Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

PRO-ISRAEL MCCARTHYISM: In the U.S. Even Staunchly Pro-Israel Jews Dare Not Criticize Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

PRO-ISRAEL MCCARTHYISM: In the U.S. Even Staunchly Pro-Israel Jews Dare Not Criticize Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Article excerpt

PRO-ISRAEL MCCARTHYISM: In the U.S. Even Staunchly Pro-Israel Jews Dare Not Criticize Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

As the peace process deteriorates and Binyamin Netanyahu struggles to preserve his increasingly hard-line coalition, Jews in the U.S. who are among Israel's most loyal supporters are coming increasingly under siege for openly criticizing the Israeli government. The editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle was forced to resign in December after 14 years on the paper because in an editorial he had called Netanyahu the "most incompetent" prime minister in Israel's history and urged him to step down.

Readers responded with praise as well as anger but a week later the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, which owns the Chronicle, published a full-page statement disavowing the editorial. "Federations are dependent on their contributors," one official explained, "and when you work for the Federation in any capacity you are vulnerable."

In December the president of the San Francisco Jewish Federation, Alan Rothenberg, sent a letter to top contributors saying that the Federation "does not fund the Israeli government" but directly aids the people of Israel. The letter was meant to appease the concerns of donors who were displeased with the Netanyahu administration, but instead it aroused a storm of protest.

Angry letters appeared in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, and a group of Holocaust survivors, their relatives, and friends took out a full-page ad in the Bulletin attacking Federation officials for being "cavalier in their support of Israel." Rothenberg and other Federation officials immediately apologized for what they claimed was "miscommunication" and "confusion." In a letter to the 120 people who signed the ad Rothenberg reiterated the Federation's "rock solid support for Israel," referring to the Jewish state as "our homeland."

The venerable Smithsonian Institution recently found itself embroiled in controversy when it asked the New Israel Fund to cosponsor a lecture series next May commemorating Israel's 50th anniversary. The series was to include respected New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, several Israeli professors, an Orthodox rabbi, two conservative Likud members, and an Arab member of the Knesset.

After the list was announced a small but well-financed group called Americans for a Safe Israel charged that it was biased against Israel and likened the speakers to Louis Farrakhan and David Duke. Publisher Rupert Murdoch and Republican New York Congressman Michael Forbes joined in the outcry, declaring that the lecture series was aimed at "the propagation of blatantly anti-Israel falsehoods. …

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