Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rabbis for Obama

Pro-Israel Groups Flock to GOP Convention

One reason the Democrats keep hammering the GOP over the planned Ron Paul tribute video may be because they’re concerned about the major pro-Israel presence at the Florida convention this week. Republicans have reportedly been chipping away at Obama’s Jewish support in Florida, and they took advantage of the convention location to ramp up their Jewish outreach this week.

The Republican Jewish Coalition hosted a kick-off event at the home of Ambassador Mel Sembler on Sunday, with a surprise drop-in from pro-Israel actor Jon Voight. Other attendees included Reince Priebus, Karl Rove and Connie Mack. The group will also be hosting a “Salute for Pro-Israel Elected Officials” event, headlined by Eric Cantor. Thursday the group has a briefing with the Romney campaign, with Ambassador John Bolton, Jim Talent, and pollster Neil Newhouse, moderated by Ari Fleischer.

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One reason the Democrats keep hammering the GOP over the planned Ron Paul tribute video may be because they’re concerned about the major pro-Israel presence at the Florida convention this week. Republicans have reportedly been chipping away at Obama’s Jewish support in Florida, and they took advantage of the convention location to ramp up their Jewish outreach this week.

The Republican Jewish Coalition hosted a kick-off event at the home of Ambassador Mel Sembler on Sunday, with a surprise drop-in from pro-Israel actor Jon Voight. Other attendees included Reince Priebus, Karl Rove and Connie Mack. The group will also be hosting a “Salute for Pro-Israel Elected Officials” event, headlined by Eric Cantor. Thursday the group has a briefing with the Romney campaign, with Ambassador John Bolton, Jim Talent, and pollster Neil Newhouse, moderated by Ari Fleischer.

AIPAC has also had an active presence, including a Sunday event with speeches from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Bill Kristol. And the AJC has been hosting panels on the Middle East and other topics, reports the Forward’s Nathan Guttman.

The events have reportedly been packed, despite the travel delays from the storm.

The major display of Israel support at the GOP convention has to be a concern for the Democrats. The Obama campaign’s latest attempt at Jewish outreach blew up in its face after it was discovered that several members of its official “Rabbis for Obama” group were staunch anti-Israel activists.

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Obama Rabbis Must Disavow Anti-Zionist(s)

Earlier today, I wrote about the budding controversy over the inclusion of a leader of an anti-Zionist group on the list of the “Rabbis for Obama” created by the president’s re-election campaign. But in doing so I apparently gave Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb of the so-called Jewish Voices for Peace too much honor. She is not the only member of what the Anti-Defamation League called one the top 10 anti-Israel groups in the country. She is, in fact, only one of eight members of JVP’s rabbinic council to appear on the list of Rabbis for Obama.

Some readers have reacted by saying that it is not fair to ask the Democratic group to repudiate anti-Zionists on their list. The only thing membership in the Rabbis for Obama connotes, they say, is support for the president. They point out that if they all had to vouch for each other, the whole thing would collapse, since Orthodox rabbis would not be able to affiliate with the non-Orthodox and other denominational squabbles would render any list bringing Jewish clergy together behind any cause impossible. That’s an interesting argument, but it misses the point about Rabbis for Obama and the way it is being used in the campaign.

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Earlier today, I wrote about the budding controversy over the inclusion of a leader of an anti-Zionist group on the list of the “Rabbis for Obama” created by the president’s re-election campaign. But in doing so I apparently gave Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb of the so-called Jewish Voices for Peace too much honor. She is not the only member of what the Anti-Defamation League called one the top 10 anti-Israel groups in the country. She is, in fact, only one of eight members of JVP’s rabbinic council to appear on the list of Rabbis for Obama.

Some readers have reacted by saying that it is not fair to ask the Democratic group to repudiate anti-Zionists on their list. The only thing membership in the Rabbis for Obama connotes, they say, is support for the president. They point out that if they all had to vouch for each other, the whole thing would collapse, since Orthodox rabbis would not be able to affiliate with the non-Orthodox and other denominational squabbles would render any list bringing Jewish clergy together behind any cause impossible. That’s an interesting argument, but it misses the point about Rabbis for Obama and the way it is being used in the campaign.

The significance of Rabbis for Obama is not the fact that you can gather signatures from a few hundred Jewish clergy members on behalf of a Democratic candidate for president. As I noted earlier, given that most Jews are devout liberals, it’s hardly surprising–or even noteworthy–that so many rabbis could be counted on to back the Democratic ticket. But the reason the Democrats have promoted the group so ardently is because of President Obama’s weakness on Israel. Rabbis for Obama has one purpose, and that is to provide a rabbinical hechsher for the president’s Middle East policies. The hope is that it will help wavering voters forget the first three years of his administration, when he was constantly picking fights with Israel, and remember only his election year Jewish charm offensive. Rabbis for Obama exists in 2012 for the same reason a group with the same name was created in 2007: to vouch for the president’s bona fides on Israel.

The group can be as inclusive as it likes. If the rabbis involved want to treat as merely a list of those who support the Democrats, so be it. But if the Rabbis for Obama are neutral about associating with anti-Zionists who support the boycott of Israel (all of Israel and not just the West Bank settlements) and the Palestinian “right of return” while opposing the Jewish state’s right of self-defense, then the group doesn’t have the standing to give the president a kosher stamp of approval for his Israel policies. So long as Gottlieb and her anti-Zionist colleagues are in the group, the press, along with groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition, is entitled to call the Democrats out on this issue whenever anyone with the “Rabbis for Obama” label is trotted out for that purpose.

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Obama Rabbis Must Disavow Anti-Zionist

Given that the majority of American Jews are loyal Democrats, it is neither surprising nor unusual that the Obama campaign would be able to assemble a large list of rabbis who endorsed the president’s re-election. But the Obama campaign, which has been falling over itself in the last several months to try and prove the dubious assertion that the incumbent is Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House, now finds itself in an embarrassing position as it turns out that a prominent member of the “Rabbis for Obama” who are being heralded by Democrats as truly representing Jewish opinion is an advocate for a well-known anti-Israel group.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is a member of the advisory board and rabbinical council of Jewish Voices for Peace, a nice-sounding title for a far-left radical group that opposes Israeli self-defense, supports the boycott of Israel (and by this, they mean all of Israel, not just the settlements) and promotes an idea of peace in which Arab refugees may swamp Israel consistent with its indifference to the survival of it as a Jewish state. Obama’s partisan opponents at the Republican Jewish Coalition are making a meal of Gottlieb’s inclusion in the Obama list. But that leaves the rest of the rabbis for Obama with a tough question. Do they really want to include among their number someone who is opposed to Zionism and outside even the parameters of what the left-wing lobby J Street would consider “pro-Israel?”

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Given that the majority of American Jews are loyal Democrats, it is neither surprising nor unusual that the Obama campaign would be able to assemble a large list of rabbis who endorsed the president’s re-election. But the Obama campaign, which has been falling over itself in the last several months to try and prove the dubious assertion that the incumbent is Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House, now finds itself in an embarrassing position as it turns out that a prominent member of the “Rabbis for Obama” who are being heralded by Democrats as truly representing Jewish opinion is an advocate for a well-known anti-Israel group.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is a member of the advisory board and rabbinical council of Jewish Voices for Peace, a nice-sounding title for a far-left radical group that opposes Israeli self-defense, supports the boycott of Israel (and by this, they mean all of Israel, not just the settlements) and promotes an idea of peace in which Arab refugees may swamp Israel consistent with its indifference to the survival of it as a Jewish state. Obama’s partisan opponents at the Republican Jewish Coalition are making a meal of Gottlieb’s inclusion in the Obama list. But that leaves the rest of the rabbis for Obama with a tough question. Do they really want to include among their number someone who is opposed to Zionism and outside even the parameters of what the left-wing lobby J Street would consider “pro-Israel?”

Gottlieb, who can be viewed endorsing the boycott of Israel here, previously earned the opprobrium of the Jewish community by speaking at a 2007 dinner in New York for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Anti-Defamation League lists Jewish Voices for Peace as one of the “top ten anti-Israel groups” in the nation.

Of course, Rabbis for Obama is free to offer membership to anyone it wants. But if it is going to be used by the president and his party as a prop in their effort to persuade wavering Jewish voters that they can rely on Obama to stick by Israel, then its roster ought to consist of rabbis who actually do support the Jewish state. If a notorious anti-Zionist like Gottlieb is a member in good standing of Rabbis for Obama, it raises the question of what exactly the group stands for? How can it put itself forward as proof of the American Jewish community’s trust in President Obama as a faithful friend of the Jewish state when it is willing to embrace a leader of the movement to vilify Israel?

The point here is that even those who call for inclusion of left-wing groups that often protest Israeli policies like J Street in community councils, understand that Jewish Voices for Peace is beyond the pale. Any group that includes it or its leaders can’t be considered pro-Israel. Is that the message Democrats want to be putting out about its rabbinical front group?

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