By Larry Gordon
It is senseless and irresponsible to call Secretary of State John Kerry an anti-Semite. We may not like what he is up to, and we may believe that his approach is all wrong and not in Israel’s best interests, but that does not make him anything even close to being an anti-Semite.
That is a horrible thing to call someone and even more difficult to prove. By using the term in a knee-jerk reaction fashion we also cheapen the characterization. And now this week Mr. Kerry seems to also be getting severely criticized by the left in the person of Meretz Party leader Zahava Gal-On. She says that Kerry is pandering to extremists on both sides of the equation by allowing both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Mazen to express their reservations about the framework for peace that Mr. Kerry will shortly introduce.
Gal-On—who is not an anti-Semite, but simply holds just about everything Jewish in contempt—believes that the Secretary should be applying more overt pressure on Netanyahu and President Abbas to reach an agreement so we can get it over with already and get to the next phase of the process, which is probably the falling apart of the so-called peace process.
On the other hand, with some Knesset members and others who garner media attention in Israel labeling Kerry as anti-Semitic, we needed someone to come to the rescue and declare that Mr. Kerry was exactly the opposite of that and was rather a well-meaning, great lover of Israel and the Jewish people. For now, Avigdor Lieberman, the usually verbose foreign minister, has stepped up, saying that former senator Kerry is one of Israel’s greatest friends in the world. That was a good, timely, and pragmatic move, because while usually critical of Lieberman’s extreme positions, the U.S. State Department has rushed to lavish great praise on Lieberman, who sees himself as a prime candidate for leadership beyond the Netanyahu years in Israel. What better way to achieve this than by saying nice things about John Kerry and Barack Obama?
By the way, what is with this silly name-calling anyway? Are these statesmen or small children? On Sunday, Lieberman said that he was just objecting to the labeling and name-calling of Kerry and not really the substance of what the Secretary of State was trying to accomplish. As we have explained in this space previously, the American efforts in Israel are straight out of the “nothing new under the sun” file.
The Obama administration is mired in failure. Its last hope (or perhaps only hope) is to exploit Israeli political weaknesses and hatch an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, even if the settlement is only temporary and has to be held together by scotch tape and rubber bands.
So if we are collectively so wise and so smart, why do we not conduct ourselves that way, particularly at critical junctures in our evolving history such as these events now taking place? This idea of screaming anti-Semitism or pointing fingers has time and again been proven not to work, whether the accusations are real or imagined. Granted that expressing the sentiment may exorcise some collective pent-up frustration, but it does little more than that.
I had a sense of the same type of vain enthusiasm that we rallied behind a few years ago when we were fighting the unbalanced and unjust sentence that was handed down to Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin in the aftermath of the AgriProcessors fiasco. The disproportionate prison sentence meted out to Mr. Rubashkin smacked of unfairness and even prejudice. Communities far and wide held meetings and rallies, with speakers suggesting that the judge in the case harbored a separate standard of justice for Jews.
It was probably the right thing for us to do in order to express how we felt emotionally as a unit and a community. We had nothing to do with the events that took place in and around the actions that landed Mr. Rubashkin in prison for 27 years, but we felt that all of us were in a sense a target of the justice that was being dispensed.
But while many of us felt a sense of obligation to attend numerous rallies that were hurriedly organized, in retrospect those assemblies had little or no impact, and Mr. Rubashkin continues to languish in jail. The effort had the overall impact of a feather falling from the top of a tall building, and it is now apparent that this was not the way to go.
And perhaps the same thing can be said about the effort to exact the release of Jonathan Pollard from a U.S. prison after nearly 30 years. The yelling, protests, and proclamations about anti-Israel conduct or the double standard at play may produce good copy for TV and radio news as well as for the newspapers, but where are the results from all these efforts?
So scores of former government officials, who are mostly now politically irrelevant, have urged President Obama to let Mr. Pollard go, saying that he has been sufficiently punished and should now be released. The question is, where are the fair-minded legislators who do mean something to President Obama nowadays, like our own Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand? Where is would-be presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband, now the conscience of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton?
And for that matter, what does Governor Chris Christie, or Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, think about this continuing travesty of justice? Is it all okay with them? It looks like we are getting it all wrong and for way too long have repeatedly been barking up the wrong trees.
Whether it is Kerry in Israel or Obama’s obduracy and inaction on Pollard, it looks like the world does something and knows exactly what the collective Jewish reaction is going to be. They seem to be aware that protestations of anti-Semitism are going to emanate from somewhere and will serve to distract public attention from the core issue, which might be an fair-minded peace process or finally justice in the release of Pollard from three decades of imprisonment. It is as if the world says “jump” and all we want to know is “how high?”
So perhaps we are entangled in some kind of catch-22, that is we may really be victims of various levels of good old fashioned anti-Semitism, but making that claim does not seem to advance whatever cause we may be making the claim about.
Certainly, considering the overall solid and strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel, it is kind of nonsensical to suggest that America’s chief foreign-policy officer harbors animus toward Israel or Jews. If John Kerry is guilty of anything, it is a lack of depth in his understanding in what is at play in this ongoing maneuvering between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors.
If you want to know what the Palestinian leadership is truly about, just take a look at the reaction of Arab residents of Israel to a recent proposal made by Foreign Minister Lieberman. The minister suggested that as part of a final agreement, borders between Israel and Palestine be redrawn. That would mean that all major Palestinian cities would become part of the new official Arab Palestine. The protests across the board from Arabs living in Israel were vigorous. It was clear that they wanted no part of Palestine and wanted to continue living in the “apartheid state” of Israel that has been discriminating so much against them over all these decades.
It was an amazing reaction, one that I hope Israel has the fortitude to appreciate. In the meantime, all that really demonstrates is that our best reactions to things should sometimes take place either behind the scenes or just plain consist of sitting back and watching events unfold.
At the end of the day, those of us prone to demonstrating against matters we do not agree with are a tiny minority inside an even smaller segment of the overall population. Sometimes our gut reaction is to protest, but that is not always the most prudent or smartest thing to do. And as you can see, we cannot afford not to get it right. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.