The Jewish Week reports that a speech last week by Stuart Appelbaum, president of the left-wing Jewish Labor Committee, prompted Israel’s deputy consul general to walk out of its gala dinner after Appelbaum criticized Israel in blunt, undiplomatic terms.
Though Appelbaum also noted “new expressions of contempt for Israel within the Arab world,” he launched a vitriolic attack on the government of Benjamin Netanyahu:
…[S]adly, Israel is cursed with a right-wing coalition government that’s regularly giving credence to it.
We all know Benjamin Netanyahu talks a good game about a two-state solution, but, at the very same time, his administration continues to shamelessly promote the construction of illegal settlements on the West Bank – a policy that no severely impedes negotiations…
Netanyahu’s right-wing supporters in this country have pulled out the stops to slander the president as some kind of enemy of Israel.They hope that if they repeat that lie long and loud enough that some Jews might actually fall for it … enough, maybe, to flip Florida against President Obama this fall.Who would they replace him with? Maybe a guy like Rick Santorum – a man who said that allowing Palestinians to have their own country on the West Bank would be like the U.S. giving Texas back to Mexico.[Which, come to think of it, may not be that bad of an idea.]
No diplomat could have been expected to sit through such false, vicious, and partisan attacks. Settlements are not the obstacle to peace between Israel and the Arab world, and the Israeli government is not building new ones anyway. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s repeated offers to negotiate have been rebuffed by a hostile and bitterly divided Palestinian government.
But Israel’s envoy should not have expected anything different from an event honoring AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka as an authority on “human rights.”
Trumka has a history of thuggish tactics that promote the interests of union bosses at the expense of workers. Most recently, Trumka supported the Occupy Wall Street movement, which embraced anti-Israel and antisemitic radicals. The Jewish Labor Committee seemed not to have noticed.
Nor has it noticed the anti-Israel fervor of union leaders such as the SEIU’s Joe Iosbaker in Chicago, or the anti-Israel activism of the California Faculty Association, among others, even though Appelbaum claims that American unions have not fallen prey to anti-Israel prejudice.
Moreover, though the Jewish Labor Committee is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, Appelbaum delivered an explicitly political message, following the dubious example recently set by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett at a church on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The controversy stirred by Appelbaum’s remarks reflects a crisis within the Jewish community, particularly among leaders and organizations that have invested in the political success of President Barack Obama. Obama’s failure to grapple with the country’s economic and fiscal challenges, as well as his determined but hapless attempts to force Israel to accept peace on dangerous terms, has supporters considering their options.
Others, such as former New York mayor Ed Koch, who backed Republican Bob Turner in a special election last year, have spoken out against the president’s policies, renewing their support only after receiving Obama’s assurances that he will change.
And others–such as Appelbaum, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, and liberal writer Peter Beinart–have decided to blame Israel. Friedman notoriously–and bizarrely–claimed last month that congressional applause for Netanyahu last May “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Like other die-hard Obama supporters, Friedman is still smarting, apparently, over Netanyahu’s rebuke of Obama’s foreign policy on that visit–and has decided Israel must pay in order to restore the president to his pedestal.
There is, of course, another option: backing the Republican nominee. And some will.
Yet at bottom, this crisis is about more than the 2012 election, or criticism of Israel. It is about whether the left-labor alliance that is hostile to Israel, and which rose to power with Obama, will continue to lead the Democratic Party towards a false socialist utopia–and at what cost to that party, the nation, the U.S.-Israel relationship, and the Jewish community.