The whirlwind of events stirring up the Middle East over the past few months have led many American critics of Israel to jump on the figurative bandwagon, expressing disapproval of the Jewish state's handling of the flotilla incident and the mounting tensions in Israel's relations with the United States.
Recently returning to America from a meeting in Jerusalem of the World Zionist Congress, Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein shared with Ynetnews his organization's position on current affairs involving Israel.
ZOA, the oldest pro-Israel organization in the US, has been advocating for the State of Israel since its founding in 1897. The organization aims to strengthen US-Israel relations through educational and public affairs programs, garnering support on Capitol Hill and combating anti-Zionism on college campuses.
An article published in June in The New York Review of Books, titled "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment" by Peter Beinart, addresses Frank Luntz's poll signifying the growing apathetic regard young secular American Jewry have towards Israel.
In the article, Beinart says, "The only kind of Zionism they found attractive was the kind that the American Jewish establishment has been working against for most of their lives." The claim highlights the liberal leanings of today's youth in America, who Beinart suggests desire a Zionism that recognizes Palestinians "as deserving of dignity and capable of peace."
Consequently, young secular Jews feel much less connected to Israel than their elders and largely hold an anti-Zionist opinion. Beinart postulates this "downward spiral" of American Zionism will conclude in the representation of a dominantly young orthodox community.
In firm disagreement with Beinart, Klein only sees a fervent support for the Israel on college campuses and points to the Birthright/Taglit list that has a four to five-year waiting list. Those who aren't as inclined towards Israel, he believes, are suffering from a lack of education paired with an unclear message from Israel.
"Israel's constant concessions of land send the message that it's really not the Jews' land and the Arabs have a case," he says, leaving some college students disheartened with Israel's actions and unable to answer to the harsh criticism. This is precisely why, according to Klein, the Jewish youth needs to be educated to feel comfortable defending and answering for Israel as the Orthodox youth have been taught to do.
Klein received much flak from Jewish leaders for statements he made during the Obama campaign, predicting the then-candidate to be "the most hostile president to Israel ever."
'Obama's speech - total falsehood'
Unfazed by criticism, Klein and ZOA cited evidence looking to Obama's past as a member of what was deemed an anti-Semitic church by prominent Jewish figures and his associations with National Representative of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, and Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia, Rashid Khalidi, both known for their overt anti-Zionist stance.
Klein noted the Cairo speech Obama gave in 2009, where the president - seeking to eradicate the tension between the US and Muslim world - spoke about future diplomatic relations. Pointing to the Arab-Israeli conflict as a major source of tension in the region, Klein said, "Obama compared Palestinian suffering to the suffering of the Jews under the Nazis and to the blacks under apartheid. That was an atrocious and absurd analogy.
"In the same speech, Obama said he looked forward to the day when Arabs, Christians and Jews would have the freedom to worship in Jerusalem that they haven't had in 60 years. That's a total falsehood."
ZOA was one of the only American Jewish organizations to slam the speech, claiming it was anti-Israel. "The other organizations praised it because they focused on the one phrase where Obama said that the bond between America and Israel is unbreakable," Klein said.
'Stop making concessions'
March saw a significant breakthrough, and Klein credits the changing American Jewish opinion of the Obama administration to the reaction to Israel's announcement of construction in Jerusalem. US Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and White House senior advisor David Axelrod condemned the building and said it was an insult to every American.
ZOA was taken aback by this stern reprimand from the administration, "especially when the ally wasn't doing anything inappropriate. If you don't like what an ally is doing, just say you disagree – don't condemn, affront and insult," Klein noted.
Paired with the poor treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, ZOA noticed a significant decline of support for Obama.
On July 6, President Obama met with PM Netanyahu in Washington to discuss resuming peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the state of US-Israel relations. Obama said that the US-Israel bond was "unbreakable," echoing the exact words of his Cairo speech last year, and expressed a pledge to this bond.
This statement calls to mind Obama's comment on Israel during his campaign, declaring his commitment to the country as "unshakeable." Netanyahu repeated his willingness to meet with Abbas in person. Obama commended Netanyahu for Israel's partial freeze on the settlements and Netanyahu called on other nations to follow the US lead on enforcing sanctions on Iran.
Yet, is this relationship between the two leaders a political union demonstrative of a blooming friendship or a public front? Klein recounts a past conversation with Minister Dan Meridor and Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, in which both were concerned with the possibility of a Palestinian state under Abbas, fearing a Hamas takeover.
If history is any indication, Israel's weariness reflects a past marred by disappointment from their peace partners in the Palestinian Authority with every peace talk to date falling through, Klein says. "You don't have peace loving leaders there right now that will transform their culture."
Klein further explains that Israel must stop making concessions. "Peace is not possible unless the PA ends the promotional hatred of violence against Jews in their schools, media and speeches, unless they arrest terrorist and unless they publically and unequivocally recognize that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state."
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