Wake-Up Call – The U.S. Jewish Community Needs Courageous Leadership

June 6th, 2014 by

COMMENTARY
In Jewish World, October 19-25, 2012
By HOWARD TEICH

The Arab Spring has turned into the Arab Winter, as we increasingly hear Israel is in a much more dangerous neighborhood as thousands of rockets are pointed toward the Jewish state by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, from Iran’s territory and potentially from the sea. Egypt and Syria are now unknowns.

The Obama administration is not Israel’s best friend. We just cannot accept the president’s statement that he “has Israel’s back.” It just does not ring true.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu calls for Americans to take a stand on Israel’s behalf against Iran. But America’s and Israel’s interests are different, or at least their timing may be different. America, based on its own interests, does not have to act now. Israel, though, may well have to make a move now against Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to thwart the existential threat of the destruction of Israel as we know it, and the loss of a significant part of our Jewish people.

And yet there is silence from our Jewish establishment leadership in America. They are either close to Obama and don’t want to offend him or compromise their relationship with him, or they face, as leaders, the limitation of consensus, meaning they cannot speak out if their organization does not have consensus, which many of our organizations require. Or, and this is important, their organizations do not support the Israeli government’s positions.

So we have silence, at a time we need to speak out.

It is incredible that for so many years the American Jewish left insisted we follow the policy of the Israeli prime minister when many courageous leaders of the Jewish right spoke out, giving early warning to policies that were not in Israel’s interest in the long term. It was said that Israel belongs to the Israelis, and we in the American Jewish community must follow their lead if we are to be supportive.  Today, when support is needed, they turn their backs, remain silent or oppose the positions of Israel.

The current dilemma is largely unprecedented, and the predominant issue for me is, what do we do about it? With Election Day upon us, it’s an important question to ask in America. As American Jews, Israel is a factor in our vote, for some the deciding factor and for others one of many factors. Incredibly, when some members of our Jewish community consider the Israel factor, if a candidate or elected official is too pro-Israel, that’s sufficient reason to vote against the candidate. Point being, consensus is not there, and thus we have silence and no leadership on the American Jewish front at a time that Israel needs more than the meek words, “We support Israel.”

The applause line of “an undivided Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel” is now rarely used by our Jewish establishment leadership, although celebrated daily by the Jewish and Christian right who have it as part of their soul. We see that the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has even faced opposition from those we would have counted on previously. Israel now faces devastating security issues if it returns Judea and Samaria, and yet there continues to be a push for Israel to reach a peace that will not bring peace, but would simply put Israel at greater risk with the Palestinians, who refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish State and actually see Israelis as occupiers of the entirety of Israel. The American Jewish community has an extraordinary responsibility to Israel now, and silence is just not acceptable.

The fact is that today’s Islamic world is looking to expand its influence and its beliefs throughout the world, and that includes sharia. In the most recent radical Islamic terrorist attack in Libya, resulting in the death of our American ambassador and three other members of our diplomatic corps, in what clearly was a premeditated terrorist killing, some Americans are so politically correct that they refuse to call it what it was.
And that included the White House.

The attacks, and riots, were initially blamed on the anti-Muslim film clip on YouTube, and were not considered pre-meditated. There were calls for punishing those involved in the film, and limiting or closing down its distribution. This is not the American way, and it is not the Jewish way. We must remain vigilant about limiting a traditional and cherished value of our U.S. Constitution, our freedom of expression. Too many are being apologists, and making excuses for the Islamic radical actions against the U.S.  Israelis have been facing this clash of civilizations for many years, and Americans are now seeing it firsthand.

The dangers of sharia include limitations on speech and free expression; extremely regressive treatment of women and the loss of women’s rights, as we now see spreading in the Middle East; and the unification of church and state in government, with the rights of Christians and others being denied, and in the rules and laws of the State. You would think that the Jewish left would awaken and speak out, but instead, there is continued silence.

So, I call for a time of renewal in our Jewish community, fitting with this holiday season. A time of new responsibility. Review your long-held beliefs in light of the facts on the ground now, and not with wishful thinking based on your world of the past that you are holding on to. I call for a reevaluation of Jewish leadership, not leading from behind with a silence that is deafening, and an excuse, a charade based on consensus not being there. If you are in leadership at any level, it is not about taking the common position; it is about being unique and standing proudly forward at a time when you are called on to lead. It’s a necessary time for greatness.

If you are not in an organizational position of leadership, you must remember that those who have transformed our Jewish history were not all  in leadership positions, and when they stood up for our interests, they made a difference. Each one of us needs to go through that same process of reevaluation and renewal, and be courageous and bold, for each one of us is carrying the torch for our Jewish people in this generation, whether through our voice, message, actions or vote.

Abraham, Miriam, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Esther and so many others of our Jewish ancestors acted on our behalf against the common thinking, showing courage and leadership, and they ultimately guaranteed our continuation as a living, vibrant Jewish people.  Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing that for Israel today.

We cannot have less in America! So, I ask, who is the true leader in the American Jewish community today?

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