Readers wrote to me to complain that my columns on Iran offered “the Republican” view of President Obama’s deal. Some suggested that I be silenced and my columns in various publications canceled, which just goes to show what they think of free speech.
Let me be clear. Before anything else I am a Jew. My opposition to the Iran deal, and the months that I dedicated myself to fighting it was based on the deal being a catastrophe for Israel’s survival and America’s security. That was not ‘the Republican’ view. It was the view of the vast majority of Americans polled. Only 22% supported the deal. It was the view of the Democratic Senior Senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, arguably Israel’s greatest friend in the Senate. It was the view of the Democratic senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer. It was also the view of more than 80% of all Israelis who said that President Obama’s deal will lead Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. I should add that every Israeli political leader, from left to right, opposed the deal.
I will not be silenced because some Jewish readers choose to politicize Jewish survival or make light of Iran’s genocidal threats against the Jewish people.
My good friend Rabbi Menachem Genack, whom I consider a mentor and teacher, penned a column in The New Jersey Jewish Standard last week deploring the Iran deal. It would have been good had he published the column while the debate raged rather than after the Democratic filibuster in the Senate that ensured there would be no deal. It would likewise have been good had he taken a public and unified stand with me, Ben Chouake, the courageous head of NORPAC, and Senator Joe Lieberman to call upon my friend of a quarter century, Senator Cory Booker, to join Menendez in opposition. I introduced Rabbi Genack to Cory at my home and fostered the relationship over many years. But the Orthodox Union curiously chose to not put themselves on the line to publicly press our Senator to stand with Israel.
I love Cory, he is my soul friend, and that will never change. But every Rabbi and communal leader has the same responsibility of risking access to powerful politicians to put Israel’s security first. Cory is a phenomenal friend of our community and Israel and has studied thousands of hours of Torah with me. But he made a historic mistake in supporting the deal and later, and even after he announced his support, he pledged at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston to oppose the Democratic filibuster so that at least a vote on this monumental issue would go ahead. Later he twice voted with the filibuster. Yet the OU and other Jewish organizations chose, against the noted absence of AIPAC, NORPAC, and the ZOA, to participate in a meeting where Cory, after announcing his support, invited Adam Szubin, an Obama Administration pitchman on the deal, to explain the deal’s merits.
Real friendship with Senator Booker means not acting like minions but expressing accurate, balanced, and factual criticism when, as a public figure, he votes to legitimize a genocidal regime. He deserves the honesty of both our support and our displeasure. Anything else is not friendship but sycophancy.
The most astounding support of the deal came from Debbie Wasserman Schultz who announced that she would back the Iran deal on CNN and cried. Wasserman-Schultz, arguably the most powerful female Jewish member of Congress, spoke about her “Jewish heart” and the fact she is a “Jewish mother.” I believe that she cares deeply about Israel and of course does not wish any harm to come to the Jewish people.
But while tears are nice, resisting the barbarity of Iran would have been a lot nicer.
In Judaism it is action, not emotion, that counts. Sympathy alone cannot feed a starving child and compassion and tears will not a drowning man save.
Harry Truman’s diary revealed deep anti-Semitic feelings. “The Jews,” he wrote, “I find, are very, very selfish…” He also expressed his opinion that “…when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog.”
But this same Harry Truman faced the very difficult choice of whether or not to recognize the newly founded State of Israel. At the time, America’s foreign policymakers were almost unanimously against providing recognition and immense pressure was being applied to Truman to abandon the new Jewish state. His Secretary of State George Marshall, whom he admired immensely, sent him a crushing message stating, “I said bluntly that if the President were to follow Mr. Clifford’s advice [to recognize Israel] and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President.”
Yet Truman refused to abandon the Jews in Israel and knew that supporting the state was the only right thing to do.
Harry Truman did not cry for the Jews. He shed no tears. For all we know, he may not have even cared much for them. But when Israel needed him, he stepped up to the plate.
Richard Nixon seemed to be an outright anti-Semite. In his White House tapes, Nixon expressed constant anti-Semitic beliefs. He once remarked, “What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists.” He also once said, “Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”
But in 1973 the Arabs made a surprise attack on Yom Kippur that could have annihilated the Jewish State. The Gulf States had already announced a 70% price increase for oil during the war, and then declared a total boycott on oil shipments to the US once they learned of Nixon’s determination to aid the Jewish state. This oil embargo would cause the price of oil to skyrocket from $3 a barrel to $12. But Nixon wouldn’t be deterred. He knew that defending Israel was righteous and sent over 110,000 tons of supplies to Israel by air and sea, delivered in part by 567 airlifts and saved the Jewish State from destruction.
I would take the private anti-Semitism of Truman and Nixon and their saving Israel in its critical moments any day over Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s tears, amid her vote to give $150 billion to Iran that will undoubtedly kill more Americans and more Jews.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his upcoming “The Israel Warriors Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.