By Isi Leibler
Israelis will enthusiastically greet U.S. President Barack Obama in the course of his first visit to the Jewish state since being elected president. But they will also be apprehensively listening to his statements and hoping that his meetings will solidify the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
He is arriving at a time when the political influence of American Jewry, the most affluent and powerful Diaspora community in our history, is in decline. This is starkly exemplified by its failure to influence successive administrations to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard, whose unprecedented inhumane treatment is now even raising ugly allegations of discriminatory prejudice.
This erosion of Jewish political influence stems from the combined impact of burgeoning global hostility against Israel, the increasing isolationism of the Obama administration, and the emergence from the closet of highly vocal Jewish minority groups campaigning to pressure the Israeli government.
Today the Jewish establishment accepts within its own ranks Jews who shamelessly canvass the U.S. administration to pressure the democratically elected government of Israel to adopt policies that it considers would undermine its security and in the long term even threaten its existence.
The gravity of the issue is evidenced not merely by marginal groups like J Street, but by the disturbing outbursts from rabbis and synagogues publicly defaming Israel in a manner inconceivable a few years ago.
The atmosphere on campus is also distressing with a number of Hillel directors welcoming anti-Israeli Jewish groups in order to be “inclusive.” This mirrors the debates within mainstream Jewish organizations on whether to retain and legitimize within the “big tent,” Jews calling for boycotts of Israeli products (produced on one or both sides of the Green Line), divestment, and sanctions directed against Israel.
The problem is further compounded because the majority of Jews continue to support the Democratic Party. This exerts pressure on Jewish leaders to desist from alienating their funders by aggressively confronting the administration in relation to policies deemed hostile to or biased against Israel.
It is also apparent that some Jewish leaders hesitate being forthright in their criticism for fear of antagonizing the administration and being denied access to the White House.
There is even growing concern among some American Jews about an anti-Semitic backlash against Jewish power. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, identified this and to his credit stated that the “acquisition of Jewish power is a blessing not a misfortune” and urged his fellow Jews to “never minimize, apologize, or be squeamish about Jewish power.”
These factors explain the less than robust Jewish responses to negative tilts by the administration toward Israel and its appeasement of aggressive Islamists.
This passivity extends beyond issues relating to Israel and is reflected in the lowering of the American Jewish profile, even in relation to global anti-Semitism.
By way of illustration, consider the statement of Egyptian President Morsi referring to Jews as descendants of pigs and apes; Turkish President Recep Erdo?an’s disgusting outburst at a U.N. gathering describing Zionism as a “crime against humanity”; the Argentinian government’s betrayal of …read more