By Larry Gordon
A long day of interesting discussions kept us in the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis until after 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Jerusalem Post Conference. The event began at 9 a.m. and featured an almost half-empty room by the time the Post’s main attraction—columnist Caroline Glick—made her appearance and important comments at the end of the day.
Obviously the brain trust that manages this event feels that holding off on Ms. Glick until the end of a long day would keep people in their seats and paying attention. That strategic plan might have worked last year, but looking around the room it seemed that folks could only sit there for so long and listen to only so much before navigating their way to the exits.
So before we explore the substance of the presentations, let’s take a brief moment and encourage the producers of this event to integrate Ms. Glick into the various discussions throughout the day at future conferences before a lot of tired eyes begin to search for the darkened ballroom’s illuminated exit signs.
Still it was an excellent program with some informative personalities filling in this evidently pro-Israel audience in New York on the news of the day. In addition to comments by Ms. Glick on the matter of Linda Sarsour and her anti-Semitic pronouncements, along with Glick’s defense in reaction to the recent vilification in The Forward of Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, there were several outstanding presentations.
Remarks delivered by Israel’s education minister and Bayit HaYehudi head Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stood out the most and made the best impression to this observer. Listening to them both, I began to feel that they have made remarkable progress on numerous levels over the last few years. Both seem to be moving in the direction of being future prime ministers of Israel.
Other standouts were noted attorney Alan Dershowitz and famed talk-show host Larry King, though King’s comments were somewhat superficial and even silly at times. Mr. Gorka was right on at his remarks delivered earlier in the day, hours before Ms. Glick came to his definitive and convincing defense.
Senators Tom Cotton and Deb Fischer spoke articulately about why these members of Congress are so supportive of Israel even though their constituencies back home—in Arkansas and Nebraska—hardly have any type of Jewish population whatsoever.
The unexpected surprise of the day was Congresswoman Grace Meng of Queens, who spoke with great thoroughness and intelligence about her personal support for Israel. She said at the outset and with great pride that she was the first New York Democrat to break ranks with President Obama when she decided to vote against the Iran deal that paves the way for Iran to eventually achieve nuclear status and acquire a nuclear weapon through authorized and legal channels sometime over the next decade or so.
The early-morning sessions included Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz.
Overall, this was a day of wall-to-wall comprehensive information and an exhaustive examination of where Israel stands in the world today, exactly a half-century after the Six Day War, as well as the promise of the Jewish future.
One of the more interesting and less-commercial panel discussions was “Is Israel Still the State of All the Jews?” The panel featured Jerry Silverstein of the Jewish Federations of North America; Julie Schonfeld, representing the Conservative movement; Rick Jacobs of the Reform movement; and Dovid Eliezrie presenting the Orthodox thoughts and opinions on this issue.
The takeaway from this 20-minute conversation was that there is a tie that binds in Israel, but the only apparent commonality is that which divides the different streams of Judaism in the United States. For Schonfeld and Jacobs, it appeared that they were advocates for what looks like the right to express one’s Jewishness by not observing Jewish or halachic stricture.
For his part, Rabbi Eliezrie of North County Chabad in California said that while he enjoys engaging with his colleagues, it is difficult to deny that the adhesive agent that connects all Jews everywhere is their connection to Torah and mitzvos. He said that while that can be neglected or ignored, it has been the Jewish reality from time immemorial.
So now back to Sarsour and Gorka and Caroline Glick. Sarsour is a Brooklyn native who was involved in the Women’s March on Washington following the Trump inauguration in January. Sarsour, who advocates for and condones violence against Jews in Israel, including stone-throwing that kills and injures Israelis, was invited to speak at a City University of New York commencement ceremony on June 1.
So who is she? Rabbi Heshie Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere, writing on the Algemeiner website last week, said, “Sarsour, who was praised by NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as a ‘suffragist’ because of her role in the Women’s March on Washington, recently shared the podium in Chicago with a fellow Washington activist and marcher, Rasmea Odeh. They each attacked the Zionists for their ‘land grab.’ Ironically they spoke before a Jewish group called ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ whose mission statement includes, ‘JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.’
“Odeh is being deported from the U.S. because she never reported in her immigration application that as a terrorist in Israel, she murdered two men and that she was convicted by an Israeli military court. She served ten years in prison before being released in a prisoner exchange. Sarsour has also declared in The Nation that you cannot be both a feminist and a Zionist. Former ADL director Abe Foxman called her a bigot. And yet she continues to receive support from Jews and non-Jews who are blind to who she really is.”
On Dr. Gorka, Rabbi Billet wrote, “Dr. Gorka is a British-born scholar of radical Islam and counterterrorism. His father had been a political prisoner in Communist Hungary who continued fighting to free his country even after his escape to London. Before that, the Gorka family had assisted Jewish friends during the Holocaust. Dr. Gorka himself returned to Hungary as a young man to help his ancestral home anchor itself in the West. Without question, his politics skewed to the right. When important parts of the Hungarian right began expressing anti-Semitism, Dr. Gorka fought them in ways that ended his Hungarian political career. My investigation into Sebastian Gorka taught me that he is (at least) the third generation of his family to take personal risks on behalf of freedom and on behalf of Jews.”
On both these situations, Glick told the audience, “It is alarming that the Jewish community is demonstrating an unwillingness to condemn Sarsour or to rightfully defend Dr. Gorka.”
“President Obama describes Sarsour as a change-maker,” Caroline Glick said. “What she is is an anti-Semite who supports Hamas and BDS, and the hierarchy of the Democratic Party is defending her.” She added that Jewish organizations like ADL are silent while Sarsour is being extolled as a role model. “This empowers her. She should be fought, and American Jews have to stand up,” Glick said.
On Gorka, Ms. Glick commented, “He is a good friend of Israel and the Jewish community; still 51 Democratic members of Congress are demanding that the White House fire him based on erroneous accusations. You have to stand up for your friends,” Glick said.
So this is why the JPost folks keep Caroline Glick as the final speaker of the day. She hits the nail on the head and tells the truth like it is no matter how unbelievable or painful.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.