March 27, 2018
Partisan Fair-Weather Friends of Israel Are Not True Friends at All
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Last week's FLAME Hotline stirred up passionate mail from our
subscribers—much of it unequivocally supportive, some of it unabashedly critical. We can only say that the criticism generally
says more about our critics than about FLAME.
To refresh your memory, our letter was about whether President Trump is
good for Israel: We said we will judge him by his works—not his
personality, style or policies in general—and so far we like what he's done
Our critics generally ignored this thesis and simply ranted about
what a despicable guy Trump is—how he's "harming" America. One letter also
went on about how Israel is turning "too far" to the right, is sending
refugees back to Africa, and the Prime Minister is a "criminal."
This highlights two disturbing attitudes of some Americans—among them
First, these fair-weather friends of Israel usually consider themselves first Democrats or Republicans and secondly supporters of Israel.
They hate the opposition, so no matter what that party or politician does
for Israel, it's by definition a bad idea. Likewise, if it's your
party (or guy) doing something harmful to the Jewish state, you loyally
Here's the point: We can't trust the Democrats to defend Israel, and we
can't trust the Republicans—both will help at times, both may betray us. It
you're going to support Israel, you have to do it despite party affiliation. Israel is not a partisan issue.
The second disturbing attitude concerns the sense of casual entitlement
many well-meaning "supporters of Israel" feel about criticizing the Jewish state. Some write screeds in the Jewish and
mainstream press complaining about Israel's "ultra-right-wing" government,
Mr. Netanyahu's behavior or the "theocratic" power of the Orthodox in
Let me ask you: How would you feel—no matter what your politics—if Germans,
Swedes, Russians or Saudis wrote editorials about what a degenerate right-wing country the U.S. has become because it elected
Donald Trump as President and its Congress is controlled by
"ultra-right" politicians? Or that our sexual mores are too lax or our
freedom of speech laws too liberal?
You might be miffed at these foreigners sticking their noses in our
democratic nation—a country whose voters they have no right to criticize .
. . and a country they don't fully understand.
Which brings us to this week's FLAME Hotline-featured article—a
response to an op-ed in the New York Times written by Ron Lauder,
president of the World Jewish Congress. Mr. Lauder is revered in pro-Israel
circles, but his editorial crossed the line—a point made by our
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, "America's Rabbi," whom the Washington Post calls "the most famous Rabbi in America."
Rabbi Boteach finds Mr. Lauder out of line for criticizing what he
fears is the demise of the two-state solution and creeping theocracy in
Israel. Boteach respects the concern, but he believes Lauder doesn't have a vote on these issues, and his opinion,
written from his New York penthouse and published in the pages of
Israel's most powerful media foe, is unforgivable.
I think you'll find Boteach's tough line to be bracing as you encounter those who criticize Israel from the safe distance of the United
States. I hope you'll forward this article to friends, family and fellow
hope you'll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which
describes FLAME's latest hasbarah campaign—exposing Palestinian lies
intended to dispossess Israel of its rights to a state in the Holy
Land. I hope you agree with and will support this message.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
As you may have read, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other
Palestinian leaders spread blatant lies in the U.N. and other forums almost
daily—about Jewish history in Jerusalem and the Holy Land in general,
about Palestinian origins, Palestinian refugees and many other factual
matters. No wonder FLAME has created a new editorial message—"Palestinian Mythology"—which is about to run in mainstream
magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined
readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it is being sent to
every member of the U.S. Congress and President Trump. If you agree that
this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge
you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public
opinion—and U.S. support of Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by
one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able—with
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Ron Lauder Unfairly Assails Israel
by Shmuley Boteach
, The Algemeiner, March 24, 2018
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way.
Of course, we Jews believe in free speech and of course we believe that
Israel should be self-critical. One of the biggest issues we have with
Israel's Arab neighbors is that they are not self-critical and not
democratic. So, there is nothing wrong with Jews criticizing the Jewish
That being said, when a renowned Jewish leader takes to the pages of The New York Times to offer highly unfair and poorly argued
criticism of Israel, it demands a response.
I was astonished to see that Ron Lauder, a lifelong Zionist, defender of
Israel and longtime leader of the World Jewish Congress, would choose the
occasion of Israel's 70th anniversary to launch a blisteringly unmerited
and unreasonable critique of the Jewish state in The New York Times. The fact that the Times would publish
it was less surprising given that one way to get an op-ed accepted is by
attacking Israel and there is no telling how many others have tried and
mostly failed to document Israel's virtues on its pages. Still, it saddened
me to see a leader of Lauder's stature assail Israel and make such
shockingly irresponsible statements about Israeli policy.
While many critics might claim attacking Israel publicly
is their only way of getting out their message, this argument does not
apply to Lauder. As a wealthy philanthropist and leader of a global Jewish
agency, Lauder has direct access to the highest levels of Israel's
government. He could walk into the prime minister's office and deliver the
same message, but he either is frustrated by the unconvincingness of his
arguments or the fact that Israel's democratically elected government does
not need his advice. Someone of his status is used to getting his way, and
not having to listen to constituents, so perhaps a public tantrum is his
response to being told "no."
By taking his criticism public, Lauder appears to have adopted the J Street
attitude of holding Israel's people in contempt, and not accepting their
democratic judgement to elect leaders that reflect their views. Hopefully,
he has not tilted so far toward J Street that he will start advocating that
the United States pressure Israel to adopt his preferred positions.
It is simply contemptible for someone, no matter their stature, to tell
Israelis from the comfort of their New York penthouse what is in their best
interest. It is only Israelis who serve in the military, like my son and
daughter, and Israelis who send their children to do the same who have the
right to decide matters involving their peace and security. Israelis have
repeatedly had to fight and die for their freedom and wish nothing more
than to live in peace with their neighbors. Their desire for peace is so
great they have made great sacrifices and taken enormous risks by
evacuating Sinai, the Gaza Strip, and much of the West Bank, often with
disastrous and unfortunate results. The gamble on Sinai, once thought to
have paid off by producing peace with Egypt, has today produced an ISIS
state on Israel's border that Egypt cannot control. The concessions to the
Palestinians have only resulted in greater terror and insecurity.
Who is Lauder to lecture Israelis on the wisdom of further concessions?
Lauder has bought into the false idea that the only possibility for peace
is a two-state solution and that Israeli policies "threaten to derail this
opportunity." He acknowledges "Palestinian incitement and intransigence are
destructive" as if these are trivial matters when they are at the core of
the conflict. He should know better than to repeat the nonsense about
settlements obstructing peace given that the Palestinians were not
interested in peace when there was not a single Jew living in the West
Bank. Israel's government has every right to decide who can live where and
whether it is in the nation's best interest to annex territory that even
the Palestinians have agreed would be part of Israel should a peace
agreement ever be signed.
Lauder is also angry about Israel's policies related to religion. Diaspora
Jews have the right to decide how to worship, but they do not have a say in
how religion is practiced in Israel. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in
Israel and it is up to Israelis to determine how they will exercise that
right. As a democracy, Israelis can also vote to change policies they do
not like. Lauder's argument that Israel is becoming a theocracy would be
news to the hundreds of thousands of people who march in Tel Aviv's gay
pride parade or to Israel's secular majority.
That does not mean that many Israelis aren't comfortable with the power of
Orthodox parties. Indeed, many are. But they are also part of the
electorate and America also debates religiously-influenced issues like gay
marriage, abortion, contraception, and public prayer all the time. But even
as many Israelis bristle at what they see is the increased power of the
religious parties, they still choose—when they practice Judaism—to do so
via Orthodox custom.
It is also shameful for Lauder to blame "assimilation, alienation
and a severe erosion of the global Jewish community's affinity for the
Jewish homeland" on Israel. Jews in the Diaspora are not abandoning their
faith because of any Israeli policies. They are doing so for several
totally unrelated reasons and the answer is to educate and embrace the
millennials he is worried about and not expect them to cling to Judaism if
Israel suddenly stops building settlements or opens an egalitarian prayer
space at the Western Wall.
Assimilation and intermarriage rates in the United States are very high.
They are being reversed by outstanding organizations like Chabad who employ
the Rebbe's vision of spreading a positive Jewish message rather than
Lauder's method of attacking the Jewish state.
Young Jews are not abandoning Israel. Yes, they may question Israeli
policies and, yes, they are unwilling to accept the traditional way of
teaching Israel's history through rose-colored glasses. The answer again is
not to demand that Israel change policies in hopes of soothing the angst of
young diaspora Jews. Lauder and others should be investing more in
educating them about the real Israel rather than the one they may encounter
on campus via left-leaning academics who had little sympathy for Israel
even when left-leaning prime ministers like Shimon Peres were in power.
I still remember hosting Peres in his post-prime ministerial years
at Cambridge University in the UK where a student group tried to have him
arrested for war crimes in Lebanon.
Jewish groups on campus must increase teaching students that love of Israel
should be conditioned on thousands of years of Jewish connection to our
ancient homeland and deep respect for Israel a great bastion of human
rights, as Caitlyn Jenner—the world's most famous transgender icon—proclaimed two weeks ago to the world's media.
Lauder says, "the leadership of the Jewish world always honors the choices
made by the Israeli voter and acts in concert with Israel's democratically
elected government" and yet he has decided "loyalty requires a friend to
speak out and express an inconvenient truth." No, Ron, loyalty requires a
friend to express his views fairly and respectfully, even if they involve
disagreement, and then accept the results of the democratic process. If you
don't like the decision you can make aliyah, automatically become a
citizen, and use that same democratic process to try to change the policies
you don't like. You are likely to find that most Israelis disagree with
your increasing pessimism about Israel and that this is an "inconvenient
truth" that they would respectfully offer you.
Either way, Mr. Lauder, we're all grateful for your lifelong dedication
to Jewish life, especially in Eastern Europe where you pioneered so much
outstanding work. That's the work you should be continuing rather than
penning unreasonable harangues against America's foremost ally that
continues to function as thriving democracy in the Middle East sea of
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