RJC, ECI demand removal of ‘radical’ rabbi from Obama list

Two conservative groups called on the Obama campaign to sever ties with a “radical” on its newly-released list of more than 600 rabbis who support the president’s reelection.

The campaign rejected the demand.

The Republican Jewish Coalition on Thursday “expressed profound outrage” that Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a Renewal rabbi from California that the RJC described as a “radical rabbi”, is part of Rabbis for Obama, which was launched Tuesday.

Gottlieb sits on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that is active in the campaign to use boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the West Bank, and that has no official position on whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state.

In September 2008, she was part of a coalition of religious groups that spoke about the Holocaust and Palestinian rights with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a New York hotel. At that event, she said she favored face-to-face reconciliation, and asked Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust, to “change the way you speak about the Holocaust.”

Gottlieb is one of eight Jewish Voice for Peace members on the list.

“By promoting and showcasing Rabbi Gottlieb as one of Pres. Obama’s supporters, the Obama campaign lends legitimacy and credibility to a rabbi whose extreme views are well beyond the mainstream of the Jewish community and the mainstream of America,” the RJC wrote in a statement to JTA.

Joining the RJC in calling on Obama to distance itself from the eight JVP members was the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group that has backed Republican candidates for Congress.

“It was particularly shocking to see that your campaign had recruited, and was touting the support of, rabbis who have no commitment to Israel’s security, and whose values are representative of a small and extreme group of anti-Israel activists – and certainly not of the pro-Israel community,” William Kristol, ECI’s founder, wrote in a letter to Obama.

The Obama campaign dismissed the call to remove anyone from the list.

“The President’s strong support of Israel and toughest-ever actions against Iran has led rabbis from across the political spectrum to express their support for the president and have committed to seeing him reelected,” a campaign official told JTA. “The President obviously does not endorse or embrace their every affiliation, action or utterance.”

Rabbi Sam Gordon of Illinois, one of three co-chairs of Rabbis for Obama, criticized the RJC. “I think picking out one rabbi out of 613 is missing the point and continuing to demonize those who disagree with a specific position of certain people within the Jewish community.”

He praised Obama’s “desire to bring about a lasting peace with security for Israel.”

Emergency Committee for Israel raps Obama, J Street hits Romney in ads

Liberal and conservative pro-Israel advocacy groups released ads targeting the presidential candidates.

An ad released Thursday by the Emergency Committee for Israel that will appear in 23 Jewish newspapers includes quotes from Israeli, Palestinian and Jewish American officials saying that President Obama has been emotionally aloof from Israel.

A web video released the same day by J Street asks, “Where does Mitt Romney stand?” demanding that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee commit to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A number of the figures quoted in the ECI ad, notably, Martin Indyk, the Clinton-era ambassador to Israel, have also praised Obama for what they say is unprecedented defense support of Israel.

Romney during the presidential campaign has not endorsed the two-state solution, but has said the Palestinians must show commitment to a two-state solution as a predicate for peace talks advancing. He also has noted that Israel’s government seeks a two-state solution.

Emergency Committee for Israel: Bad for the Jews

The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a far-right Republican pressure group, knows that it is still too early to roll out its full “Obama hates Israel” campaign.

However, considering all the money in its coffers, it has found a cause that serves its purpose just as well: assailing the “Occupy Wall Street” movement as anti-Semitic.

No matter that its evidence is the presence of a total of three lunatics in the Wall Street crowds in contrast to thousands of Jews (see this video). It makes sense for ECI to libel a movement that threatens its wealthy donors’ interests far more than Obama threatens Netanyahu’s.

That is because ECI is not really about Israel. It is all about defending the political and economic interests of its millionaire donors by electing Republicans. That means smearing Democrats who might raise its sponsors’ taxes. And it means lying about the Occupy Wall Street movement which defends working people and excoriates the 1 percent Theodore Roosevelt called “malefactors of great wealth.”

How do we know that ECI’s supposed devotion to Israel is nothing but a pretext for its defense of the GOP? (See this J Street paper on ECI.)

Because the Emergency Committee for Israel consistently attacks Democrats as anti-Israel while praising Republicans as virtual members of the IDF.

To date — in addition to its incessant sniping at the president — it has run ads for one candidate and against four. Most recently, it launched a campaign to elect Bob Turner, the Republican candidate for Congress in New York who successfully campaigned to win the seat formerly held by Anthony Weiner. ECI filled the airwaves with a video purporting to show that the Democratic candidate, Orthodox Jew David Weprin, was no friend of Israel because, as a Democrat, he was associated with President Obama.

In 2010, ECI ran similar ads against Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak and three incumbent House members: Rush Holt of New Jersey, Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio and Glenn Nye of Virginia. Needless to say, all the candidates ECI targeted were Democrats.

And now, the group is virulently and incessantly attacking the people who are demonstrating against economic policies that exploit working people in favor of people who live off their capital gains. Not exactly a surprise.

But it is still rather disgusting. The group, in its never-ending exploitation of Israel to advance Republicans and right-wing economics, repeatedly sends the message that all American Jews care about is Israel. No matter what the issue, the Emergency Committee for Israel, the Commentary crowd, and pretty much all neocons, convey to the public at large that American Jews are only concerned about an imagined Jewish angle, as if we are some kind of unique enclave who live in America but aren’t really Americans.

Even if ECI and its allies believed its propaganda and were not simply exploiting genuine concern about Israel and anti-Semitism to advance a GOP agenda, it would be wrong to convey that impression.

That is because it reinforces the most virulent anti-Semitic canard that still circulates in this country: that American Jews are disloyal citizens whose primary allegiance is to Israel and not America.

God knows, there are organizations that do indeed put Israel first, but — despite their loud voices and political clout — they represent a tiny minority of American Jews. (According to an American Jewish Committee poll, only 3 percent of Jews cast their votes based on Israel rather than on American issues.)

ECI knows all that but doesn’t care. So what if it reinforces the ugly view that American Jews are bad Americans, so long as it succeeds in moving some votes and money toward the Republicans? Making Jews look bad is not something it worries about.

Obviously it doesn’t worry one of ECI’s three board members, Rachel Decter Abrams, wife of the disgraced former Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams. (Like Abrams, the other two board members are right-wing Republican activists: William Kristol and Gary Bauer.)

On October 18, Abrams wrote a blog post celebrating the return of Gilad Shalit. However, rather than simply express joy and relief at the release of the Israeli soldier, she published a call for genocide against Palestinians. Read it.

Then, to make sure that the post would be seen well beyond the readers of one blog, Jennifer Rubin, a Washington Post columnist, tweeted it. It is no surprise that Rubin, a former Commentary writer, has no problem with Abrams’ call for genocide. But shouldn’t the Washington Post have a problem with Rubin?

And today a Beirut newspaper headlined the story of Abrams’ blog and Rubin’s endorsement of it. The headline reads: “Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin promotes call for Palestinian genocide.” This story will have legs and its legacy will be an ugly one.

To put it simply, these neocons are bad for everyone — but especially for Jews. It is almost as if reinforcing the ugliest and most libelous stereotypes about Jews is their goal.

To its credit, J Street has condemned Abrams and called on the ECI to kick her off their board. But I would not go that far simply because I think that Rachel Decter Abrams and her call for genocide fits in well with ECI. She belongs there, along with Kristol and Bauer.

As for Jennifer Rubin and the Post, they represent a different kettle of fish. One thing is certain: If the great Katherine Graham, publisher of the paper when it brought down Richard Nixon by exposing Watergate, were still around, Jennifer Rubin wouldn’t be. Does she really belong at the once-great Washington Post?

No, she doesn’t. She belongs back at Commentary.

But the Emergency Committee for Israel is just another Republican organization, and we do have a two-party system. They are entitled to be right-wing Republicans — just so long as no one believes they represent Jews.