Dear Readers:

Every so often I recommend articles written by others that, in my opinion, offer thinking and perspective that help clarify some of the difficult events that have occurred in recent weeks. Here are three such articles:

[1] Former Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts is keenly intelligent, clear thinking, honest, and decent. His many years of experience in Washington, D.C make for both refreshing and clarifying reads, even if you don’t agree with him, which may be the case here. Frank was interviewed by Slate below.

[2] Prime Minister Netanyahu recently appointed former Yesha leader (the settlement movement) Dani Dayan as the new Consul General in New York after Brazil rejected Dayan’s appointment as Ambassador from Israel because of his position against a two-state solution and his role in advocating for the building of settlements in the contested West Bank. Michael Koplow writes in the Israel Policy Forum what are the lessons in Dayan’s appointment as he seeks to represent the government of the State of Israel in New York, the largest Jewish community in the world outside of Israel

[3] Peter Beinart’s article about Trump’s appearance at the AIPAC conference and the reactions of many of those present – Though I believe that AIPAC’s invitation of Trump as a leading presidential candidate is justifiable, I also believe that AIPAC failed in its duty as a Jewish organization to officially distance itself specifically from Trump’s populist demagoguery, racism, misogyny, anti-disabled, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his constant incitement to violence. It was my hope that AIPAC members would have greeted Trump with silence when he entered the hall, silence when he spoke, and silence when he left the hall. Many AIPAC members did precisely this, and to them I say “Kol hakavod” (all respect). I have written a blog explaining why I, as a congregational rabbi, have spoken out against Trump, the first time I have ever done so against or for a political candidate – see https://rabbijohnrosove.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/condemning-donald-trump-one-rabbis-protest/).

Here are the three articles that I urge you to read:

[1] Barney Frank Is Not Impressed by Bernie Sanders – By Isaac Chotiner – Slate – March 30, 2016

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2016/03/barney_frank_is_not_impressed_by_bernie_sanders.html

“Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it in terms of his accomplishments and that’s because of the role he stakes out. It is harder to get things done in the American political system than a lot of people realize, and what happens is they blame the people in office for the system. And that’s the same with the Tea Party.” [Slate]

Isaac Chotiner serves as Executive Editor of The New Republic, LLC.

[2] Dithering Over Dani Dayan’s Diplomacy – By Michael J. Koplow – Israel Policy Forum – March 31, 2016

http://ottomansandzionists.com/2016/03/31/dithering-over-dani-dayans-diplomacy/

“…the real lesson of Dayan’s appointment is a deeper one. His appointment is the clearest message that the Israeli government has sent yet that it does not view its policies as a problem, but rather the way in which they are presented. Dayan will not pretend to be anything but a rightwing one-stater who views the two-state solution as naïve and unrealistic. He will perfectly represent the current Israeli government as an unapologetic realist who views the bulk of American Jews as out of touch with the reality of Israel’s situation and neighborhood. Yet, the Israeli government sincerely seems to believe that forcefully and consistently presenting this message will change minds here, and that American Jews will eventually come around. Dayan as consul general lets us know that the Israeli government is blind as a bat to the damage caused by its policies, and that it is the naïve party here by assuming that it has a messaging problem rather than a policy problem. Israeli diplomats don’t need to be more forceful in pushing their message; they need a different message to push.”

Michael J. Koplow is the program director of the Israel Institute and a Georgetown University Ph.D. candidate in Government specializing in the Middle Eastern politics and democratization.

 

[3] Trump at AIPAC: A Jewish Betrayal of the United States – By Peter Beinart – Haaretz – March 23, 2016

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.710489

Thank you, Donald Trump. Unwittingly, you’ve done something important. You’ve exposed AIPAC’s indifference to the well-being of the country in which it thrives. My country. The United States.

Once upon a time, the leaders of American Zionism divided their time. They struggled to establish, defend and improve the State of Israel because of their moral obligation to their fellow Jews. And they struggled to defend and improve the United States because of their moral obligation to their fellow Americans.

The foremost American Zionist of the 1910s and 1920s, Louis Brandeis, was also America’s foremost opponent of economic oligarchy. The foremost American Zionist of the 1930s and 1940s, Rabbi Steven Wise, was a lifelong activist for women’s rights, civil rights and the labor movement. In his book Jewish Power, J.J. Goldberg notes that in the 1920s, the presidents of both the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress served on the board of the NAACP. In the 1940s, the American Jewish Congress employed more attorneys working to end segregation than did the Justice Department. At the March on Washington, American Jewish Congress head Joachim Prinz, who had been a rabbi in Hitler’s Germany, said he had come to defend “the idea and the aspirations of America itself” against the sin of state-sanctioned bigotry.

That was then. Today, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups still do valuable work defending the rights of vulnerable Americans. But their influence is dwarfed by AIPAC, which enjoys more power in Washington than every other American Jewish organization combined. AIPAC is the only American Jewish organization that hosts virtually all the presidential candidates every four years. It’s the only one that boasts that its national conference is “attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.” It’s the only one that employed an official who boasted, “You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

Politically, AIPAC has become the dominant institution in American Jewish life. Yet it takes no moral responsibility for anything that happens in America. It has only one mission: to ensure that the United States government supports the Israeli government unconditionally. Nothing else matters. AIPAC has repeatedly hosted speeches by Pastor John Hagee, who called Hurricane Katrina “the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans” because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.” To AIPAC, it doesn’t matter. Hagee leads Christians United for Israel, which lobbies the United States government to support anything Benjamin Netanyahu does. 

This is why AIPAC had no choice but to let Trump speak. And it’s why, although some attendees protested, thousands of others cheered as Trump cycled through a familiar set of talking points about how Palestinians deserve all the blame for the fact that in the West Bank, they live as non-citizens, without the right to vote, under military law. The AIPAC members cheered because they have been conditioned to cheer. They have been conditioned to view American politicians solely through the prism of their Israel views. So thousands of Jews cheered for the country’s foremost purveyor of bigotry against religious minorities. Some journalists were surprised. They should not have been. The crowd had been taught well. Moral indifference to what happens inside the United States is the AIPAC way.

After the speech, AIPAC’s president condemned Trump for his personal attacks on President Obama. AIPAC opposes excessive partisanship because it threatens the bipartisan basis of support for Israeli policy. Banning Muslims from entering the United States, or calling undocumented Mexican immigrants “rapists,” or encouraging violence at political rallies, does not threaten that bipartisan support. So AIPAC remains silent.

It would be fascinating to see how AIPAC would react if a major presidential candidate demonized not American Muslims, but American Jews. In theory, the organization would react exactly as it has reacted to Trump. In theory, AIPAC—despite being a mostly Jewish organization—has a mandate to protect only Jews in Israel, not Jews in the United States.

In practice, AIPAC would never let such a candidate speak. The outcry from its members would be too great. So it’s not quite right to say that AIPAC accepts no moral responsibility for anything that happens in the United States. Rather, it accepts no moral responsibility for anything that happens to gentiles in the United States.

At the March on Washington, Rabbi Prinz said that, “When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.” More than fifty years later, the most dangerous bigot and demagogue in modern American history is on the verge of claiming a major party’s presidential nomination. And America’s most powerful Jewish organization is silent because it was built to be silent. We American Jews owe our country better than that.

Peter Beinart is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and National Journal, an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

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