OpinionU.S. News

Should Deborah Lipstadt resign in protest?

She has the opportunity to be remembered as a true heroine—someone who defended the Jewish state in its hour of need.

Journalist Abigail Pogrebin (left) interviews Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, at the Anti-Defamation League's "Never Is Now" conference, held in New York on March 6-7, 2024. Credit: ADL.
Journalist Abigail Pogrebin (left) interviews Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, at the Anti-Defamation League's "Never Is Now" conference, held in New York on March 6-7, 2024. Credit: ADL.
Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.  

U.S. President Biden’s suspension of weapons deliveries to Israel places Deborah Lipstadt, the most prominent Jewish member of his administration, in quite a bind. How will she respond?

Let us recall the example set by Mark Siegel in 1978. He was the Carter administration’s liaison to the Jewish community when President Jimmy Carter decided to provide deadly fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The president expected Siegel to convince American Jews to accept the weapons deal.

In early March 1978, Siegel addressed 900 young leaders of the United Jewish Appeal. Delegates began booing him. Siegel was a loyal member of the Carter administration, but he had a conscience.

Discarding his prepared text (according to The New York Times), he proceeded to deliver “an emotional statement of his own commitment to Israel.” He said that he wanted to “take off my White House hat and tell you what I feel as an American, a Jew and a committed Zionist,” speaking at length about “a recent visit to Israel, the strong emotions it aroused in him and his determination to do nothing to harm Israel.”

But you can’t “take off your White House hat” when you are still doing the White House’s dirty work of selling the arms deal to American Jews. “Mark found himself in the excruciating position of defending a policy he did not really believe in,” one of his friends told the Times.

And so Siegel did the honorable thing: He resigned.

Also, let’s remember the example set by Professor Walter Reich in 1998. The Clinton administration tried to orchestrate a visit by mass murderer Yasser Arafat to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The idea was to “sell” Arafat to the Jewish community. The museum’s leaders went along with this insulting farce; they demanded that Reich escort the arch-terrorist on his visit. Reich refused—in effect resigning, because he knew that would be pushed out as a result.

“We have differed on the use of the museum, and of the memory of the Holocaust, in the context of political or diplomatic circumstances or negotiations,” Reich wrote in his ultra-polite resignation letter. Translation: The White House, and the museum’s leaders, wanted to use the memory of the Holocaust for their political purposes; Reich had the decency to disagree and to give up his job rather than violate his conscience.

When Deborah Lipstadt accepted the position of special U.S. envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, she must have realized there was a danger that the Biden administration might one day adopt some policy or position that would conflict with her bedrock beliefs.

That day has arrived. President Joe Biden has openly held back thousands of bombs that Israel needs to strike Hamas terrorists who are holding American and Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip. And in an interview on CNN, Biden has openly threatened to withhold additional military aid if Israel attempts to defeat the Hamas leadership in Rafah, and liberate the American and Israeli hostages.

How can Lipstadt possibly defend this morally reprehensible position?

How can she defend this outrageous abandonment of Israel?

She can’t, and she shouldn’t.

Clearly, Ambassador Lipstadt will be making a significant sacrifice if she resigns in protest over Biden’s abandonment of Israel. Right now, she has a top position in the halls of power, in foreign capitals and in the American Jewish community. She is the guest of honor at all the most prestigious events. She is praised and quoted and greeted with standing ovations.

If she resigns now, Lipstadt will still get standing ovations—but this time, the ovations will come from the millions of American Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel who oppose the murderers and rapists of Hamas, who will praise and admire her for standing up for what’s right.

This is Deborah Lipstadt’s moment. She has the opportunity to be remembered as a true heroine—someone who defended the Jewish state in its hour of need. Or she could be remembered as someone who buried her own conscience in order to retain her position of prestige. The choice is before her.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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