(February 25, 2019 / JNS) I was stunned by the news reports on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts towards an alliance of right-wing parties that included far-right Otzma Yehudit.
“The American Jewish community condemns the alliance agreement in the right-wing bloc,” said the reports, which were repeated every few minutes. I, however, was puzzled, as there is no organization in the United States that goes by the name “The American Jewish Community.” Every single person who reported that such an organization did exist is, quite simply, a liar.
On the face of it, there are two bodies that represent a substantial segment of American Jewry, but in no way do they represent the entire community. One of these is the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. As the false reports were being broadcast on TV, this conference was wrapping up its annual convention in Jerusalem. Had they wanted to, the heads of the organization, Arthur Stark and Malcolm I. Hoenlein, could have easily issued a statement condemning the merger with Otzma Yehudit.
When I asked a spokeswoman for the convention about the merger, her response was unequivocal: “The Conference of Presidents does not interfere, as a matter of principle, in internal Israel politics, and will never issue a statement on the subject.”
The other large-scale organization that tends not to focus on political issues but does represents a large segment of the American Jewish population is the Jewish Federations of North America, which brings together Jewish federations from hundreds of cities and communities from across the United States and Canada. This is an organization that raises funds for Jewish and Israeli causes and contributes to educational and welfare programs throughout the Jewish world, activities funded in large part by the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. A spokesman for the JFNA gave a similar response to the one offered by the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
As a veteran journalist with years of experience reporting on issues of concern to the Jewish people and the Jewish Diaspora, I know for certain that there is no organization that purports to represent the “American Jewish community.”
In Great Britain, two organizations—the Board of Deputies of Religious Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council—represent the Jewish community and are authorized to speak in its name. In North America, there is no comparable group. Even the concept of a chief rabbi, which exists in France and the United Kingdom, does not exist in the United States. As a result, the gigantic Jewish American community, which numbers some 5.5 million people, is divided.
On Twitter, Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of yet another Jewish organization in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League, came out against the right-wing alliance with Otzma Yehudit Party. As important as the ADL’s efforts are in the war against anti-Semitism, this group is in no way representative of the entire U.S. Jewish community.
Both the American Jewish Congress and AIPAC are important for the political, financial and security assistance they provide to Israel. Yet they do not purport to represent the Jewish community, and their statements provided no confirmation of the false reports. As for AIPAC, the organization has been accused more than once in the American media, and certainly by left-wing Jewish organizations such as J Street, of “racism, occupation and imperialism.” It may be that, as a result, the heads of AIPAC are more sensitive to these issues and that is why they chose to release a statement of condemnation.
It may very well be that the false report was a self-fulfilling prophecy that directly influenced the position of the other two organizations—the AJC and AIPAC, the latter of which, according to a recent report, has some 50,000 members, albeit a significant percentage of the American Jewish community.
No doubt this is an original and simple way to create fake news; but the average listener or viewer will likely take these reports as fact and think: If American Jewry is concerned by this horrible alliance, what is my position?