AIPAC and Federation officials criticize Israeli leaders for being clueless about U.S.

Middle East
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Two prominent American Jewish leaders on Sunday criticized Israeli officials for not paying attention to American Jews’ liberal views of Israeli actions.

Jonathan Kessler, the director of strategic initiatives at the leading Israel lobby group, AIPAC, said Israeli leaders’ ignorance about American politics is “dangerous.”

Eric Goldstein, the head of the Jewish Federation in New York, the leading charity organization for US Jews, said Israeli leaders were oblivious to American Jewish concerns on such matters as egalitarian prayer at the western wall, because Israelis see American Jewish religious practices as “almost deviant.” And meanwhile liberal American Jews cannot support rightwing Israeli policies– including the “taking of Palestinian land.”

Both men spoke at the Israeli American Council conference in Washington, in panels on the growing schism between American Jews and Israelis.

Kessler said that rift is “not a crisis today, it will be a crisis in 10 years.” Saying he spoke not for AIPAC but as a Jewish leader, Kessler said, “I can confidently predict that in 10 years it will be virtually insurmountable” unless measures are taken to bridge the two communities.

He pointed to the “dangerous phenomenon of Israelis not knowing America, not knowing American Jewry, not knowing American politics, and the most dangerous phenomenon of them all, Israelis who know nothing about Congress assuming they do understand the intricacies.”

Kessler elaborated:

There was once a time, when Israel had leaders that had such intimate relationships with American Jewish leaders that they really knew this community. I mean [the late Jerusalem mayor] Teddy Kollek knew this community in a way that nobody on the scene knew this community. I’m talking prime ministers, ambassadors, just generically. They just don’t know– and they think they know. And it’s very, very disconcerting. Fortunately, ministers that I have dealt with lately who don’t speak English particularly well have admitted that they are bewildered by Congress and the political process in the United States. That’s good. That’s a good starting point.

Eric Goldstein, CEO of the Jewish Federations in NY.

Goldstein described the sea change in American Jewish attitudes about Israel:

For many, many years the glue that connected the American Jewish community… was a common case about Israel, aliyah… state-building, pioneering, and it was a hugely unifying source of pride. Today, regrettably, I would say that Israel is the single most divisive issue in the American community, pitting American Jew against American Jew, not unlike the differences that exist in Israel, Israeli against Israeli, over what is the right way forward. You have two vastly different narratives, very, very difficult to bridge them, and one believes that the other is leading to the ultimate destruction of the state, and the other one believes it just as intently.

Both men warned that young American Jews are turning against the Israel story.

Kessler slammed the recent decision by Birthright, the program that takes young American Jews to Israel, to reconsider meetings that the young visitors get with Israeli Palestinians.

When I hear that Birthright is reconsidering showing some of the communities that are less familiar, it’s breaking my heart. Because nothing will estrange our children faster than them realizing, you’re not presenting the whole thing.

Goldstein also cited Jews under 30:

Their attitudes toward Israel are much much more negative than they were even five years ago…. I think the political questions are very, very significant. American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal and democratic. They see an Israel that is turning again for reasons they don’t fully understand– there needs to be greater education both ways– but American Jewry sees Israel moving rightward, the NGO bills [laws targeting human rights organizations] and various other– taking of Palestinian land for dollars– and the result is a continuing erosion of the relationship American Jews and Israel.

The Israeli cluelessness was especially apparent when Goldstein was in the country last summer, he said, and the Israeli government brushed aside the rage of American Jewish leaders about two rightwing religious decisions: not to implement a plan for greater access by non-orthodox Jews to prayer at the western wall, along with the decision to allow the chief rabbis in Israel to decide who can convert to Judaism.

What was amazing to the Americans who were there was just how uninterested the Israelis were …. They were amazed at our anger… There was  a complete disconnect on both issues. Conservative and Reform [Jewish] life in America, while it is changing, is still normative and vibrant and strong. In Israel it’s nascent. They don’t understand Reform and conservative. Many of them have never been to a Reform or conservative synagogue, it’s almost deviant.

An Israeli diplomat who spoke at the conference Sunday downplayed the differences between the two communities. But Sam Grundwerg, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles, said he does find himself “begging the Israel leadership” to take into account the impact its decisions have on U.S. Jews.

Many speakers at the conference said that these issues demonstrate the tension between a country that puts itself forward as “the nation state of the Jewish people” and the large community of American Jews who often don’t feel represented by that country.

An Israeli-American leader called on American Jews not to air these disagreements publicly. Jacky Teplitzky, a realtor in New York who is a board member of the Israeli American Council, said she was “stunned” when Conservative and Reform rabbis condemned the Israeli government’s religious decisions from their pulpits on the high holidays in September.

That’s not right. Think about the damage you can do. Let’s talk about it; I am not saying you have to agree. But you don’t have to put more oil into the fire…. I do understand that everyone is angry. But you can’t go and put it on the media and put it everywhere and then get all the Israelis against you. Why? Don’t we have enough problems?

Teplitzky said that the lack of separation between church and state makes Israel special, and U.S. Jews need to respect that.

I hear from a lot of my Israeli friends: When in Rome do as Romans do. Why is it that American Jewry feel that when they come to Israel, they have to change things? And we have to change things to accommodate you. You guys did not serve in the IDF [Israeli army]. I did…. Our kids go to the IDF….We are here doing the quote unquote dirty job, and you come and visit and stay in the nice hotels, and go to our great restaurants. You donate a lot of money… But there is something about respecting the laws and the status quo in Israel.

Of course all these differences are consistent with the fact that the U.S. and Israel are more than 5000 miles apart on different continents with different languages and ways of life. I wanted to ask, why not just let the communities grow apart? But I was not called on; and the speakers all took it as a premise that the intimacy between the two Jewish communities is necessary to preserve the Israel lobby, and the special political relationship between Israel and the United States, in which the U.S. consistently backs Israel’s actions. Allowing that relationship to erode is “dangerous,” as Kessler put it.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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24 Responses

  1. Citizen
    November 8, 2017, 1:49 pm

    Mmmm, what if Germany started promoting itself as the nation state representing Germans everywhere? How about Ireland? I mention these two ethnic groups as they represent the largest ethnic contingent of Americans, including those who serve most as US soldiers (“grunts”) defending & promoting US regime interests overseas. Anybody?

    • Tuyzentfloot
      November 8, 2017, 2:06 pm

      Mmmm, what if Germany started promoting itself as the nation state representing Germans everywhere?

      Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism are the origins of Pan-Jewism.

      • Tony Greenstein
        November 9, 2017, 9:30 am

        Yes but they are a thing of the past – Zionism isn’t

  2. Citizen
    November 8, 2017, 1:59 pm

    As a long-time non-Jewish commenter on MW, while I understand the samizdat of MW, it’s quite frustrating to read on and on in MW articles, about Jewish civil war re how to spend US blood and treasure, especially when so many Americans are so impoverished and without effective vote in the matter. Many of my friends are in dire economic straits, and none of us agree with how our government caters to AIPAC matrix. We also know who actually serves in the US military, and who does not. Anybody?

    • Egbert
      November 8, 2017, 5:39 pm

      “As a long-time non-Jewish commenter on MW”

      Ditto.

      As an ex-believer (not quite the right word) in the Exodus story (film not biblical) and the ‘plucky little Israel’ story, it pains me to say this. Following the end of WWII, there was the concept of the ‘Good German’ who claimed to not know what was done in his/her name. They say that history may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes.

      • druid
        November 9, 2017, 11:46 am

        That means that all Jews, good or not, are complicit in the actions of Israel in Palestine, the US, everywhere!

      • eljay
        November 9, 2017, 12:05 pm

        || druid: That means that all Jews, good or not, are complicit in the actions of Israel in Palestine, the US, everywhere! ||

        Resident Zionist JeffB seems to think so:

        There is nothing anti-Semitic with blaming Jews for stuff that Jews institutionally support. … Not holding the Jews responsible for Jewish policy on the excuse that “well some Jews didn’t agree” is denying them agency. …

        Also:

        Jews in America have chosen to identify with and institutionally support Israel. While not Israeli, they are cousins. As such they get some degree of collective credit for Israelis achievements and some degree of blame for Israel’s failings.

      • Kathleen
        November 10, 2017, 1:41 pm

        “Good German” who did not know. Just like the “good American” who stays willfully ignorant of what U.S. (Israel and coalition wars) invasions of Iraq, Libya, arming unknown rebels in Syria.

        Quite the sick phenomena.

    • Kathleen
      November 10, 2017, 1:45 pm

      “how to spend US blood and treasure,” In a 1996 Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies paper prepared for Binyamin Netanyahu, the authors—including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, now, respectively, chair of the Defense Policy Board and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy—advised Israel to “shape its strategic environment by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria,” and to “focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq–an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” It’s all heady stuff, but perhaps the most interesting parts are references to realizing the “new strategy for securing the realm” by “working closely with” or working “in cooperation” with Turkey.

  3. eljay
    November 8, 2017, 2:10 pm

    So much breast-beating, but not a word about:
    – ending the evils of Zionism and the colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” project; and
    – applying justice, accountability and equality to I-P.

    Aggressor-victimhood is such a tough gig… :-(

    • Nathan
      November 8, 2017, 7:42 pm

      eljay – The people quoted in this article have their criticism of Israel, but they are not part of the anti-Israel community. They identify with the Jewish state and wish it much success. It really shouldn’t be so difficult to understand that people who don’t agree with you wouldn’t feel the need to express your opinions.

      • RoHa
        November 9, 2017, 1:54 am

        I think eljay knows that they do not share his opinions. He is drawing attention to their lack of moral sense.

      • eljay
        November 9, 2017, 6:59 am

        || Nathan: eljay – The people quoted in this article have their criticism of Israel, but they are not part of the anti-Israel community. … ||

        No kidding.

        || … They identify with the Jewish state and wish it much success. … ||

        Again, no kidding. It’s evident that they:
        – believe in Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
        – do not believe in justice, accountability and equality in I-P (even though, hypocritically, they may believe in justice, accountability and equality elsewhere).

        || … It really shouldn’t be so difficult to understand that people who don’t agree with you wouldn’t feel the need to express your opinions. ||

        I have no problem understanding that Jewish supremacists are unwilling to condemn Jewish supremacism. Are you suggesting that I have no right to comment on anything unless it agrees with my opinion?

      • Nathan
        November 9, 2017, 8:17 am

        eljay – Sure you have the right to comment. Actually, I find your style to be intriguing (you have the style of mantra; i.e. you like to repeat the very same line endlessly). However, I did find it surprising that you had an expectation that someone else would repeat the mantra. I thought that I’d be helpful by pointing out to you that there are people out there who see things differently.

        In your answer to me, you express with your “no kidding” a supposed understanding that you know that there are other opinions out there; however, in reality you don’t understand that there is another way of seeing things. Your assumption is that those who see things differently are evil.

      • eljay
        November 9, 2017, 9:15 am

        || Nathan: eljay – Sure you have the right to comment. … ||

        That’s good to know. :-)

        || … Actually, I find your style to be intriguing (you have the style of mantra; i.e. you like to repeat the very same line endlessly). … ||

        Gosh, I’m so sorry for the repetition, but I just one simple man who doesn’t have the vast resources of Zionism at his disposal to keep things fresh and interesting. :-(

        || … However, I did find it surprising that you had an expectation that someone else would repeat the mantra. … ||

        I find it surprising that you (deliberately?) misinterpret as “expectation” my reaction to what I read.

        || … I thought that I’d be helpful by pointing out to you that there are people out there who see things differently. … ||

        I’m well aware that there are people who see things differently: Every day here at MW, you and your fellow defenders of Jewish supremacism and the colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist Jewish State” project make that abundantly clear.

        || … In your answer to me, you express with your “no kidding” a supposed understanding that you know that there are other opinions out there; however, in reality you don’t understand that there is another way of seeing things. Your assumption is that those who see things differently are evil. ||

        Is Jack Green away today and you’re handling his workload? I do understand that there are different ways of seeing things. What you don’t seem to understand is that not all points of view are morally valid. Then again, maybe you think it’s morally valid for people to “see things differently” about rape or child pornography or even anti-Semitism.

      • amigo
        November 9, 2017, 3:12 pm

        Eljay , it might be advisable to remind nathan that your input is for the Readers , the vast majority of whom , do not post and may be casual observers.Also , new readers check MW all the time.

        Nathan thinks your efforts are directed at him or other zio apologists who sully this site with their hasbara and lies .

        So keep posting your repetitive truths to ensure that the thousands of readers do not get hoodwinked by propagandists like Nathan and co.If Nathan is bored –let him skedaddle off to a zionist site–if they will tolerate him for more than a week or two.

      • eljay
        November 9, 2017, 3:29 pm

        || amigo: Eljay … Nathan thinks your efforts are directed at him or other zio apologists who sully this site with their hasbara and lies . … ||

        I’m just a simply guy expressing my opinion. I’m sure it’s not so difficult for him to understand that people who don’t agree with him wouldn’t feel the need to express his opinions. ;-)

        || … So keep posting your repetitive truths to ensure that the thousands of readers do not get hoodwinked by propagandists like Nathan and co. … ||

        I intend to. :-)

      • Mooser
        November 9, 2017, 7:15 pm

        “I thought that I’d be helpful by pointing out to you that there are people out there who see things differently.”

        Why, I’ve heard there are people like to die!

      • Mooser
        November 10, 2017, 11:21 am

        “.If Nathan is bored –let him skedaddle off to a zionist site–if they will tolerate him for more than a week or two.”

        The only thing worse than hearing from “Nathan” in opposition would be having “Nathan” in agreement.

  4. yourstruly
    November 9, 2017, 2:16 am

    Don’t know whether the public of either GB or the USA would care but how about the two recent disclosures of clandestine Zionist collusion with high level government officials in both nations. Here in America we find alleged rapist & rabid Zionist Harvey Weinstein asking Israeli PM Ehud Barak for the name of an Israeli agency that might help him get off the hook on some personal (monkey) business matters (now featured prominently on both msm and the internet). Barack comes up with the Black Box, an organization made up of ex-Mosad agents that apparently specializes in saving the reputations of the wealthy and powerful from assorted scandals and general mayhem. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, International Development Secretary & staunch Zionist Priti Patel – for secretly meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu & other Israeli officials – has just resigned.

    The relevance of the shake-up in the Conservative government is that this could lead to its fall, with fresh elections very likely to carry Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street. And Corbyn remains steadfast in his support of justice for the Palestinian people.

    As for the relevance of the Weinstein mess to the Palestinian cause, how is it that he’s so closely connected to Israeli leaders that he turns to them when he’s in trouble. What else, but that he’s an Israel-firster. Israel-firsters on this side of the Atlantic, Israel-firsters across the Atlantic. Might this be show-down time?

  5. Jasonius Maximus
    November 10, 2017, 12:21 am

    But, but, but… Bibi constantly “wows” Americans with his intricate knowledge of American culture every time he drops Derek Jeter’s name at the U.N. General Assembly and AIPAC Conference!

  6. Kathleen
    November 10, 2017, 1:56 pm

    “Kessler elaborated:

    There was once a time, when Israel had leaders that had such intimate relationships with American Jewish leaders that they really knew this community. I mean [the late Jerusalem mayor] Teddy Kollek knew this community in a way that nobody on the scene knew this community. I’m talking prime ministers, ambassadors, just generically. They just don’t know– and they think they know. And it’s very, very disconcerting. Fortunately, ministers that I have dealt with lately who don’t speak English particularly well have admitted that they are bewildered by Congress and the political process in the United States. That’s good. That’s a good starting point.”

    Come on they know how the U.S. congress etc works. They know how powerful the I lobby has been and continues to be. This claim that things have changed in regard to the U.S. and Israel is a bunch of malarkey

    Yes people have become more aware so called liberal Jews have aligned their domestic liberal values with Israel and what has and is going on.

    However Israeli leaders clearly know how it works
    BB “America will not get in our way”

  7. Kathleen
    November 10, 2017, 2:09 pm

    Kessler knows that Aipac and former Aipac officials being investigated for espionage were able to get the 9 time delayed trial dismissed by Obama and Holder not long after taking office. They know how it works

    Aipac etc able to have their espionage case swept under rug
    https://fas.org/sgp/jud/aipac/index.html

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/may/01/aipac-israel-lobby-lobbying-washington

    https://www.thenation.com/article/spy-story-harman-saban-and-aipac/

  8. jackal
    November 13, 2017, 2:28 am

    Thanks, Kathleen, for the videos and the news articles. I believe they are pertinent to the discussion, but have probably been viewed by all who frequent this site.
    I think Israelis and American Jews are probably among the best of the best when it comes to psychoanalyzing the American people, the US gov’t, European gov’ts, and those who pretend to run them. IMHO, the US is run by its military, its media, its one-percent, and the elected congressmen and women who have been forced to kowtow to groups like AIPAC who contribute money to their elections. What you read in the article above is simply another ploy to play the innocent, to get the sympathy of Americans. Those who tend to believe any BS that comes their way, eg. religious fanatics, will fall for this as well, as did the many idiots that stood up and applauded Yahoo’s speech.

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