President Joe Biden has just nominated former President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Although Lew identifies as an observant Jew and is certainly a skilled public official, his failure in the waning days of the Obama administration to take a definitive stand in favor of Jewish dignity and Jewish history disqualifies him for such an important office.
In the Scroll of Esther, Mordechai tells his niece Queen Esther that she must intervene with her husband King Ahasuerus to prevent the slaughter of the Jews by the evil Haman. Fearful for her own safety and royal position, Esther at first remains silent.
Mordechai then asserts that perhaps Esther was given her lofty position so she could intervene at such a moment of danger. The rest is history. Esther stood strong on behalf of her people. She spoke up and saved the Jews from annihilation.
In the closing days of the Obama administration, Jack Lew remained silent in the face of a less dangerous but still monstrous threat. The United Nations Security Council stood prepared to pass a resolution that contained stunningly defamatory language against the Jews and Israel. It was on par with the odious 1975 General Assembly resolution that deemed Zionism a form of “racism.”
Security Council Resolution 2334, which Obama refused to veto, condemned “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land … in violation of international humanitarian law.”
The resolution claimed that the establishment of Israeli settlements in those areas “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” and must “immediately and completely cease.”
But the areas deemed “illegally occupied” by the UNSC are drenched in Jewish history. There are the biblical cities of Shiloh, Hebron and Jerusalem; the burial place of Rachel outside Bethlehem; the Cave of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs in Hebron; the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where the prophets of Israel and her modern historical, cultural and religious leaders are buried; and the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Until 1967, these areas and holy places lay desolate and desecrated. They were devoid of any Jewish presence, the Jews having been brutally ethnically cleansed by the Jordanian government without any intervention or condemnation from the international community.
After the Six-Day War, Israel and the Jewish people returned to these areas, rededicated our holy places and established a living and breathing presence there. The rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter by the Israeli government, the reclamation of thousands of desecrated graves on the Mount of Olives and elsewhere, and the enabling of prayer at all holy sites were condemned and delegitimized by resolution 2334 and the Obama administration.
Jack Lew never publicly repudiated the Obama administration’s acquiescence to the resolution. He did not resign before or after its passage. Once out of office, Lew gave a speech at Columbia University that discussed the Obama administration’s relationship with Israel, including the UNSC resolution. Incredibly and obscenely, Lew claimed that the Obama administration softened an even harsher draft of the resolution and commended the administration’s efforts on “addressing the things that are most offensive and improving what it is the world votes on.”
Unlike Queen Esther, Lew sat silent in the palace of the world’s greatest leader. He allowed his own faith and his own people to be defamed, delegitimized and humiliated. This can only be called cowardly and shameful.
Compare Lew’s impotence to the actions of former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Addressing the General Assembly in 1975 as it was set to pass its defamatory “Zionism is racism” resolution, Moynihan said, “The United Nations is about to make antisemitism international law. … The United States rises before the United Nations and before the world to declare that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by it, will never acquiesce in this infamous act. … A great evil has been loosed upon the world.”
Moynihan’s moral compass and indefatigable courage are sorely missing today. Lew certainly does not possess anything like them.
Despite former President Donald Trump’s noble efforts to correct Obama’s past wrongs, the Biden administration has reverted to form. It has rejoined and ingratiated itself with international organizations like UNESCO, which has denied Jewish history in the Land of Israel at every turn. It has turned a blind eye to a Palestinian Authority that not only denies Jewish history but unconscionably rejects the authenticity and existence of large swaths of world Jewry.
Lew’s shameful behavior at the end of Obama’s presidency, when he had the ability to bring “light, joy, gladness and honor” to our people and to the Jewish state but didn’t, cannot be forgotten.