“Unity pledge” is a terrible idea

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee are promoting a “pledge” to be signed by Jewish organizations, elected officials and individuals that “U.S. – Israel friendship should never be used as a political wedge issue.”

I am always suspicious of pledges, especially when they are as vague as this one. Of course a ‘political wedge issue’ sounds like a bad thing, but does the pledge mean that one agrees not to criticize a candidate because of his or her position on Israel? Ron Paul, for example, thinks that the US should cut off all aid to Israel. Shouldn’t this be a reason to publicly oppose him?

The pledge also contains this:

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.

I find this objectionable. The Palestinian leadership has made it clear that its intention is not to “live side by side in peaceful coexistence,” but seeks a sovereign state as a platform to continue to wage war against the Jewish state, in both the diplomatic and military spheres. US ‘leadership’ — that is, pressure — to help them do this is not favorable to Israel’s interests. Support of a “two-state solution” should not be a litmus test for supporting Israel, and it’s time to stop repeating the failed formulas of the Oslo period.

The real motivation for the pledge is apparent from the statement of the ADL’s Abraham Foxman in an accompanying press release:

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 … The last thing America and Israel need right now is the distractions of having Israel bandied about as a tool for waging political attacks. [my emphasis]

Could anything be more transparently partisan?

As a Democrat who has called the Obama team “the most anti-Israel administration since 1948,” it is very important to me that I be able to hold it to account for its Israel policy — and that Republicans do so as well. How else can we influence our politicians if we refrain from criticizing them at election time?

There is a real danger posed by organizations like the ADL, AJC (and don’t forget the Jewish Federation-supported JCPA and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)), which is that they purport to represent large segments of the Jewish public, when they are actually controlled by a small group of activists. Even the URJ’s liberal constituency is not necessarily in agreement with the more radical positions taken by its leadership. Non-Jewish Americans can be excused for being misled about what Jews generally think about Israel (and other things).

The ADL is dominated by one man, Abe Foxman, and it shows. Take for example, his embarrassing faux pas over recognizing the Armenian Genocide, or his vicious attack on opponents of Rabbi Jacobs as URJ President. The ADL could serve a useful function if it stuck to fighting antisemitism, and it should do so.

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One Response to ““Unity pledge” is a terrible idea”

  1. Robman says:

    Well, this stupid “pledge” notwithstanding, as a Jewish American who is actively involved with grassroots Israel advocacy, you can bet your last shekel that I will not be deterred in the slightest from blasting Obama on his treatment of Israel at every opportunity, and doing everything I can to help get him sent packing in 2012.

    Our “mainstream” leaders as detailed above are cowards, plain and simple. We should ignore them…and lead ourselves.