Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eric Yoffie

Left Finds New Way to Demonize Settlers

One of the observations that unites the Middle East commentariat–right, left, and center–is that the Obama administration’s obsession with Israeli settlements has been counterproductive to peacemaking efforts. That doesn’t mean everyone approves of settlement building, just that there is wide agreement on one of the enduring truisms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: settlements are not the main obstacle to peace.

But according to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, they are the main obstacle preventing American Jews from staying connected to Israel. Yoffie writes in Haaretz:

I spoke a few weeks ago with someone who works with American Jewish organizations in planning programs for their meetings and conventions. “Israel is out,” he told me. The demand for speakers about Israel or from Israel has dropped dramatically over the last decade. American Jews are simply interested in other things.

This was a man who understands the U.S. Jewish zeitgeist, and I was initially stunned by his statement. After all, he was not referring to the assimilated minority of Jews who are distancing themselves from all things Jewish; neither was he talking about the anti-Israel Left. He was describing the mainstream, organized Jewish community, which—sadly, tragically—is drifting away from its deep connection to the State of Israel.

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One of the observations that unites the Middle East commentariat–right, left, and center–is that the Obama administration’s obsession with Israeli settlements has been counterproductive to peacemaking efforts. That doesn’t mean everyone approves of settlement building, just that there is wide agreement on one of the enduring truisms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: settlements are not the main obstacle to peace.

But according to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, they are the main obstacle preventing American Jews from staying connected to Israel. Yoffie writes in Haaretz:

I spoke a few weeks ago with someone who works with American Jewish organizations in planning programs for their meetings and conventions. “Israel is out,” he told me. The demand for speakers about Israel or from Israel has dropped dramatically over the last decade. American Jews are simply interested in other things.

This was a man who understands the U.S. Jewish zeitgeist, and I was initially stunned by his statement. After all, he was not referring to the assimilated minority of Jews who are distancing themselves from all things Jewish; neither was he talking about the anti-Israel Left. He was describing the mainstream, organized Jewish community, which—sadly, tragically—is drifting away from its deep connection to the State of Israel.

There are two important problems with what Yoffie says here, though they are not the main problem with his article. The first is that the American Jewish drift away from Israel is a widely debunked myth. Second, a fading interest in speakers from Israel is not at all representative of American Jews’ connection to Israel.

But the biggest problem with the article is Yoffie’s stated reason for the mythical Jewish detachment from Israel that isn’t happening:

The settlement enterprise, long the central issue of Israel’s internal politics, has become the constant, harping theme of political discussion about the Jewish State, causing concern, dismay, and confusion among even the most committed American Jews.

While some Jewish leaders (full disclosure: I have done this myself) attribute the focus on settlement to unfriendly press coverage in America, in reality the opposite is true. Many American Jews read Israel’s daily press, now widely available in English, and see that the obsession with settlement comes from the Israeli side and not the American side.

Yoffie also calls the settlement movement the “NRA of Israel.” I’m not sure if he’s trying to insult gun owners or Israelis–or both.

Additionally, the settlement-related news today is positive–Israel’s government evacuated a settlement and moved the village’s inhabitants without incident. Even the New York Times was forced to admit, through gritted teeth no doubt, that this was “the first peaceful evacuation of a Jewish settlement from the occupied territories in memory.” (Related question: Whose memory? The reporter’s? Is it now journalistically acceptable to say that you can’t remember the last time something happened and didn’t have any interest in trying to find out?)

But that good news was in the American press, which Yoffie says is no longer influencing Americans. We must look to the Israeli press, then, to see what could be causing American Jews to stop being interested in listening to presentations by Israeli convention speakers. And sure enough, there was some bad news about violent Israelis. From Haaretz:

On Saturday, Israel’s social protest turned violent as thousands of Israelis clashed with police, blocked roads, and smashed bank windows.

“What we saw was not a popular protest but a planned web of events including law infractions and violence,” [Police Commissioner Yohanan] Danino said.

So Israel’s leftist protesters are violent rioters? That is troubling indeed. Perhaps Yoffie will address that in a future column. In the meantime, Israeli leftists should learn how to comport themselves within the bounds of respectability–like the Ulpana settlers. American Jews are watching, you know.

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No “Mystery” Why Liberal Jews Refuse to Criticize Obama

Well, here’s the latest on the “will American Jewry every wake up?” front:

The time has come for the centrist and liberal elements of the American Jewish community to get serious about mobilizing support against a nuclear Iran. Their failure to do so until now is somewhat of a puzzle. It may be that they have simply not recognized the absolute urgency of the situation. It may also be that they are not championing this issue because others see it as a parochial one, and American Jews do not like to be perceived as self-serving. Yet it would be a terrible mistake to fall into this trap.

American Jews should never hesitate to promote the welfare of Israel, a democratic ally of the United States. In any case, there is another argument to be made: A nuclear Iran is a clear threat to America’s strategic interests. It would increase the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and encourage Egypt and Saudi Arabia to seek nuclear weapons of their own, leading to an arms race that would destabilize the region and the world.

Who is it? Eric Yoffie, who’s done a fair bit of excuse-mongering for the Obama team and cheerleading for its bully-boy tactics with Israel. Yes, this latest  message is helpful, but there is no “mystery” as to why Jews have been so silent. It is, of course, the “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, which is becoming increasingly less pro-Israel and has given us the most Israel-hostile president we’ve ever had. If the president perpetrating an assault on Israel and producing a feeble Iran policy were a Republican, I have no doubt American Jews would be up in arms.

But alas, Yoffie quickly goes off the rails with this doozy:

The time has also come for the conservative wing of the Jewish community to get serious about Iran. Jewish conservatives have been more aware than liberals of the magnitude of the Iranian threat, but they have been acting in ways likely to make matters worse rather than better.

Huh? Conservative Jews not serious about Iran? I’d be interested to find a single conservative elected Jewish leader or candidate or a conservative Jewish journalist who’s not very serious indeed about Iran. What he means is that under no circumstances must Jews criticize Obama, the jewel of the American left. And he isn’t about to launch any serious critique himself. (“The Obama administration has a reasonably good record to date, and has recently adopted a tougher, more confrontational tone.”) And in fact Yoffie’s focus seems to be on those darn critics of Obama: “Too many American Jews — many, but not all, in the conservative camp — have chosen to pour out contempt for the Obama administration in language that is harsher than anything I have heard in three decades of involvement in American Jewish life.”

It’s progress when liberal Jews recognize they’ve been derelict, but rather than “pour out contempt” for conservative Jews — who have been struggling mightily to sound the alarm and rouse their coreligionists — it might be helpful for Yoffie to cease playing defense for the administration and offer a serious challenge: will Obama use military force if sanctions fail? Will he pledge to provide unqualified support for Israel if the Jewish state finds it necessary to strike Iran? Then we might really make some progress with the administration.

Well, here’s the latest on the “will American Jewry every wake up?” front:

The time has come for the centrist and liberal elements of the American Jewish community to get serious about mobilizing support against a nuclear Iran. Their failure to do so until now is somewhat of a puzzle. It may be that they have simply not recognized the absolute urgency of the situation. It may also be that they are not championing this issue because others see it as a parochial one, and American Jews do not like to be perceived as self-serving. Yet it would be a terrible mistake to fall into this trap.

American Jews should never hesitate to promote the welfare of Israel, a democratic ally of the United States. In any case, there is another argument to be made: A nuclear Iran is a clear threat to America’s strategic interests. It would increase the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and encourage Egypt and Saudi Arabia to seek nuclear weapons of their own, leading to an arms race that would destabilize the region and the world.

Who is it? Eric Yoffie, who’s done a fair bit of excuse-mongering for the Obama team and cheerleading for its bully-boy tactics with Israel. Yes, this latest  message is helpful, but there is no “mystery” as to why Jews have been so silent. It is, of course, the “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, which is becoming increasingly less pro-Israel and has given us the most Israel-hostile president we’ve ever had. If the president perpetrating an assault on Israel and producing a feeble Iran policy were a Republican, I have no doubt American Jews would be up in arms.

But alas, Yoffie quickly goes off the rails with this doozy:

The time has also come for the conservative wing of the Jewish community to get serious about Iran. Jewish conservatives have been more aware than liberals of the magnitude of the Iranian threat, but they have been acting in ways likely to make matters worse rather than better.

Huh? Conservative Jews not serious about Iran? I’d be interested to find a single conservative elected Jewish leader or candidate or a conservative Jewish journalist who’s not very serious indeed about Iran. What he means is that under no circumstances must Jews criticize Obama, the jewel of the American left. And he isn’t about to launch any serious critique himself. (“The Obama administration has a reasonably good record to date, and has recently adopted a tougher, more confrontational tone.”) And in fact Yoffie’s focus seems to be on those darn critics of Obama: “Too many American Jews — many, but not all, in the conservative camp — have chosen to pour out contempt for the Obama administration in language that is harsher than anything I have heard in three decades of involvement in American Jewish life.”

It’s progress when liberal Jews recognize they’ve been derelict, but rather than “pour out contempt” for conservative Jews — who have been struggling mightily to sound the alarm and rouse their coreligionists — it might be helpful for Yoffie to cease playing defense for the administration and offer a serious challenge: will Obama use military force if sanctions fail? Will he pledge to provide unqualified support for Israel if the Jewish state finds it necessary to strike Iran? Then we might really make some progress with the administration.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Double standards, you say? John Noonan: “Israel gets an ultimatum; Syria gets an ambassador.” He suggests: “Syria doesn’t deserve to be recognized or rewarded with an ambassadorial presence — at least, not until lawmakers and diplomats see tangible evidence of the positive liberalization trend that was promised by Bashar al-Assad when he assumed power in 2000. The State Department needs to articulate clearly what foreign policy objectives they expect to be served by reopening an embassy in Damascus, but–more importantly–Syria must prove to the world that they are capable of rational action and discourse.”

Farce, you say? Bill Burck and Dana Perino find it “truly astonishing that Rep. Bart Stupak has been duped into thinking the president’s executive order has done, or can do, anything to alter the Senate bill. Executive orders have the force of law only within the executive branch and only to the extent they are consistent with legislation. Stupak believes that the Senate bill does not do enough to prohibit the use of federal funds; what he apparently does not realize is that the executive order can do no more to prohibit use of federal funds for abortion than the Senate bill does.”

Disingenuous, you say? Debbie Wasserman Schultz says the executive order is meaningless.

Unifying, you say? “Pro-choice and pro-life groups on Sunday strongly denounced a deal by pro-life Democrats and President Obama to ensure limits on taxpayer money for abortion services, outlined in a Senate health insurance overhaul now on the verge House approval. Abortion rights supporters chastised the president, saying he caved on his principles by agreeing to issue an executive order that strengthens limits on abortion. Abortion opponents, on the other hand, said Obama’s pending order does nothing to prohibit spending on abortion services as provided in the Senate bill.” Really, though the pro-choice groups know it’s just for show.

Fortuitous, you say? “You’ve probably never heard of Dan Benishek, but he’s a Republican running against Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who struck a deal with Nancy Pelosi that is believed to be the decisive vote to pass ObamaCare. More than 1,700 people have already joined Benishek’s Facebook page. Liberty First PAC has added Stupak to its target list, and Stupak is probably going to be on a lot of other lists pretty soon.”

Obvious, you say? Jeffrey Goldberg is miffed at AIPAC because there is “a dearth of speakers who approach the most contentious issues of the Middle East from a left-Zionist perspective.” Hmm. Could be that these people don’t share it. Haven’t heard anyone pining for Eric Yoffie to announce what settlement terms he would like to foist on Israel.

Wising up, you say? “[Joseph] Cao (R-La.) said that the deal that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) struck with the White House for an executive order on abortion funding doesn’t go far enough.”

Disturbing, you say? Mike Pence says Bart Stupak is “trading 30 years of pro-choice protections in the law for a piece of paper signed by the most pro-abortion president in history.”

Double standards, you say? John Noonan: “Israel gets an ultimatum; Syria gets an ambassador.” He suggests: “Syria doesn’t deserve to be recognized or rewarded with an ambassadorial presence — at least, not until lawmakers and diplomats see tangible evidence of the positive liberalization trend that was promised by Bashar al-Assad when he assumed power in 2000. The State Department needs to articulate clearly what foreign policy objectives they expect to be served by reopening an embassy in Damascus, but–more importantly–Syria must prove to the world that they are capable of rational action and discourse.”

Farce, you say? Bill Burck and Dana Perino find it “truly astonishing that Rep. Bart Stupak has been duped into thinking the president’s executive order has done, or can do, anything to alter the Senate bill. Executive orders have the force of law only within the executive branch and only to the extent they are consistent with legislation. Stupak believes that the Senate bill does not do enough to prohibit the use of federal funds; what he apparently does not realize is that the executive order can do no more to prohibit use of federal funds for abortion than the Senate bill does.”

Disingenuous, you say? Debbie Wasserman Schultz says the executive order is meaningless.

Unifying, you say? “Pro-choice and pro-life groups on Sunday strongly denounced a deal by pro-life Democrats and President Obama to ensure limits on taxpayer money for abortion services, outlined in a Senate health insurance overhaul now on the verge House approval. Abortion rights supporters chastised the president, saying he caved on his principles by agreeing to issue an executive order that strengthens limits on abortion. Abortion opponents, on the other hand, said Obama’s pending order does nothing to prohibit spending on abortion services as provided in the Senate bill.” Really, though the pro-choice groups know it’s just for show.

Fortuitous, you say? “You’ve probably never heard of Dan Benishek, but he’s a Republican running against Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who struck a deal with Nancy Pelosi that is believed to be the decisive vote to pass ObamaCare. More than 1,700 people have already joined Benishek’s Facebook page. Liberty First PAC has added Stupak to its target list, and Stupak is probably going to be on a lot of other lists pretty soon.”

Obvious, you say? Jeffrey Goldberg is miffed at AIPAC because there is “a dearth of speakers who approach the most contentious issues of the Middle East from a left-Zionist perspective.” Hmm. Could be that these people don’t share it. Haven’t heard anyone pining for Eric Yoffie to announce what settlement terms he would like to foist on Israel.

Wising up, you say? “[Joseph] Cao (R-La.) said that the deal that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) struck with the White House for an executive order on abortion funding doesn’t go far enough.”

Disturbing, you say? Mike Pence says Bart Stupak is “trading 30 years of pro-choice protections in the law for a piece of paper signed by the most pro-abortion president in history.”

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