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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: April 2010

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.

I’m on my way for a few days to New York City, but before leaving, I wanted to call your attention to a few important articles on the real issues on the discord now in place between Israel and the United States.

First, Steven Rosen, Director of the Washington Project at Dan Pipes’ Middle East Forum, has written a comprehensive article about the history of Israeli building in the East of Jerusalem and its relationship to any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Rosen shows definitively that when Barack Obama made its cessation an ultimatum to Israel, it was his action that in fact made any forward movement impossible.

Had Bill Clinton followed what Obama now has done, he points out,  and ”taken Obama’s position and issued an ultimatum demanding that all construction in Jerusalem stop, and had Arafat made that American demand a precondition to begin negotiations, the Camp David Summit of 2000 and the Taba talks in January 2001 would not have occurred.” He says near his conclusion: “The record is clear and consistent: The United States has never liked Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, and frequently stated that it complicated the peace process. But until Obama, no U.S. president had made its cancelation a precondition for negotiations, and until Obama, Palestinian leaders including Abbas did not make it a precondition either.” The result is that we have no peace negotiations, and Obama has given the Palestinians a perfect excuse to do nothing at all to make meaningful ones take place.

Second, and equally important, is the article by Alan Dershowitz, who at the Hudson Institute New York website, writes that “No one in their right mind believes that Israel has any obligation to give up the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish site in the world, despite the fact that it was recaptured during the 1967 war.” Palestinians know this, he emphasizes, and never protested about it before. But, he notes, The bellicose response came from the American leadership, which refused to let the issue go. Once this piling on occurred, the Palestinian leadership had no choice but to join the chorus of condemnation, lest they be perceived as being less Palestinian than the Obama Administration.”

Dershowitz is correctly angry about what he calls “the phony arguments” attributed to General David Patraeus and Vice-President Joe Biden that Israel is a danger to American troops, that have “now taken on a life of their own,” despite the denial by those cited that they ever made any statements of that nature. He cites the usual suspects, people for whom facts never get in the way of an anti-Israeli argument. The list includes Joe Klein, Roger Cohen, Pat Buchanan and others. About this false argument, he writes: “ By seeking to scapegoat Israel for the death of American troops at the hands of Islamic terrorists, this argument blames those who love America for deaths caused by those who hate America.”

His final conclusion is the basic one, and Dershowitz states it well: “ when the Palestinian leadership and population want their own state more than they want there not to be a Jewish state, there will be a two-state solution.”

And finally, from Israel, an important editorial appears in The Jerusalem Post. Its editors take up the issue of the importance of ending the dispute with the United States, whose support and alliance is necessary to keep intact.  The editors of this supposedly hard-line paper note they fully understand that Israel has to make compromises. All of Israel agrees, they argue, that there has to be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that accepts Israel as a Jewish State, and that is willing to live alongside it in peace. And they note that what they call “illegal outposts” by some settlers have to be taken down.

But, they write in their major point, “it seems obvious from here that US pressure on Israel is distancing the Palestinians from substantive compromise, since they see no need to give ground when Washington is doing their bargaining for them. But the Obama administration thinks differently, and that requires a pragmatic Israeli approach.” Therefore  “it is vital that Israel not allow itself to be misrepresented as an obstacle to peace, and that it enable the present US administration to discover on its own the nature of Palestinian rejectionism, as a first step toward reversing it.”

The problem they do not address is rather obvious: What will it take for the Obama administration to realize what we all know. The editors do not address what people like Ed Koch have said- as he did yesterday on Neil Cavuto’s program on Fox News, that President Obama obviously accepts the Palestinian narrative, and is not about to pressure the Fatah leadership, leaving his attempt to put pressure on Israel alone. That is why what the Post editors want, a “profound Palestinian shift – toward true recognition of the Jewish state,” is not likely to take place any time soon.