Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren is currently under attack for the publication of his important new book, Ally: My Journey Through the American-Israeli Divide. In it, Oren has dared to pull back the curtain on Obama’s — and his administration’s — antipathy for Israel.
Further, Oren has hit the Obama administration hard over the past week with three different columns detailing how dangerous the Obama administration actually is for Israel. Oren’s “How Obama Abandoned Israel” appeared in the Wall Street Journal, his “Why Obama is wrong about Iran being ‘rational’ on nukes” appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and — perhaps the most devastating of the three — his “How Obama Opened His Heart to the Muslim World. And Got it Stomped On” appeared in Foreign Policy.
In the FP column, Oren points to “the president’s naiveté as peacemaker, blinders to terrorism, and alienation of allies.” He concludes that the president is failing in his most important responsibility — keeping the country safe — by refusing to recognize the following:
Those who kill in Islam’s name are not mere violent extremists but fanatics driven by a specific religion’s zeal. And their victims are anything but random.
Obama’s allies, including J Street and other left-wing Jewish defenders of the president and his record on Israel, are now out in full force trying to blunt Oren’s effectiveness. According to Lee Smith (who is not Jewish) in an article appearing in Tablet, all of them fit the description of the “court Jew.”
Smith recounts how Jack Lew, Obama’s treasury secretary and an Orthodox Jew, was recently sent to address a Jerusalem Post conference in New York City, where he was heckled. An audience member yelled: “You’re a court Jew.” Smith points out that the term refers to a Jew “who walks with the stamp of official power”:
The term refers to a particular class of Jews who’ve existed throughout modern history, people who obtain privilege with the ruling authorities and who then take on a dual role: to convince the Jewish community of the beneficence of the ruling authorities, and also to intercede with those authorities on behalf of the community. In some cases, these “court Jews” have protected the Jewish communities in whose name they spoke. In other cases, they are remembered as agents of historical disaster, who helped lead Jews to the slaughter.
Smith writes that, despite growing evidence, these modern-day “court Jews” who think of themselves as independent thinkers are instead functioning as “court Jews” insofar as they are helping to sell Obama’s policies to the Jewish community:
[Without them it is] hard to explain why Obama still has the support of the majority of the Jewish community for policies that from any rational perspective — the perspective of any other minority group — cannot be seen as anything other than detrimental to the Jewish state.
Why else, Smith asks, would they not criticize Obama’s forthcoming Iranian deal even though it is the “opposite of what he told them it would be?”
As usual, Peter Beinart — the model for all “court Jews” — calls out Oren in the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz, arguing that President Obama has not abandoned Israel. Beinart argues that Netanyahu himself did what Oren says no leader should do by publicly criticizing an ally. Netanyahu publicly disagreed with White House support for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines. Yett that is a matter of defending Israel’s national security, which any leader of Israel would have to do. Beinart also paints Oren as a man who does not support a two-state solution and is in favor of all settlements. A reader of Oren’s column and book will quickly find this is not true — in the case of the two-state solution, Oren only argues that reality has proven a two-state solution is not possible at the present time.
Next, outgoing president of the Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman attacked Oren:
Ambassador Oren’s essay … veers into the realm of conspiracy theories, and with an element of amateur psychoanalysis he links U.S. policies in the Middle East to the president’s personal history of having a Muslim father. Then, taking it a step further by suggesting this “worldview” of Muslims and Islam has driven the president to embrace the Muslim world at the expense of both Israel and U.S. national security interests. This results in borderline stereotyping and insensitivity.
Perhaps Oren shouldn’t attempt to psychoanalyze Obama, but why should Jews refrain from criticizing him when the president’s policy is a disaster? Foxman seems more desirous of maintaining the ADL’s ties to the White House than in protecting the Jewish community. Foxman distorts what Oren actually says in the op-ed he is commenting on; he leaves out the other reasons Oren presents to explain Obama’s policies. Even if Oren is wrong about what motivates the president, he is absolutely correct when he analyzes the nature of Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world and its failure.
J Street joined in with a column by its founder and president, Jeremy Ben-Ami. Disputing Oren’s argument that the U.S.-Israel relationship hangs on “no daylight” and “no surprises,” Ben-Ami argues that never “in history has the junior partner in an alliance demanded such control over the words and actions of its most powerful partner.”
Ben-Ami forgets that had Golda Meir not argued vociferously with Henry Kissinger in 1973 during the Nixon years, saying that Israel immediately needed more jets or it would lose the war with Egypt and Syria, Israel may not have survived.
Would Ben-Ami have told Meir to not publicly argue with Kissinger and just hope for the best?
Ben-Ami also argues:
[T]here is growing tension between the United States and Israel not because of Obama’s public disagreement with the policies of the Netanyahu government but because those policies are leading Israel down a path that runs counter to the interests and values of the United States, as well as to Israel’s own long-term interests, to say nothing of the values on which the country was founded.
That response reflects the current left-wing view that all bad in the Middle East stems entirely from Netanyahu, and that the only real and legitimate Israel is the one that existed in its socialist beginning, when Labor ruled the roost and were building what they assumed would be a collectivist state.
Ben-Ami shares the vision Obama expressed in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, in which he made it clear that his own vision was that of the old Israeli left that coincides with his own leftward political leanings. As Obama said, “Kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir” represent to him the real Israel that was “creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also … [was] remaking the world.” The truth, as Eli Lake has written, is that the socialist founders did not care much about the Palestinians, and Labor and Likud governments both built settlements on the West Bank.
Ben-Ami also implies that Oren is against a two-state solution and to coming to the table with Palestinians, as well as being in favor of expanding settlements. But what Oren actually writes in one of his op-eds is that he believes Israel must make it clear that there must be no building outside of areas that all parties agree will be in Israeli territory once a two-state solution commences. Oren also clearly states that despite Palestinian intransigence, Israel must state that it is always willing to come to the table.
Oren’s critics were joined by left-leaning Jewish paper The Forward, where columnist J.J. Goldberg argues that Oren’s arguments are historically false. What really disturbs him is that Oren concludes “Obama decided to disrupt the relationship [with Israel] and tilt toward Iran and the Palestinians.” He calls such a statement “Oren’s greatest error.”
Also writing in The Forward, Larry Cohler-Esses claimed that in one part of the book Oren slandered New York Times editor Andrew Rosenthal by writing that he allowed Abbas to tell lies without foundation in an op-ed, not subjecting him to the kind of fact-checking Oren underwent. Oren, it was claimed, supposedly distorted and took out of context a phone conversation he had with Rosenthal at the time Abbas’ op-ed appeared.
These charges were blown out of the water by the blogger who writes under the name Elder of Ziyon, who proves that the author was doing precisely what he accuses Oren of — fabricating the facts. Oren objected to the ahistorical nature of the Abbas op-ed. As the blogger concludes, “Oren is 100% correct on the issue of whether or not the paper’s editors have a double standard with Israeli contributors and Palestinian contributors.”
Also in The Forward, Lisa Goldman is incensed that Oren dare psychoanalyze Obama, because Oren singlehandedly has harmed American and Israeli cooperation out of “avarice.” She cannot even acknowledge the possibility that Oren makes his criticisms because he believes what he says and wants Americans to see how dangerous Obama’s policy in the Middle East is.
We are still waiting for Obama’s press confidante Jeffrey Goldberg to chime in. Perhaps he has been chosen to write a major review of the book. As of this writing, he has been silent at both The Atlantic and Bloomberg, but I wouldn’t hold your breath wondering where he will come out on this.
At any rate, we now know that the age of the court Jew is just getting started.