Mainstream Jewish Organizations: A Lack of Leadership


By Jerrold Sobel


Once again my mailbox is stuffed with donation solicitations from some major Jewish organizations. Most of you that ever sent at least chai; $18.00 to the ADL, AJC, B’nai B’rith, Hillel, or countless others know what I’m talking about. What I find disturbing about their fund raising is, that it’s fund raising for fund raising’s sake alone. It’s never a call to action. Their promotions always go the same way:


Somebody, somewhere, has done or is doing something bad to the Jewish people and by parting with anything from $18.00 to the sky’s the limit, this or that group will fight the good fight for the cause. Not that I begrudge them their shekels, what I begrudge is their lack of leadership, their failure to unify Jews and their Christian friends into a cohesive political movement. It’s one thing to tell of Jewish students being intimidated and denied equal access at a Rutgers University public event and another to do something about it.


Rather than forcefully galvanize the community at large to combat anti-Israel/anti-Semitic outrages against Jewish students in the university system, they meekly approach the problem with what they are best at, pontification, then go on with business as usual. Rarely, if ever, is a major Jewish spokesperson seen protesting anti-Israel bias in mainstream media. Activism such as organizing busloads of people to peacefully march in protest at one of these colleges where only the Arab side of the Middle East conflict is taught; where Jewish students are harassed; where Jewish speakers are shouted down or dis-invited, never seem to be an option. Activism such as this would take some chutzpah, some leadership. These advocates fare no better on the international scene in their defense of Israel.


Always well behaved, but with the exception of the ZOA, not one mainstream organization has shown a predilection to admonish this Administration for its ceaseless pressure on Israel to commit political suicide. Except to the willfully blind, land for peace has been an abject failure that has resulted in nothing but death and casualties to the Israelis. To continue ceding land to a potential Palestinian state sworn to her destruction would be insanity for any government. A Palestinian state, if created today would be born into war with the State of Israel. What other nation in the world would be asked to create and recognize such a hostile entity?


The settlement issue, Jerusalem, the right of return, Israeli security in the Jordan Valley, all irreconcilable issues in their own right, yet pale in comparison to the PLO’s anti-Semitic incitement of its population. As the murder of the Vogel family in Itamar will attest, Israel is trying to make peace with a population that has been taught to hate Jews and despise Israel. A constituency fomented by Abbas and his PLO, a quasi government not democratically elected to represent them. A society which immortalizes mass murderers such as Abu Jihad that hijacked and killed 37 people on a bus. All this to the backdrop of a Middle East, unsettled and up in flames. A region increasingly distrustful of the United States and rapidly falling within the Iranian sphere of influence. Yet rather than scream bloody murder against the absurd policies and the Palestinian bias of this Administration, by their public silence, mainstream Jewish organizations have given credence to it. As they go around delivering fund raising speeches at $500.00 a plate, perhaps Israel would be better served if their donors were apprised of the relentless coercion and suicidal pressure Obama is fostering upon Israel. Unfortunately, don’t expect this to happen too soon.


Recently, at the conclusion of a supposed closed door meeting with President Obama, chairman Alan Solow and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, heading the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations deemed the meeting an “an extraordinary session.” What was so extraordinary about it? They claimed it “opens lines of communication with President Obama and his administration” and an “opportunity to articulate the views of American Jews on issues that face the country.” Wow, that’s powerful. As has become his mantra, Obama once again pledged his loyalty to the State of Israel, her security, and avowed to fight efforts to delegitimize her. Unfortunately, despite these niceties, he made no bones that the road to peace rests squarely through Jerusalem….. Israel’s security?


With the same assurances he gave Mubarak, Obama would guarantee the peace treaty with NATO troops stationed in a demilitarized zone in the Jordan Valley. We all know how well that’s worked out around the world when peacekeepers start returning home in body bags. In the name of peace at any price, President Obama has had no compunction cajoling Israel to return to what Abba Eban referred to as the Auschwitz line, the 1949 indefensible armistice line. A pseudo border, only nine miles between a hostile Palestinian state and the sea. Think of it, nine miles, some people travel further for their groceries.


As the meeting progressed, the participants dutifully thanked the president for his recent veto at the U.N. but were perplexed by Administration comments subsequent to the veto. Obama stated he had “to do something to show balance” in view of the delicacy of Arab public opinion during these “sensitive” times. As if by doing the right thing and vetoing the recent U.N. resolution, Israel owed the president quid pro quo by granting the Palestinians further concessions. It’s odd, but it seems the president never has a problem labeling Israel the intransigent of this conflict but feels a need to show equanimity to the Palestinians even when forced to vote against them…… Concessions? Israel, from Southern Lebanon to Gaza and Judea and Samaria has continuously made concessions. With the result only to further whet the appetite of the Palestinians and stiffen their recalcitrance. It’s hastened war not peace. The president also made it quite clear that despite what’s going on throughout the Middle East, tenuous as the the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is, or the ascendency of Iran in the region; Palestinian statehood based upon Israeli land concessions is foremost in his mind.


In light of all this, one has to wonder if any member of the Jewish delegation took out a map to show Obama the topography of the Jordan Valley and the mountainous terrain so vital to Israel’s security? Because if they did, it was not publicly spoken of, as it should be. Not one representative drove home the point of Israel’s vulnerability to a hostile Palestinian State jutting deep into her middle. Israeli security concerns be damned, If Israel doesn’t acquiesce to his demands Obama has threatened to turn the whole issue over to the group 4 to be resolved; the U.N., the European Union, Russia, and the United States; no doubt Israel would get a fair shake from this bunch.


Out of politeness and a helping hand of timidity, none of the delegates bothered to remind Obama of U.N. Council Resolution 242 which recognized the 1949 demarcation lines as just that, lines showing where armies stood subsequent to the cease fire, not international boarders. 242 recognized Israel’s need for defensible boarders. It’s also curious that while remaining gracious guests the members never asked why subsequent to Palestinian statehood, Palestinians could continue to live in Israel, but Jews would be barred from living in the Palestinian state. Didn’t progressive Americans fight against such injustice in South Africa? Wasn’t that decried around the world as apartheid? Despite all this ambiguity, always fearful of confrontation, ever loyal to the script, and always respectful, the presidents of all the mainstream Jewish organizations felt the meeting a great success just to have a dialogue with Obama.Perhaps at a future meeting they might also remind the president that Israel is the only constitutional, Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East, America’s only real friend, the equivalent of a giant U. S. aircraft carrier in a region which hates the U.S. as much as it does Israel. To weaken Israel, is to weaken an increasingly less free world.


As is his custom, the President saved the best for last. Near the conclusion of this pow wow, he requested the group convince their colleagues in Israel to call for more concessions. You have to wonder if at this point any of these esteemed “Jewish leaders” recognized they were dupes being used to deliver a message without receiving anything in return. This is American Jewish leadership today. This is what they consider an “an extraordinary session.”


It’s time long overdue for these organizations and the people that run them to either revamp and lead or get out of the way. For Israel to survive, the righteousness of Zionism must actively be taught to all Americans. That’s their job. However, before they do, they must begin believing it themselves. A segment of American Jewry in turn must lose that “shtetl;” European, acquiescent, ghetto mentality; and rally around sensible support for the Jewish State. Israel’s survival should trump petty political affiliations. The unfair political ostracization and double standards by which Israel is judged is a matter that should always surmount silly Republican/Democrat squabbles. When groups such as JStreet, comprised mainly of Jewish youth are angry at Obama for casting a veto against the Palestinians, we’re all in trouble. We’re in trouble not because a bunch of dopey kids and their old hippy parents are the new progressives but because the major Jewish American organizations have never launched a sustained campaign of educating not only Jewish youth but American youth in general of the difference between a constitutional democracy and the despotic dictatorships which permeate the violent neighborhood Israel lives in.


To their credit, mainstream Jewish leadership is rightfully concerned with the Holocaust and sustaining its memory but unfortunately does little to ward off the potential of a second one. At a time when American Jewry of every religious and political persuasion should be united against anti-Zionism and its brother, anti-Semitism, Jewish leadership is in the hands of of fund raisers.

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