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Morris J. Amitay

Column for March 7, 2007

 

 Ignoring a Real “Jewish” Issue

 

 

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs purports to represent a consensus on issues of importance to the American Jewish community.  However, its failure to issue any statement on Iran at its plenum here in Washington late last month was both shocking and shameful.  It reminds one of the story of the two hapless Jews caught by the Gestapo during World War II, and lined up against a wall to be shot.  Seeing that the end was near, one cried out “long live the Jewish people”.  His companion implored him to be quiet – “or you’ll get us both in trouble”!

 

With Israel (surely a subject of importance to Jews) being openly threatened with annihilation by the rulers of Iran who are seeking nuclear weapons, how does one explain this glaring omission?  Has the JCPA been so intimidated – or indoctrinated – by the voices raised against the possibility of the use of force against Iran, that it could in good conscience just take a pass here? 

 

The answer, unfortunately, appears to be yes.  This failure of judgment on an issue of vital importance to Israel was also clearly evident in the JCPA’s choice of Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to highlight its discussion on Iraq.  Hagel is known to pro-Israel Congress watchers as having one of the worst Israel-related records in the U.S. Senate.  Clearly in the bottom 10% of his Senate “class” of 100, he has consistently failed to support initiatives involving Jerusalem, Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, and support for Israel, all of which were endorsed by overwhelming majorities of his own Senate colleagues.  To give some of the flavor of Hagel’s views on Israel and the Middle East, it is instructive to point out that he was one of only two Senators to vote against extending the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (96-2).  He failed to join 84 colleagues in letters to the President regarding Jerusalem; was not among the 88 signers urging implementation of all the conditions in the Road Map; was not with 89 signers regarding the late Yassir Arafat; and failed to be listed with 96 signers in a letter urging support of Israel.  These are only some examples of Hagel’s positions vis-ŕ-vis Israel during his Senate career that began in 1997.  If somehow the JCPA was unaware of this unenviable record, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee certainly was.  It is no surprise then that this anti-Israel organization is featuring Senator Hagel at its upcoming national convention this June.  With its acts of omission (Iran) and commission (Hagel) the JCPA demonstrated that it does not consider providing for Israel’s security to be a “Jewish issue”.  In this connection one notes the resolutions passed on Darfur, social services for illegal immigrants, limitations on handgun sales, and opposition to laws that deprive groups (i.e. gays) of civil liberties.

 

The reasons for the JCPA’s actions here can be traced to its domestic and foreign policies agenda that closely tracks that of the left wing of the Democratic Party.  (In the interests of full disclosure, I consider myself to be a “Scoop Jackson Democrat” – unfortunately, a diminishing category with Joe Lieberman the current embodiment.)  While it is undeniable that Jewish Americans still overwhelmingly vote Democratic, this fact of political life does not mean that every plank in the Democratic Party’s platform should be deemed a “Jewish” issue and acted upon accordingly.  Some issues of the day are more national and even global in their implications - the environment, for example.  But its political orientation aside, what the JCPA’s failure to speak out on Iran really represents is not only a lack of good sense, but of intestinal fortitude (i.e. guts).  Apparently, there are still too many who remain uncomfortable being identified as Jews.  They are so afraid of being associated with those “war-mongering neo-cons”, (and we all know who they are), who brought us the Iraq “quagmire” and American deaths.  Now, according to the ultra-liberal left it is these same “neocons” who are clamoring for the invasion of Iran.  So, the JCPA leaders prefer to remain silent for fear they “will get in trouble”.

 

These are of the same species that refused to speak out when it became known what was happening to European Jewry at the hands of the Nazis.  These are the same folks who prefer to keep a low profile when it comes to expressing support for Israel, or can even be found joining in the condemnation of Israel for oppressing the Palestinians and failing to trade “land for peace”. 

 

A very recent Gallup poll revealed that Jews believe the war in Iraq was a mistake by a margin greater than any other religious group.  This is an indication not only of their liberal leanings, but of Jewish insecurity in 21st century America which is truly disturbing.  Columnist Saul Singer – writing in Israel, but no stranger to the American political scene – had it just right in commenting on the poll results:

 

American Jews, like Americans generally, need to understand that the possible outcomes of this conflict remain binary in nature.  Either the peoples of the world win – including Americans, Israelis, Iraqis and even Iranians – or jihadi regimes and their proxies will.

 

Winning in Iraq and facing down the Iranian regime are both integral parts of this fight.  Losing risks a second holocaust, and would be disastrous for American interests.

 

In this context, is there any question which side American Jews should be on?

 

In this context, is there also any question as to whether the JCPA should called on our own country, America, to make certain that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons?  The JCPA’s failure to do so can and must be corrected if it is to purport to speak for Jewish Americans.