Tomorrow, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamim Netanyahu will stream a live, interactive address to millions of U.S. citizens in the American Jewish community. The goal? Convince U.S. Jews to reject President Obama’s diplomatic agreement with Iran as he and pro-Israel lobbying groups intensify pressure on Congress to do the same.
This address―sponsored by American Friends of Likud, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations and Jewish Federations―is an incredible breach of diplomatic protocol. Indeed, it rivals (if not exceeds) the breach he opened in his anti-Iran-deal speech before Congress this past spring.
For not only is Netanyahu meddling in our nation’s affairs, he is also a) tearing at the very fabric of the American Jewish community while b) simultaneously endangering Jews in this country.
On that first point, Netanyahu is driving a wedge not just between Israel and American Jews with his anti-Iran-deal blitz, but between American Jews themselves. Approximately sixty percent of U.S. Jews currently support President Obama’s Iran deal. However, this address by Netanyahu is sponsored by two of the largest Jewish organizations in America charged with representing the interests of the entire Jewish community.
Unfortunately, by inviting Netanyahu to interfere in U.S. foreign policy with a lobbying address to U.S. Jews, these organizations are not representing their community. Instead, they’re fighting its members. A fight which prompted Peter Beinart to ask, “Why don’t American Jewish groups represent American Jews on Iran?”
The answer is simple: Netanyahu and massive ‘pro-Israel’ donors are placing hawkish, pro-war political interests ahead of ― well, everything else. Netanyahu once declared that he represented “the entire Jewish people” in his opposition to the Iran deal. Now, with U.S. Jews proving that to be demonstrably false, Netanyahu, Jewish and ‘pro-Israel’ organizations are tag-teaming to wage a lobbying war against the Jewish community itself.
And this leads me to the second point. Netanyahu’s meddling is not just dangerous globally, or regionally, but to those Jews (myself included) he claims to represent here in the United States. The dual-loyalty charge has long been an anti-Semitic trope meant to cast Jews as traitors, as the dangerous ‘other.’ Netanyahu and American Jewish groups are now explicitly asking community members to reject our country’s foreign policy. To oppose American interests. And in doing so, are inviting anti-Semitic aspersions to be cast against us.
It’s no surprise that the conflation of Israel and all Jews―which Netanyahu often employs to shield Israel from critique, and is now using to oppose the Iran deal―is itself an anti-Semitic trope.
Is it any wonder that Jewish members of Congress are struggling mightily on whether to support or oppose the deal? Even as Israel’s security establishment is breaking with Netanyahu? They’re torn between donor pressures, ‘pro-Israel’ lobbying forces, American Jewish opinion, and dual-loyalty fears.
They’re also torn because Netanyahu, the politician Republicans wish they had, is imposing himself into a domestic foreign policy debate. His words, however wrong, have influence.
They are also not words the leader of any U.S. ally should be uttering. Particularly when those words will be uttered live, directly to U.S. citizens.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.