Redacted from an article by Isi Liebler
September 8, 2015
The bitterness of the debate in the United States in relation to Iran has again raised questions concerning civil discourse when contentious and emotional issues arise.
Israeli politicians are renowned for resorting to hyperbole and even outright abuse. One need only observe the behavior in Knesset debates with individual MKs verbally assailing one another like animals. In contrast, Americans conduct their congressional proceedings with greater decorum and civility.
However, U.S. President Barack Obama unleashed unprecedented anger in his own country by his obsessive determination to enshrine his legacy by consummating a deal empowering the Iranian terrorists, irrespective of the cost. This, despite the fact that even in the midst of the negotiations, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed calls of “death to America” and adamantly reiterated that the destruction of Israel would remain a primary objective of Iran.
Obama effectively agreed to transform Iran into a threshold nuclear power and released billions of dollars of frozen funds, much of which the Iranians proudly boast will be directed toward bolstering their terrorist surrogates. If that wasn’t sufficient, the administration also agreed to trust the duplicitous Iranians to supervise their own compliance.
Last week, a new Quinnipiac University poll indicated that 58% of Americans oppose the Iran nuclear deal, with only 28% supporting it. Clear majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives also oppose the deal in its current form.
If, as expected, Congress votes to reject the deal, Obama will veto that decision. Further, the president has gone to unprecedented lengths, bordering on hysteria, to prevent a bipartisan effort to overturn his veto, and made support for his Iranian policy a litmus test of loyalty to the Democratic Party.
He also made disparaging remarks about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — describing it as a powerful lobby employing vast funds to promote warmongering — which were considered by many to be a throwback to the outdated and discredited traditional anti-Semitic slur implying that Jews were disloyal citizens. Jewish leaders were also accused of being hijacked by Likud and neoconservatives.
Only after releasing the demons did Obama focus subsequent comments on asserting his friendship to the Jewish “family” and commitment to Israel, condemning extremism and somewhat hypocritically calling for civil discourse when “families have disagreements.”
More out of self-interest than conviction, (To their great shame and may they get their just deserts) the majority of Democratic legislators — including most Jewish members — finally succumbed unenthusiastically to presidential pressure and supported the deal, rupturing the hitherto bipartisan approach toward Iran and stymying the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto. Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the few Jewish Democrats who opposed the deal, was accused of harboring dual loyalties and betraying his country.
Supporters of Israel unleashed their rage and fury on Jewish Democratic legislators endorsing the deal, especially those with substantial Jewish constituencies.
This was exemplified by a wave of vitriol directed against Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents one of the largest constituencies of religious and committed Jews including Borough Park. In response to his announcement that after painfully reviewing the issue he would back Obama, he was accused of being a coward, of betraying and abandoning his people, and of being a traitor to Israel and the U.S. He was assailed with obscenities, was called a “Nazi” and a “stinking kapo,” and allegedly received death threats.
These primitive outbursts, aside from their vulgarity and repudiation of any modicum of civility, were utterly counterproductive. They diverted the debate away from a condemnation of Obama’s Iran deal to the liberal media’s condemnation of ad hominem attacks against Nadler.
Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which opposes Obama’s Iran deal, issued press releases condemning the “appalling” lack of civility and upholding Nadler’s pro-Israel record. There were intensified pressures on critics of Obama to cool it and ease protests and demonstrations.
The media was replete with articles alleging that the Jewish community was now divided and many were fed up with the right-wing Israeli government. But this was nonsense, because despite some initial doubts, the reality was that no issue has united American Jews to such an extent since the Yom Kippur War.
As details emerged amplifying Obama’s craven capitulation to Iranian demands, every major Jewish political organization, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee, and the ADL publicly backed AIPAC’s initial lead of opposing the deal. Even the Reform movement leadership, noted for its traditional slavish support for Obama’s policies, remained silent. The only exception was the so called “pro-Israel-pro Peace” J Street, which intensively canvassed on behalf of the administration and applauded Obama’s “victory,” again demonstrating its inherently anti-Israel stance.
There are of course some Jews so totally involved with the Democratic Party that liberalism has become part of their DNA, and many even confuse or substitute it for their Jewish heritage. There are others who are Jews in name only, utterly assimilated, with no understanding of Judaism or any genuine feeling for Israel.
The majority of Americans and committed Jews are totally opposed to the Iran deal. More importantly, over 90% of Israelis consider seriously Iran’s ongoing threats to wipe them off the map and bitterly oppose Obama’s policy.
Pro-Israel elements should continue campaigning against this wretched deal despite Obama’s success in intimidating sufficient Democratic legislators to prevent voiding his veto. This will create the climate for Obama’s successor to review the situation and send a message to future administrations that there are strong Jewish and pro-Israel forces that are willing to stand up and resist efforts to undermine Israel and the U.S. – Israel relationship. But they must do so with civility and courtesy, avoiding vulgarity and abuse.
(Isi Leibler is a veteran international Jewish leader with a distinguished record of contributions to the Jewish world and the cause of human rights. Born in Antwerp Belgium in 1934, Leibler was brought to Australia by his parents as an infant just before the outbreak of World War II. Described in the Encyclopaedia Judaica as “unquestionably the dominant Jewish lay leader in Australia during the previous quarter century.” He made aliyah to Israel in 1999 and there became a prolific writer, publishing weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post, the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom, and on his blog Candidly Speaking from Jerusalem.)
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