It’s not clear what it will take for critics of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to admit that it wasn’t he who turned support for Israel into a “wedge issue” in the United States between Democrats and Republicans. The current government in Jerusalem, formed precisely to oust him, certainly won’t acknowledge it, especially not while boasting of repairing the ostensible damage to “bipartisanship” wrought by its predecessor.
Given the increasing radicalization of the Democratic Party, embodied in but not exclusive to “The Squad,” it’s odd for anyone at home or abroad to believe the nonsense. Even the “anti-Israel is the new pro-Israel” camp knows that it’s false.
In fact, members of this group have no desire to cross the literal and figurative aisle. It’s the liberal Jews in America and Israel who don’t grasp that the Jewish state itself—not one policy or another—has become a bone of contention, an issue to be debated.
If any skepticism remained about this situation, the Women’s National Democratic Club (WNDC) dispelled it last week, when it hosted Amnesty International USA executive director Paul O’Brien and listened attentively while he said that Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”
Yes, the WNDC, a self-described “hub for civic engagement, learning and political action in the heart of the nation’s capital … a meeting place for Democrats, Independents and Progressives to come together in order to protect and promote our democratic values … [and] advance shared political interests,” invited O’Brien to address a ladies’ lunch.
Thanks to Jewish Insider, which covered the March 9 event, O’Brien’s remarks can’t be brushed under the carpet. Not that the 20 attendees in person and another 30 via video would have considered his words outrageous enough to warrant keeping under wraps.
Let’s not forget that his little lecture came mere weeks after the release on Feb. 1 of Amnesty International’s lengthy report, “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and crime against humanity.”
Hearing O’Brien, then, wasn’t an oversight on the part of the WNDC; it was intentional. It’s only a bit surprising that he was able to keep a straight face when claiming that “Amnesty takes no political views on any question, including the right of the State of Israel to survive.”
In the first place, Amnesty spends all its time and money “taking political views,” often on Israel. Secondly, referring to the “right of the State of Israel to survive” as a political issue with “views” on both sides of the question is itself a blatant ideological position. And an anti-Semitic one, to boot, based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition.
But one need not interpret the “apartheid” report to grasp the depth of its Israel-hatred. The day after its release—following a media “embargo” aimed at generating pre-publication buzz—Amnesty USA, the branch that O’Brien heads, called on Capitol Hill to punish Israel for its “discriminatory laws and policies” relating to Palestinians.
“We encourage all members of Congress to use the full power of their office to advance human rights for all by calling for a thorough review of U.S. security aid to Israeli forces to determine whether such aid has been used in the commission of violations, and by conditioning security aid appropriated to Israel on an end to violations of international humanitarian law and improvements in respect for human rights,” it stated on its website on Feb. 2.
To counter the outcry surrounding the report, which was so damning that even many Democrats protested it, Amnesty insisted that its “research, campaigns, advocacy and statements pertaining to Israel are focused on the actions of the Israeli government—they are not, and never will be, a condemnation of Judaism or the Jewish people.”
Furthermore, its statement continued, “we condemn anyone who would cynically cite our research as justification for committing anti-Semitic acts of hatred and violence. Amnesty International condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms.”
Sure, as long as the anti-Semitism and accompanying physical attacks on Jews don’t emanate from left-wing and pro-Palestinian sources (which, of course, they do). Indeed, during “Operation Guardian of the Walls” last May, while Israel defended itself from barrages of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets from Gaza, as well as from bloody riots in eastern Jerusalem and Arab-populated cities elsewhere in the country, Jews around the United States and Europe were being pummeled in broad daylight.
The disingenuousness on display during O’Brien’s talk was in tough competition with his organization’s lies. His assertion that one of the goals of the Amnesty report was to “collectively change the conversation” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which “needs to start, first and foremost, with the Jewish community,” is a perfect example.
As Jewish Insider revealed, he cast aspersions on a 2020 Ruderman Family Foundation survey showing that “eight in 10 Jewish Americans identify as ‘pro-Israel,’ and two-thirds feel emotionally ‘attached’ or ‘very attached’ to the Jewish state.”
He had the nerve to say, “I actually don’t believe that to be true. I believe my gut tell[ing] me that what Jewish people in this country want is to know that there’s a sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people, can call home.”
Where this so-called “safe Jewish space” is concerned, he said, “I think they can be convinced over time that the key to sustainability is to adhere to what I see as core Jewish values, which are to be principled and fair and just in creating that space.”
Finally, the anti-Zionist educating Jews about “core Jewish values” insisted that “the right of the people to self-determination and to be protected is without a doubt something that we believe in, and I personally believe that. [But] we are opposed to the idea—and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate—that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people.”
It’s not surprising that O’Brien exhibited the very anti-Semitism that he was denying. Amnesty International does that on a regular basis.
But his audience, made up of “enlightened” Democrats, welcomed him as a speaker. The point is that nothing Israel can do—other than totally succumb to its own progressives and Palestinian lobbyists—will remove the “wedge” that the left inserted with gusto.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”
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