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Ron Radosh

How A Supporter of Obama’s Israel Policy Smears Mayor Ed Koch

April 6th, 2010 - 5:05 pm

One thing you can say with certainty is that Ed Koch is no wimp, especially in his continuing critical assessment of Barack Obama’s policy towards Israel. But Koch’s concern about Obama’s foreign policy extends beyond the situation in the Middle East. Yesterday, he elaborated on his post of last week, which I blogged about here. Now, in a column posted yesterday on the Huffington Post and in various newspapers around the country, Koch writes as he says in the title of his column, that “I Have Never Been So Terrified.”

What, you may ask, is the former Mayor of New York City so scared about?   Koch points to the apparent  new alliance between Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in which Chavez is seeking cooperation with Russia on both nuclear energy and a Latin American base for launching of Russian satellites. What, Koch asks, “would we do if Venezuela invited Russia to build a missile launch pad, or Russia provided Venezuela with the plans and material for building nuclear weapons?”

The former Mayor asks this question just as President Obama announced his new nuclear policy, which would disarm our country as others continue to build up their own arsenals, and just as our President is about to meet in Russia with Putin.  Koch concludes with the following:

Based on our continuing failure to confront North Korea and Iran with regard to their nuclear activities, I suspect we would do nothing. I fear that we have lost the battle and lost our nerve. It appears that the Obama administration has decided to live with the idea that these two rogue states – North Korea and Iran – can do as they please on the nuclear front.

Koch campaigned for Obama among Florida’s Jewish community, many of whom are former New Yorkers familiar with and supportive of the Mayor.  It must be painful for him to admit he led them astray.  Koch now thinks:   

There is a foul whiff of Munich and appeasement in the air. A harbinger of what is to come is the Obama administration’s abysmal treatment of our close ally, Israel. Some see Obama’s willingness to throw Israel under the bus as an attempt to court better relations with the Sunni Arab countries. Obama apparently believes that better relations with the Sunni Arabs will mean less hostility to the U.S. and greater access to oil.

Of course, many of Obama’s supporters argue that if only the U.S. remained tough with Israel, then our enemies would view us in a different fashion, and would stop giving us trouble. To this, Koch responds that “hatred of the U.S. has little to do with what we do and a lot to do with what we are – a free, secular and democratic country that protects the rights of women and minorities. No amount of appeasement will change this undeniable fact. Someone also has to explain to me how distancing ourselves from Israel is going to prevent Muslims from killing Muslims by the tens of thousands in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.”

What is most frightening though is how Obama’s supporters have responded to Ed Koch’s continuing outspokenness. Look no further than the recent column by Media Matters writer and former editor of the weekly Jewish newspaper The Forward, M.J. Rosenberg. Remember, that Ed Koch is important to the Obama administration for one reason— his influence among Florida’s Jewish population, whose votes they hope to retain for Democrats in the next Congressional elections seven months from now. You may not remember or even know Ed Koch, but these voters in Florida do.

Rather than deal with the substance of anything Koch actually said, Rosenberg launched a vicious ad hominem attack on him.  According to Rosenberg, Koch’s “accusations are utterly obscene”  because he “condemns the American Jewish community and members of Congress for not speaking out against President Obama’s stance on Israeli settlements.”

The truth is that Koch, Peretz, David A. Harris of the American Jewish Committee and many others have written cogently about why American Jews should in fact speak out against the Obama policy. Harris, for example, pointed out the following:

But the truth is that the democratically elected Netanyahu had never pledged to stop building in eastern Jerusalem in order to restart talks. Moreover, the units are in an area that has thousands of Jewish residents and is placed inside Israel on every peace map, not in a new Palestinian state. And since 1967, each Israeli prime minister – right, left, and center – has strengthened the Jewish presence in a city that has embodied the Jewish people’s physical and metaphysical center for more than 3,000 years.

Worse, Koch, Rosenberg argues, “drops the H [olocaust] bomb with reckless abandon, standard operating procedure when one is on the losing side of an argument about the Middle East.” How wrong to take the man seriously! After all he is only a “nominal Democrat,” who in reality “is first and foremost a necon.” Somehow, when Koch was campaigning for Obama during the campaign, I don’t recall Rosenberg or anyone else making that charge.  I think that if Koch is a necon, it is news to not only the former Mayor, but to the editors of The Weekly Standard and Commentary, which somehow never knew this, and hence missed the opportunity of asking him to write for them.

Koch, Rosenberg continues, “gets his 20th century history wrong.” And as for the present, the reason American Jews have been silent is because “they agree with” Obama, not Koch. “They understand,” Rosenberg writes, “that President Obama’s strong stand against expanded settlements testifies to his concern for Israel (and the Palestinians.)”

On what, I wonder, does Rosenberg base this claim? Has he hired a pollster to survey all American Jews? Or does he use the existence of a group like J Street as proof that their very existence proves his case, because we all know that they represent the “true” interests of American Jewry?

As for the real threat to Israel, it is not anything like Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. No, it is “the occupation itself.” So if Israel does what its ever smaller left wing wants, and what J Street and Rosenberg want, its problems will simply disappear overnight. And then, Rosenberg quotes another authority, whom he calls a “very pro-Israel editor,” The New Yorker’s David Remnick. That is akin to Rosenberg quoting himself. For the article he cites is one I already discussed here.

For those who have read Remnick’s column, they will find it is only pro-Israel in the eyes of M.J. Rosenberg and the J Street crowd. As I pointed out earlier, “its editor-in-chief David Remnick attributes Obama’s unpopularity in Israel only to ‘right-leaning Israelis,’ ignoring all the polls that show our President’s unpopularity extends across the board and exists among all political tendencies in Israel.”  

Finally, in the version I link to, Rosenberg removed my favorite sentence in the original version he had posted earlier, which reads: “And, of course, Koch is no foreign policy expert.  His experience in global issues is limited to marching in the St. Patrick’s Day (and Pulaski Day, and Columbus day, etc) parades.”

Obviously, Rosenberg realized that the above sentence was too much, and is so ridiculous he had to take it out. The truth is that Ed Koch, who was a Congressman for years before he was Mayor, knows as much about foreign affairs as M.J. Rosenberg or any other citizen.  I know this personally. In 1989, I accompanied Koch through Central America, in a mission he put together to investigate the Central American conflict that was then raging. Koch undertook the mission with the blessing of President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, and upon his return, spoke before The Council on Foreign Relations.

That Koch’s critics have to resort to the innuendo and slander of the type written by M.J. Rosenberg is good indication that Koch’s columns are having a big effect.  More power to him.

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