Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is The ADL-AJC National Pledge For Unity On Israel An Vttempt To Muzzle Criticism Of The Obama Administration?

The ADL and AJC have joined together to create The ADL-AJC National Pledge For Unity On Israel:
In an ever-changing world, the enduring friendship between the United States and Israel has been a constant, supported overwhelmingly by the American people since the founding of the Jewish State. Americans from across the political spectrum consistently identify with and care deeply about Israel.

America’s friendship with Israel is an emotional, moral and strategic bond that has always transcended politics. Support for Israel has never been merely a plank in a Republican or Democratic Party or candidate’s platform. It is a core American policy that serves our nation’s most fundamental national interests. Indeed, for the past six decades, every American President and Congressional leaders in both parties have championed the shared values and outlook that bind the two nations.

This broad bipartisan backing has been vital to America’s interests and to Israel’s security throughout decades of war and a constant struggle for survival. We salute the long line of American leaders who have moved beyond their often bitter policy differences over issues of the day to stand shoulder to shoulder together on the side of a strong and enduring U.S.-Israel relationship.

The Jewish community has had a strong interest in ensuring that American support for Israel is one of the critical strategic issues that unites rather than divides parties and officials. U.S. – Israel friendship should never be used as a political wedge issue.
At a time when Israel is confronting new dangers and challenges in a fast changing Middle East, the United States must continue to project to the world the solid support of the American people and their elected representatives for Israel’s rights and quest for peace and security. U.S. leadership in the efforts to achieve an agreement resolving the conflict that results in two states—the Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peaceful coexistence—is more critical than ever.

Now is the time to reaffirm that Israel’s well-being is best served, as it has always been, by American voices raised together in unshakeable support for our friend and ally.


Abraham H. Foxman
National Director, Anti-Defamation League

David A. Harris,
Executive Director, American Jewish Committee
While the pledge appears on both the ADL and AJC website, the AJC website is very clear in its introduction that the pledge of unity is directed, in part, against criticism of the Obama administration:
“We want the discourse on U.S. support for Israel to avoid the sometimes polarizing debates and political attacks that have emerged in recent weeks, as candidates have challenged their opponents’ pro-Israel bone fides or questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-à-vis Israel,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The last thing America and Israel need right now is the distractions of having Israel bandied about as a tool for waging political attacks.” [emphasis added]
It's one thing to call for unity--it is another to say that the Jewish community should withhold criticism when Obama's foreign policy appears harmful to Israel.

The Emergency Committee for Israel posted a short but critical rejoinder to the ADL/AJC pledge, responding that:
Indeed, this attempt to silence those of us who have “questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel” will re-energize us. Nor, incidentally, should those who support the administration’s approach to Israel be bashful about making their case. Directors Harris and Foxman need a refresher course on the virtues of free speech and robust debate in a democracy. Their effort to stifle discussion and debate is unworthy of the best traditions of America, and of Israel.
Similar, the Republican Jewish Coalition criticized the pledge:
"An open and vigorous debate on the questions confronting our country is the cornerstone of the American electoral process. Allowing the American people to see where candidates stand, pro and con on critical issues, is the hallmark of our free and democratic political system. For this reason, the RJC will not be a signer to this pledge. 
"This effort to stifle debate on U.S. policy toward Israel runs counter to this American tradition. Accordingly, the RJC will not be silenced on this or any issue."
In the context of indications of Obama's falling popularity among Jewish voters on the one hand and criticism that Obama has undercut both Israel and the peace talks by making the "settlements" an issue to be addressed before talks and has applied undue pressure on Netanyahu--calling for a free ride for Obama just doesn't smell right.

Where should the line be drawn as to what we are allowed to talk about? Can we criticize Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East for the way it has apparently strengthened the hand of Islamists in the region--thereby endangering Israel?

There was a time when the Jewish community felt free to criticize the US government when it came to Israel--and debated whether it was right to openly criticize the decisions made by the Israeli government.

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