In these pages last week, Hannah Rosenthal (an Obama political appointee) criticized Ilan Carr (a trump political appointee) for calling out J-Street’s use of a clearly anti-Semitic image.
The image depicts four Jews in positions of power- one of whom yields influence over his father-in-law- standing over Trump’s shoulders, unable to mask their glee, as Trump issues a Pro-Israel decree. The text below the picture is a warning to peace living Americans- “US Taxpayers should not foot the bill for annexation.” The image is black and white, further signaling shadowy figures surround our President. The suggestion, not lost on students of anti-Semitism and Jewish History, is a not so subtle suggestion that a cabal of powerful Jews are influencing the president of the United States to take actions that are contrary to the best interests of American citizens.
I applaud Mr. Carr for calling out anti-Semitism wherever he sees it, and I hope he will call it out if it comes from his own administration. I certainly agree that one of the ads Trump ran in 2016, featuring a series of shadowy figures, several of whom were Jews, before suggesting that only Trump can “drain the swamp”, was anti-Semitic, in both intent and affect. Here is an article in Haaretz slamming the video as Anti-Semitic, and despite not being a fan of Haaretz, I agree. The video had antisemitic overtones. It showed rich Jews in positions of power, and suggested these shadowy figures are the cause of America’s problems. Sound familiar?
I assume Ms. Rosenthal rather vehemently objected to the Trump video. Not just as a Democrat, but also as a Jew. Dare I say, it is hypocritical for Ms. Rosenthal to criticize another political appointee for pointing out anti-Semitism on the left. Even when it comes from Jews. Ms. Rosenthal could have written about Louis Farakhan or the anti-Semitic ideology espoused by some of the leaders of the BLM movement that are making many American Jews extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, in using your platform to attack Mr. Carr, you elevated politics over truth.
It happens to be, not for the first time in history but certainly the first in a very long time, that the interests of the world’s most powerful country are to a great degree aligned with the interests of the Jewish people. A strong and stable Israel is not only in the best interests of the United States, it is also in the best interests of Jews worldwide, whether they live in America or Iran. That is, at least in my mind, one reason behind the strength and popularity of AIPAC. To oppose AIPAC- specifically in the form of J-Street- is to oppose the efforts of Christians and Jews who work to strengthen the State of Israel, a safe haven for all Jews, regardless of their ideological or religious affiliations.
To me- a Persian Jew who escaped Iran and started a new life in America, who has visited Israel 15 times, who was educated in both public and modern orthodox Hebrew day schools, who stood up for Israel on college campuses, and who is a student of Jewish history, J-Street is a dangerous threat to American Jewish life. It’s one thing to be apathetic and ignorant to the role a safe and secure Israel plays in our own lives as American Jews. It’s another thing altogether to actively work against Israel in the name of a “Pro-Israel” movement.
J-Street is more than a symptom of the issues that drive a wedge between American Jews and a majority of Jews who live in Israel, with only the latter truly capable of understanding the dangers of retreating to 1967 borders. The people and philosophy behind J-Street are a driving force behind the divide. The idea that Jews who claim to love Israel influence young American Jews with positions that make BDS supporters blush is more dangerous than the divide between secular and ultra-orthodox.
Unity is essential to our survival. But how do we achieve unity when there are so many issues and people working to divide us?
I offer a simple solution to American Jewry: Let’s elevate Truth over Ideology. For that, consider the words of Bari Weiss, who recently resigned from the NY Times. Ms. Weiss was recently featured in the Times of Israel, and was quoted as telling an audience on Zoom: “Jewish history is more than a remembrance of things past; it’s a moral manual. It’s a lighthouse. It’s a compass. If our ancestors could find their way when they were buffeted in ways we can only imagine, so can we,” Weiss said.
On utilizing the criticism leveled at her (for defending Israel) as a springboard to connect with Judaism, Ms. Weiss said: “I say this a lot: It’s not enough for a Jew to be an anti-anti-Semite. That’s not what we were put on earth to do. We were put on earth to be Jews. The more deeply I connected to my own Judaism, Jewish history, the stronger my conviction has become. I am just extremely clear on who I am, what I’m about, and what I’m fighting for,”
Instead of working against ourselves and empowering our enemies in BDS, we should empower our children to seek and tell the truth. For that, we need to put politics aside, and focus on our Compass.