As we prepare to celebrate the defeat of Pharaoh and the liberation of our ancestors, my heart is extremely heavy. Over the past two weeks, I have become increasingly alarmed by what appears to be a blatant attempt by Washington to strong arm Israel into conceding land, security, and prisoners to the Palestinians. Washington began this attempt last week, attacking Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu for building in Jerusalem. After the White House publicly, repeatedly, and harshly asserted that this building was severely threatening the peace process and the US-Israel relationship, many, including some of the White House’s closest supporters, urged the President and his administration to tone down the rhetoric and criticism of Israel. Our own Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, reminded the world that within days of the White House’s chastising of Israel, Islamic militants began, once again, to fire missiles into Israel – killing a man. Referring to the White House’s condemnation of Israel, Wasserman-Schultz asserted that: “excessively rehashing this incident is to our own and the world’s detriment. The more we continue to dwell on it, the more time will pass in which Iran moves forward in its attempt to acquire a nuclear weapon.” Along the same lines, the incoming President of AIPAC and a staunch supporter of the President, Lee Rosenberg, stated this week: “History shows that when America pressures Israel publicly, it provides an opportunity for those who wish to derail the peace process to have their way…Israel is not the problem. Israel is America’s partner.”
Despite the outpouring of support for Israel by many in Washington, relations between the White House and Israel have deteriorated over the past few days. During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, the White House was adamant that Netanyahu issue a public statement announcing the end of all Jewish construction in East Jerusalem. In addition, the White House wants Israel to offer additional concessions to appease the Palestinians, including the release of Palestinian prisoners and a willingness to discuss the borders of Israel, including the division of Jerusalem, in upcoming talks. Netanyahu returned to Israel yesterday without meeting any of the President’s demands that were presented to him in a series of meetings that were not characteristic of meetings between two allied nations. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said Netanyahu had left Washington “disgraced and isolated” after White House meetings that usually involved some pomp and circumstance, press, and photographs. “Instead of a reception as a guest of honor, Netanyahu was treated as a problem child, an army private ordered to do laps around the base for slipping up at roll call.” Some report that the President went so far as to “dump” Netanyahu with his aids while he returned to the private residence for dinner. As the Jerusalem Post reported last night, the way the Prime Minister was treated “created the impression of a deep crisis in relations…Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arm’s length.” Most reports suggest that President Obama is intentionally trying to isolate Prime Minister Netanyahu in an effort to get him to meet Washington’s demands. Obama has given Netanyahu until Saturday to meet these demands – some of which are unknown at this time. Saturday’s deadline works well for the President as he would like to present Israel’s “commitment to peace” to the Arab League which is meeting in Libya this weekend.
As Wasserman-Schultz and Rosenberg alluded to in their statements, the United States’ public animosity towards Israel has seemingly opened the floodgates to anti-Israel sentiment. It is no coincidence that the President’s attempt to isolate Israel took place during the same week that Britain expelled, and France and Australia planned to expel, Israeli diplomats over the alleged use of forged passports by suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai earlier this year. Not only has there been no forensic evidence that links Israel to the killing of the Hamas operative, but Hamas leaders assert that the security forces of an Arab state were behind the assassination of their commander. As the floodgates have been opened, none of this seems to matter.
Also this week, the infamous United Nations Human Rights Council (of “Goldstone Report” fame) passed three resolutions that condemn Israel’s “grave human rights violations” in the West Bank and Gaza and call on Israel to pull out of territory claimed by the Palestinians; call on Israel to stop settlement building and evacuate existing settlements; and condemn Israel for the “systematic violation of the rights of the people of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. A resolution passed Thursday called on Israel to compensate Palestinians in Gaza for damage and loss incurred during Operation Cast Lead. Israel has been censured by the council, which was formed in 2006, more times than any other country in the world.
As they were condemning Israel, the UN Human Rights Council was using its website to promote anti-semitic propaganda that asserts that Israel steals and sells the organs of Palestinian. This week, documents from the “International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination” (EAFORD) which accuse the Israeli military, physicians and medical centers of taking organs from Palestinians and selling them on the black market have been posted on the UN Human Rights Council’s website in anticipation of the Council’s 13th session later this month in Geneva.
Closer to home, this week we have watched how easily we are influenced by the propaganda of anti-Israel media. I was truly disturbed by what appeared to be another “blame Israel” accusation made by US General David Petraeus. Written statements attributed to Petraeus asserting that America’s relationship with Israel has created a security nightmare for the US that has led to casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were distributed across the globe earlier this week. Yesterday, however, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JISNA) reported that the statements were false. However the damage is done. Those who want to blame Israel for the death of our soldiers now have the erroneous statements to use as ammunition. This incident shows us how easily the international climate that is fostering the “blame Israel” mentality can fan the flames of propaganda.
So, as we prepare to celebrate Pesah and the liberation of our ancestors, it is hard not to dwell on what appears to be a Pharaonic storm brewing against Israel. As we dwell on this storm, others have been dwelling on painting Israel as the obstacle standing in the way of peace. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz warned us against all of this “dwelling”, stating that “the more we continue to dwell on (Israel building in Jerusalem), the more time will pass in which Iran moves forward in its attempt to acquire a nuclear weapon.” Indeed, as we have been “dwelling”, the United States has yet again turned a blind eye to one of the real sources of violence and hatred in the Middle East – Iran. This week, the U.S has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions – and history tells us how ineffective Security Council resolutions are.
During Pesah, we read about Moses’ determination and commitment to his people. Time after time, Moses goes to Pharaoh, demanding that he stop persecuting the people of Israel and set them free. And time after time, despite promising to liberate the Jews, Pharaoh continues to hold the people of Israel captive. But Moses never gives up. He keeps standing up for his people. He does so until Pharaoh and his armies are defeated. My heart is heavy. But, I plan to let Moses’ determination inspire me this Pesah. We have survived as a people because within each of us is the spark of Moses, that part of us that is not afraid to stand up for the people of Israel, that part of us that says “dayenu” – “enough is enough.”
I pray that the story of Pesah ignites the spark of Moses within each of us. I pray that this spark gives us, the modern “people of Israel”, the strength to work together to turn many in our nation and in the global community away from scapegoating Israel and towards the true, modern “Pharaoh” – Iran and other nations and organizations that support Islamic terror. This is an overwhelming task. But, the story of Pesah reminds us that it can be done.
White House Meetings:
Lack of Media Coverage at White House:
Information on Killing of Hamas Commander:
US and Iran Sanctions: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iPp6b61b-BhriB3rHZVfWAapAz2g