OpinionU.S. News

The Conference of Presidents was right to condemn Schumer

The moaning of internal malcontents is destructive and emboldens our adversaries.

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, addresses the "Israel-U.S. Relations: Trends and Looking Ahead" conference, Tel Aviv, Nov. 14, 2022. Photo by David Isaac.
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, addresses the "Israel-U.S. Relations: Trends and Looking Ahead" conference, Tel Aviv, Nov. 14, 2022. Photo by David Isaac.
Gerald Platt
Gerald Platt is a New York-based investor and president of American Friends of Likud.

One of the bedrocks of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is to maintain and strengthen the vitality of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The leaders of the 50 groups who make up the Conference are from varied and different backgrounds, as are their memberships. For decades, however, we all coalesced on critical Israeli issues and concerns like security, war and American support.

Immediately after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s March 14 speech from the Senate floor calling for the toppling of the elected Israeli government, Conference members inundated CEO William Daroff with requests to respond sharply to the senator—America’s most senior Jewish elected official. Many felt that Schumer’s remarks were divisive and unjust. Worst of all, Schumer essentially put Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on equal footing as impediments to peace.

At Schumer’s request and the consent of the Conference, a decision was made not to make any immediate press statement. Instead, we would wait for a scheduled Zoom meeting with the senator on March 19. The feeling was that Schumer might backtrack a little and try to assuage our disappointment and anger.

But Schumer only made things worse. He used his standard and inaccurate “Schumer = shomer” line several times. He repeated several times that he was the most senior elected Jewish politician ever, as if we didn’t already know. He doubled down on his risible claim that Hamas and Netanyahu are equally to blame for the lack of peace. He mentioned several members of Netanyahu’s coalition he doesn’t like and called them impediments to peace as well. He claimed Americans are souring on Israel—outside a small but vocal minority, they aren’t—and blamed this on Netanyahu. He said that he had to try to reverse these sentiments or Israel would be in “big, big trouble.”

After the meeting, Daroff decided to write his “Jewish Leaders Respond to Schumer’s Speech” statement. It must have been painful to write, but it was necessary and excellent. As a result, the elected leaders of the Conference did not have to consult their 50 individual member organizations in order to criticize Schumer for dismissing Jewish concerns and effectively calling for regime change in Israel. They made it clear that leaders are expected to lead, not capitulate.

As the current president of American Friends of Likud, I, our members and many other organizations rise in full support of the Conference of Presidents and CEO William Daroff for appropriately criticizing Schumer for both his speech and the subsequent remarks he made to us.

I began this column by reminiscing about the days when we all came together to Israel’s benefit despite our backgrounds and personal beliefs. Unfortunately, some people violated this legacy by attacking the Conference’s criticism of Schumer. Eight member organizations and a ninth leader writing in a personal capacity issued a “rebuttal” statement saying that the Conference leaders don’t speak for them.

This divisiveness is destructive. If anything, it empowers our adversaries, giving them ammunition to use against all of us. The Conference has always worked by consensus. We battle our disagreements out in closed rooms and emerge with a single strong position. This conveys strength. What we are showing now is weakness. In the current climate of exponential antisemitism, this does not bode well for the future. The malcontents among us should remember the words of the prophet:

מִהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִיבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ

Swiftly your children are coming;

Those who ravaged and ruined you shall leave you.

Isaiah 49:17

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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