When Jews no longer care for their people
There was a time when Democratic candidates and administrations avoided like the plague any association with those holding outspoken anti-Israel positions, much less expressing open anti-Semitism. Jews, after all, contribute a wildly disproportionate amount to Democratic Party coffers. Those days are no longer.
Last week, the Senate, on an almost straight party-line vote, confirmed Kristen Clarke to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. There were many good reasons to oppose her confirmation on policy grounds — her support for investing less in the police, i.e., defunding; her organizing a conference as a law student in support of a number of cop-killers as “political prisoners”; and, most relevant to her new position, her expressed belief that the race of the applicant should be a factor in all hiring decisions, even for heart surgeons and airline pilots.
As a Harvard undergraduate, Clarke wrote an opinion piece in the Harvard Crimson, asserting that blacks have “superior physical and mental abilities,” citing the “melanin” thesis of Dr. Carol Barnes that because of their higher levels of melanin, blacks are endowed with greater mental, physical, and spiritual abilities. Clarke told the Senate Judiciary Committee that her op-ed was a satire. But the editors of the Crimson at the time found not the slightest “trace of irony” in her piece, which they retracted. She refused their request to specifically repudiate the pseudo-science she quoted.
Not only that, as head of the Black Students Association, Clarke invited as a speaker Professor Tony Martin, a proponent of many of the same black supremacy theories that Clarke had cited, and, for good measure, an outspoken anti-Semite and author of The Jewish Onslaught: Dispatches from the Wellesley Battlefront. In his speech, Martin denounced the Torah, Talmud, and Maimonides as racist texts. Subsequently, Clarke defended Martin to the Harvard Crimson as “an intelligent, well-versed Black intellectual who bases his information on indisputable fact.”
Of even greater concern — at least to those of us living in Israel — is President Biden’s appointment to senior policy-making positions of a veritable all-star team of officials hostile to Israel. Chief among them is Assistant Secretary of State for Israel-Palestine Hady Amr, the senior State Department figure setting policy with respect to Hamas and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Amr previously served as the national coordinator for the anti-Israel Middle East Justice Network, which has criticized Israel for “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.” Within a year of 9/11, he wrote that the US should not be surprised that its military assistance to Israel and support for Israel in the UN Security Council came back to haunt it. (Even Osama bin Laden did not claim that support for Israel was his primary grievance against America.) At the time, Hadr described himself as inspired by the Second Intifada, which had unleashed a two-year run of terror attacks on Israeli civilians.
From 2006 to 2010, Amr served as the director of the Brookings Institute Doha Center in Qatar’s capital. The Qatari regime is one of the main supporters, if not the main one, of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Hamas offshoot. The US government has accused it of being used to funnel funds by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and the principal 9/11 plotter, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, operated out of Doha.
According to a New York Times report on the Brookings Institute Doha Center, no criticism of the Qatari regime was permitted, and several lawyers expressed the opinion that Brookings should have registered as “an agent of a foreign government.” The purpose of the Doha Center was to influence American policymakers. Now Hady Amr, its first director, is himself a crucial US policymaker. (See Daniel Greenfield, “Biden’s New Assistant Secretary of State Worked for Islamic Terror State that Funds Hamas,” Israel Resource News Agency, February 3, 2021.)
The regime is rabidly anti-Semitic. A just-issued report of the Henry Jackson Society found that Qatari-funded textbooks legitimate Hamas’s Islamic resistance movement and opposition to the “Zionist project,” and celebrate Hamas rocket attacks that forced Israelis into shelters and closed Ben-Gurion Airport. Terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians are described as “military operations.” The textbooks promote jihad, martyrdom, and Islamist movements throughout, and totally reject normalization between Arab states and Israel.
For good measure, the Qatari textbooks describe Jews as primarily responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I, and for having brought about Hitler through their financial manipulations. Jews are painted as warmongers and inherently untrustworthy.
In 2018, Hady Amr wrote a 52-page working paper for the Brookings Institute in which he recommended a complete reordering of American policy toward Hamas, after the next outbreak of conflict between the terror group and Israel. The paper strives to legitimize Hamas, which is classified by the US government as a terrorist organization, despite its funding of terrorism, repeated rocket attacks on Israel, and total rejection of Israel’s existence. It urges finding ways to circumvent current restrictions of funding of Hamas, including via UNRWA, the majority of whose employees in the Gaza Strip are Hamas members — already done — and by making it easier for NGO contractors from USAID to deal with Hamas officials, without fear of litigation.
The paper also calls for American and EU pressure on Israel to remove its naval blockade of Gaza and to open up Hamas’s supply lines, even though those supply lines would be used to rebuild Hamas’s infrastructure to launch its next attack on Israel. Amr’s proscriptions — many of which have already been implemented — represent a total reversal of the Trump administration’s messaging to the Palestinians that time is not on their side. Rather it is a reversion to the Obama era message that they will pay no price for their anti-Israel irredentism or support for terrorism. The US, for instance, has already announced the reopening of a Jerusalem consulate servicing Palestinians, as a means of minimizing the impact of the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
And Amr is only the tip of the iceberg. Colin Kahl, now the number three person at the Department of Defense, has questioned the authenticity of the Iranian nuclear archives hoisted by Israel and compared them to the intelligence reports on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction used to justify the second Iraq war.
Maher Bitan, Biden’s new senior director of intelligence at the National Security Council, was on the executive board of Students for Justice in Palestine in college and organized BDS conferences. Bitan has advocated for the Palestinian right of return, which is synonymous with the end of the State of Israel, as the only possible basis for a durable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Avril Haines, the new director of national intelligence, signed a J Street letter that urged the Democratic Party to adopt a platform more critical of Israel and that condemned the “violence, terrorism, and incitement from all sides” (emphasis added).
Robert Malley, Biden’s chief envoy to Iran and Obama’s lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal, was the only member of the US negotiating team at Camp David in 2000 to reject President Clinton’s characterization of Yasir Arafat as responsible for the failure of the talks designed to result in a Palestinian state.
Sarah Margon, Biden’s nominee to be “assistant secretary of state for democracy,” headed the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, an organization whose founder, Robert Bernstein, left the board, because of its extreme anti-Israel bias, and which just issued a report branding Israel an “apartheid state,” and justifying terrorism against such a state.
At least three of those listed above are Jewish.
ONCE, JAMES BAKER, then the Republican secretary of state, said (in considerably less elegant language), “Who cares about the Jews? They don’t vote for us anyway.” Today the position of the Democratic Party is: “Who cares about the Jews? They’ll vote for us anyway.”
What this shows is that the American Jewish community has lost all sense of peoplehood and mutual responsibility for Jews around the world, especially Israel. Such responsibility would include at least taking the time to inform oneself of the meaning of “disproportionate” in international law, or the circumstances of the Sheikh Jarrah litigation, or the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Instead, in the midst of Operation Guardian of the Walls, 90 non-Orthodox American rabbinical students took the occasion to castigate the American Jewish community for “support[ing] violent suppression of human rights and enabl[ing] apartheid in the Palestinian territories....”
The rapid erosion of any sense of Jewish peoplehood was already evident decades ago. Jack Wertheimer and Stephen Cohen, of JTS and HUC, respectively, reported in 2006 that less than half of American Jews believed Jews worldwide bear any responsibility for one another, and approximately the same number said that the destruction of Israel would not be a personal tragedy for them. Jewish membership organizations declined by 20 percent in the 1990s alone, and the number of households contributing to Federation by one-third. Only 6 percent of billions of dollars of Jewish philanthropy, in a 2003 study, went to Jewish causes, however defined.
And the situation can only have worsened dramatically in the intervening 16 years. Today, a plurality of Jewish adults under 30 — 40 percent — according to the recent Pew study, report no religious affiliation or no religion. Obviously, they have no concept of the Jewish People as chosen, and our collective existence as in any way crucial to the future of humanity.
And Jewish identity is inevitably ever more attenuated. For at least a decade, over four out of every five weddings involving non-Orthodox Jews have been intermarriages, and 82 percent of those raised with one Jewish parent will themselves marry a non-Jew. Even if Pew continues to classify the offspring of the latter marriages as Jews, it will be a trivial identity.
Reform rabbi Amiel Hirsch summed it up best in a cri de coeur last week: Without a belief in Jewish peoplehood and Jewish distinctiveness, there is no Jewish future. “For what are the prospects of the continuity of the Jewish people if the people is not committed to its own continuity, and does not even agree that it is a legitimate objective and social good?”
Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 864. Yonoson Rosenblum may be contacted directly at email@example.com
Oops! We could not locate your form.