yoffie said of the response of the other Jewish leaders in attendance. Not one person in the room said to the President, Youre wrong on that. Obamas statement that he would not avoid public disagreements with Israel went unchallenged.
Another article reported, there was concern about an imbalance in pressures placed on Israel as opposed to on the Palestinians and the Arab States the President indicated he had a sensitivity to the perception of that imbalance and had to work harder to correct that perception the 2 leaders of AIPAC asked friendly questions about Saudi Arabia and Iran no one took issue with Obamas fractured history of the Middle East Obama told Jewish leaders at the White House that Israel would need to engage in serious self-reflection.
Media reports also discussed who was not invited: Some of Obamas loudest critics the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) were among the notable absences from the list of those invited to the White House the White House was careful to exclude Jewish leaders it deemed too inimical to the Presidents Mideast agenda while J Street and American Friends of Peace Now were welcomed at the White House, Team Obama conspicuously snubbed far more dedicated supporters of Israel Morton Klein, President of the ZOA. The JTA speculated that Klein may have been boycotted by Obama because the ZOA President recently said Obama could turn out to be the most hostile US President in Washington relations with Jerusalem. Morton Klein has also been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and most of the Jewish media criticizing President Obamas policies toward Israel. But one would think that Obama, who of all people is a stout exponent of engaging some of the worlds harshest critics of US policy, would want to accord the same courtesy to Morton Klein, whose views of the administration are nowhere near as denunciatory as the invectives directed against Obama by Irans Ahmadinejad and Venezuelas Hugo Chavez. Yet Morton Klein was kept out of the way at a safe political distance it does not seem like Peter Bergson was present at the White House with leaders of 14 Jewish organizations. The meeting appeared to be an scripted minuet in conflict avoidance made easier by excluding ZOA who has been openly-critical of the Presidents stance .why did not any of the organizations invited for the sit-down with the President this week object to the exclusion of the ZOA from the meeting. ZOA and its leader Morton Klein would have been pretty direct with the President, if allowed to speak. absent from the table were those organizations who questioned the Presidents policies regarding Israel. No ZOA, no JINSA, no CAMERA groups supporting the right of Jews to live in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria were not invited the President invited 16 leaders but excluded the strongly pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America influential groups were left off the guest list This meeting was an attempt to confront the growing concern about his policy toward the beleaguered Jewish state obviously the President had decided not to seriously debate the issues at the gathering since ZOA was locked out of the meeting.
Even a DRY BONES cartoon was written about ZOAs exclusion. The four cartoon sections said the following: ZOA, the Zionist Organization of America was not invited to Obamas meeting with the Jews Its because Zionist has become a bad word. But CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America was also snubbed. Ah, the problematic word there is accuracy.
ZOA President Morton A. Klein said, The ZOA was deeply disappointed and troubled that the Jewish groups did not make clear that the issue of settlements has nothing to do with attaining a real peace agreement and both distracts and camouflages the real basis for why the peace process has failed. Whether 300,000 or 325,000 Jews live on only 3% of the land in Judea and Samaria has virtually nothing to do with preventing peace. Preventing peace, it should have been made clear to Obama, is the Palestinian Authoritys refusal to arrest anti-Israel terrorists; refusal to outlaw terrorist groups; end incitement to hatred and violence against Jews and Israel in their schools, media, and speeches; their continuing to glorify terrorists by naming schools, streets, sports teams, and computer centers after them; disseminating heroic posters of suicide bombers throughout Arab towns; excluding Israel from their maps; Abbas Fatah partys new emblem showing all of Israel covered with an Arab headdress, next to a large rifle, with Arafat in the middle; and not accepting and teaching the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. All of these actions are required in virtually every signed agreement from Oslo to Wye to the Road Map.
We need a major public conversation about the anti-peace, pro-terror actions of the Palestinian Authority not whether Jews should be allowed to move into Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, or eastern Jerusalem. But the participants, representing American Jewry, acted as if Obamas policy of not allowing the moving of one additional Jew into eastern Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria is fine. They should have argued for the right of Jews to live in these territories It is utterly racist and anti-Semitic to insist that Jews cannot build within the borders (were not even talking outside the borders) to their own communities in Judea and Samaria, whereas Arabs can build everywhere, including within Israel itself. Quite apart from Israels own historical, legal and religious claims to the territory, this land was also earmarked by the League of Nations in 1922 for the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland. In 1967, Judea and Samaria were captured by Israel from Jordan, an illegal occupier from 1948 to 1967 whose annexation of the territory was recognized by only two countries and which in 1988 renounced its claims to the territory. In short, this is unallocated territory under international law.
Why cannot 300,000 Jews live among 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria while 1.2 million Arabs live among 6 million Jews in Israel? No peace can be built on the notion that the biblical, historical and religious heartland of the Jewish people or any territory for that matter, must be judenrein. Remember, Jews come from the historic area known as Judea. We Jews are Judeans. Jew is a contraction of the term Judean. How absurd to suggest Jews cannot live from whence we came. Would anyone dare propose that Arabs cannot live in Arabia? Until the late 60s-early 70s the term Palestinian meant Jew. Everyone understood that the area of Palestine was the Jewish homeland which the Jews were banished 2000 years ago when the Romans changed the name from Israel to Palestine after the Jews arch enemy the Philistines. Yet the Jews had always maintained a presence there including a majority within Jerusalem itself. There was never a country named Palestine it simply became a desert-like region. The first Jewish newspaper there was called the Palestine Post and the first Jewish orchestra, the Palestine Orchestra. Even Paul Newman who played the Jew, Ari Ben-Canaan, in the movie Exodus called himself a Palestinian which he explained is a native born Sabra.
The Leaders should have pointed out that there are a billion or more people throughout the world who are Bible believers (including President Obama) who believe the many biblical statements from G-d giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. These statements appear throughout Genesis and Exodus. The reason this Land, throughout history, has been called the Promised Land is precisely because G-d promised this Land to the Jews in the Bible. Even secular Jews maintain this connection to the Land on the basis of the Bible. It is notable that David Ben-Gurion once stated to a British Royal Commission that the Bible is our mandate. If it werent, perhaps a Jewish state would now exist in Uganda, or somewhere else, or not at all.
The Leaders should also have pointed out that It is significant that a majority of the Israeli public has supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus repudiation to this point of President Barack Obamas demand that Israel freeze all Jewish construction and growth in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem by 56 percent to 37 percent. It has also opposed Netanyahu acceding to Obamas reported demand that Israel abandon the settlement blocs as part of an agreement with the Palestinians by 51 percent to 34 percent.
We, at ZOA, were very surprised that the Jewish leaders there emphasized that the problem was perception more than substance. The reason theres an accurate perception of Obamas hostility to Israel is because his policies are, in fact, hostile to Israel and accommodating to the Arabs unjust demands and false claims.
When President Obama said that there was no progress during the Bush years, even though there was no daylight between President Bush and Israel, the leaders should have said thats simply because the Palestinian Arabs did not stop terrorism or incitement. Obama should have been reminded that the Israelis gave away half of Judea & Samaria, all of Gaza, and even made offers to give away 97% of Judea & Samaria and establish a state. But Abbas and the Palestinians never took yes for an answer.
The ZOA also regrets that this opportunity was not used to take issue with Obamas anti-Israel Cairo speech which supported false Palestinian claims. They should have corrected him on his false claim that Palestinian Arabs were displaced by Israel in 1948; that Palestinian Arabs have been suffering trying to establish their own state for 60 years; that Jerusalem isnt secure for Muslims and Christians; that there are seven million Muslims in America; that Palestinian suffering was equivalent to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust (meaning the Israeli Jews are like Nazis); that Palestinian suffering is equivalent to Black suffering during South African apartheid and slavery in America. The leaders should have taken issue with his never using the term terrorism and instead using the Palestinian euphemism for resistance.
We also regret that the issue of fulfilling US law by moving our embassy to Jerusalem was not mentioned as our appropriate demand for an undivided Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.
But President Obamas lack of support for Israel and embrace of the Arabs position should not surprise us. After all, Obama was a 22 year member of a church whose Pastor regularly condemned Israel and supported Palestinians; he gave his church $25,000 for many years and called his hateful pastor a great man and my mentor; he himself made speeches saying Hamas and Hezbollah have legitimate claims; his close friends included harsh haters of Israel like Professor Rashid Khalidi and Ali Abuneinah not to mention his closest friends in the Senate include Chuck Hegel and Richard Lugar who are harsh critics of Israel; and he attended the Israel and Jew basher Louis Farrakhans million man march.
We should have asked the President why is he going around the world apologizing for Americas having dictated to foreign countries what to do, yet the President continues to publicly make demands of what Israel must do.
With respect to ZOA and other like-minded groups not being invited to this meeting, we were told that President Obama and those around him were not pleased with our criticism of his Israel policies. But we thought Obama said that friends should be able to criticize each other as he does Israel. We thought he has repeatedly said he wants to listen to other peoples ideas even if they differ from his and will adopt them if theyre good.
We find it sadly ironic that President Obama publicly supports negotiating with and engaging evil enemies of America like Iran and Venezuela, but was unwilling to engage at this face-to-face meeting with pro-Israel organizations that disagree with him. This is an inappropriate position that Obama is taking especially in light of the fact that the Zionist Organization of America is not only the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States and a Charter member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations but the ZOA has been right in their analysis of every issue. We opposed Oslo as likely leading to nowhere but disaster; we said Arafat was still a terrorist after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993; we predicted the Gaza Withdrawal would lead to more missiles against Israel and further tragedy; and we predicted, based on his record, that Abbas would not be a reliable and motivated peace partner. Those invited did not take these same correct positions that ZOA took. ZOA is also among the most quoted and published Jewish groups in the US today. As the Wall Street Journal has said, ZOA is the most credible advocate for Israel in the United States today. The Jerusalem Post added, The ZOA is one of the most important and influential Jewish groups in the US today. While congressional leaders like Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) said, What the ZOA does is to speak the truth even when the truth is inconvenient to various powers-that-be. And Republican Minority Whip Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, The ZOA is the moral compass for all of us in Congress as far as US relationships in the Middle East are concerned.
But ZOA will continue our work as rational centrists and speak out on issues based on the facts and not on hopes and dreams.
An important opportunity was lost at this meeting. We hope, in the future, that Jewish organizations will make our concerns and beliefs more clearly known and understood.