Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

December 12, 2009

Amb. Oren’s (latest) gross intervention in US politics

Filed under: U.S. Jewish community,US-Israeli relations — Helena Cobban @ 5:50 pm

I know, I know… It must be awfully hard for Michael Oren, who until recently was an “American” academic who was lauded in rightwing US circles for the “fine quality” and “objectivity” of his historical scholarship, to get his internal scripts straight and remember that he is an Israeli now, not an American.  (When he was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the US by Netanyahu earlier this year, Israeli law– though not, apparently, American law– forced him to abrogate his US citizenship.)

But still, when the ambassador of a foreign country intervenes outright in the domestic affairs of the country he’s accredited to– as Oren has been doing here, a number of times– shouldn’t that be worthy of condemnation?

On December 7, Amb. Oren delivered what The Forward‘s Josh Nathan-Kazis described as “an unprecedented blast” against J Street, which is an all-American organization, in a breakfast address he made at the biennial convention of  another American organization, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Chas Freeman was one of the many people who were not amused.

He wrote in a note to me and a few other other friends,

In any other country, blatant dictation to domestic political opinion of the sort this apostate American ambassador of a foreign country has just offered would be regarded as grotesquely inappropriate intervention in internal affairs.  It would draw an immediate declaration that the ambassador was persona non grata.

It is a measure of how jaded we Americans have become and how arrogant Israeli officials are that no one appears to consider it either odd or inappropriate for Michael Oren to manipulate our domestic politics in this way.  And what are we to make of “a [presumably American] congregant” seeking political/spiritual guidance from a foreign ambassador about whether to allow, let alone heed, the views of another group of Americans — J Street?

In Nathan-Kazis’s article, he quoted J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami as saying,

Perhaps if he would meet with us, he could actually find out what we stand for, rather than having to misrepresent our position… I don’t quite understand how it is in the State of Israel’s interest to look at J Street as a problem, to write off an organization that represents a large number of American Jews.

I wish Ben-Ami had been a lot more forceful in criticizing this intervention by a foreign ambassador in the internal life of the American Jewish community. But then, J Street does describe itself, with apparent pride, as being both “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel”.  So since the government in power in Israel is now Netanyahu’s, and since Oren is Netanyahu’s representative here in the US, then I suppose Ben-Ami finds it hard to be directly critical of him.

J Street is currently disappointing in so many ways…  Not least, by now throwing its active support behind Rep. Howard Berman’s crude and escalatory anti-Iran sanctions bill.

It strikes me that J Street is running scared in the face of the adamant inflexibility of Netanyahu and his representative here in a way that almost exactly parallels the way Pres. Obama seems to be running scared toward Netanyahu.

No wonder Netanyahu thinks he can get away with anything, if neither the US government nor, now, any significant block of people in the US Jewish community looks as though it is going to do anything to hold him accountable.

This make me have even more admiration for the fine people from Jewish Voice for Peace, who have held firmly to their great prnciples and haven’t been scared off by the rantings of Netanyahu and his people.


1 Comment »

  1. J Street is trying to avoid osticization for its members are not old New Lefters used to standing alone. They are Middle Class “nice Jewish boys” who can’t stand it if their moms don’t speak to them. They’re desperately trying to be fair to everyone. But that’s no reason to throw stones at them at the same time “dual citizen” Oren them.
    throws boulders at them.

    Comment by DE Teodoru — December 16, 2009 @ 10:08 pm | Reply

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