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May 28, 2010

Ira N. Forman’s Submission to Commentary’s Israel Symposium, June 2010

Listed in: Israel, Other Foreign Policy, Stop the Smears, NJDC News, Opinions

For its June 2010 issue, Commentary magazine collected responses for a symposium on U.S.-Israel relations. The questions sent to the participants, which included a wide range of Jewish professionals and intellectuals, were:

The open conflict between the Obama Administration and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has created tensions between the United States and Israel of a kind not seen since the days of the administration of the first President Bush. And those tensions are placing unique pressure on American Jews, who voted for Barack Obama by a margin of nearly 4-to-1 in 2008 after being assured by Obama himself and by his supporters in the Jewish community that he was a friend and ally of the State of Israel despite his long association with, among others, the unabashedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

We argue that American Jews are facing an unprecedented political challenge, and at a critical moment, with the need to address the existential threat to Israel—and by extension to the future of the Jewish people as a whole—from a potentially nuclear Iran. How will American Jews handle this challenge? Can Obama’s Jewish supporters act in a way that will change the unmistakable direction of current American policy emanating from the White House? Will American Jews accept Barack Obama’s view that the state of Israel bears some responsibility for the loss of American “blood and treasure” in the Middle East? Will they continue to extend their support to the Obama administration and to Barack Obama’s political party?


Ira N. Forman, CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, responded:

You lost me at “Rev. Jeremiah Wright”…


The Editors at Commentary could have decided to conduct a substantive debate about the merits of the Obama Administration’s policy toward Israel.  Instead they decided to frame the “discussion” by positing that in Israel’s hour of need we have a Rev. Wright-worshiping president who is blaming Israel for the loss of American “blood and treasure” and what are liberal Jews going to do to make up for the error of their ways … in other words by asking the equivalent of “when did you stop beating your wife.”


Commentary does not appear to want a real debate about Administration Middle East policy.  So a related topic presents itself:  how the bulk of Jewish conservatives have joined a movement that is much less interested in policy and intellectual debate and much more interested in whipping itself into a lather over the perfidy of its opponents and bemoaning either the stupidity or the disloyalty of that opposition.


The evidence of this hysterical campaign can be divided into a handful of storylines.


Imaginary Policy Advisors: Throughout the 2008 election cycle conservative Jewish circles fixated over Obama’s supposed Middle East policy ties to people like Rashid Khalidi and Reverend Wright.  They warned the Jewish community that these type of people would be guiding Obama foreign policy.  Now that the administration is stocked with people like Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro and Secretary Clinton many of these same voices are, in defiance of all logic, yelling I told you so.


Historical Illiteracy:  Historical analogies are great for analyzing complex current problems. But how credible is your argument when everything comes down to Munich and Chamberlin.   Describing Administration policies, as one Obama critic recently did, as the equivalent of Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD is laughable.


I Have in my Hands a List of Known Communists:  Too many Jewish conservatives are loath to argue facts and so they resort to made-up facts.  Recently Jewish conservatives have spread blatant misrepresentations— such as claims that the Administration was encouraging Palestinian protests in Jerusalem and that Obama had changed visa policies to obstruct Israeli nuclear scientists from entering the United States.


This phenomenon is not confined to marginal characters.  Elliot Abrams feels comfortable to put words never uttered into the mouths of both the columnist David Ignatius and President Obama when he says “that Obama came to the conclusion that he should impose a ‘peace plan’….”


The Jewish Masses are Asses: Perhaps the most telling Jewish conservative behavior pattern is the reaction toward the continued pattern of Democratic voting in the Jewish community.  Jewish Republican analysts have spent years whining about Jews supposedly voting against their “self interest.”  According to these experts only naivety, ignorance and worship of the false religion of liberalism can explain this perverse Jewish voting behavior.


Critical times demand cool analysis, reasoned discussion and a profound understanding of the difference between enemies and friends. The hysteria, partisan one-upmanship and painting of opponents as disloyal are a formula for Jewish disaster.