Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


In Rare Move, AJC Reprimands Anti-Obama Ad

Emergency Committee for Israel spot ran this week; too close to the U.N.?

Print Email
President Abbas at the United Nations yesterday.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

“Tell President Obama: ENOUGH,” declared the full-page ad in Monday’s New York Times. Placed there by the Emergency Committee for Israel, its text was in keeping with their new New York-focused ad campaign that commenced earlier this month. “President Obama has built a record that is not pro-Israel,” it said. It also prominently features demands related to this week’s activities at the United Nations.

It’s the sort of piece of politicking that goes barely remarked upon. But instead, the American Jewish Committee released a scathing condemnation. “AJC is a strictly non-partisan advocacy organization. But we cannot be silent. This ad is highly objectionable, indeed counter-productive, to its stated aim of supporting Israel,” said executive director David Harris. “As the U.N. session begins and high diplomatic drama is expected, to choose this moment to assail the Obama administration, when it laudably has announced its intention, come what may, to block Palestinian ambitions in the Security Council and work against a Palestinian-initiated resolution in the General Assembly, makes us wonder what are the true goals of the sponsoring group.”

Yesterday, Harris confirmed to me that his statement was highly unusual: “This is not something AJC does in a matter of course. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we responded to a full-page ad in the New York Times, and I’ve been in this position for 21 years.”
Noah Pollak, of ECI, told JTA, “David Harris says that the AJC ‘endorses policies we agree with and opposes those we don’t.’ So we at ECI were curious which of our five suggestions for President Obama Mr. Harris opposes.”

Harris argued that his objection wasn’t to the policies advocated but the timing of the advocacy. “We have been very heavily involved for months in dealing with the challenges that have all bubbled up this week at the U.N. with the Palestinian unilateral strategy,” he said. “We knew and know the essential role being played by the United States in trying to forestall this. And consequently, when I saw the ad on Monday morning, I was shocked that precisely as this critical week begins, this group chooses exactly that time to air its more general grievances about the administration’s policy on Israel. I thought that the timing could not have been worse.” He added, “It was not about partisan politics. It was simply trying to shield the key issue of this month from what I thought was an ill-advised, ill-timed assault.”

Where would he locate Gov. Rick Perry’s prominent criticisms of the administration’s Israel policy, which the Republican candidate also chose to level this week? “I don’t want to get involved and be misunderstood in what’s becoming a very fierce partisan debate over Israel and policy toward Israel,” he said, emphasizing that the AJC does not endorse (or oppose) candidates. “I welcome every candidate’s support for Israel. But in the meantime, we’ve got one president at a time. And I simply must tell you, listening to the president’s speech at the General Assembly today, it was a fine speech, and I don’t think anyone could have asked for more from that speech.

So, timing aside, he is okay with the increasing politicization of the issue? “For me, the goal has always been to try to help ensure that the U.S.-Israel relationship is a core principle of both political parties,” he said. He noted that this would not be the first (nor, he predicted, the last) presidential election in which Israel was a factor. He observed that frequently it is the challenger who attempts to outflank the incumbent on the issue, as is happening in this cycle. “Issues like the American embassy [and moving it to Jerusalem, as Perry seemed to pledge he’d do] would almost inevitably become the campaign pledge of the challenger,” Harris remembered. “And then they have to govern!” (No president has moved the embassy from Tel Aviv.)

“Our goal is to try to ensure that the Israel relationship is a bedrock value of both political parties,” Harris added. “On the other side, I think it’s healthy that the Jewish vote is seen as a vote that candidates of both parties seek. The worst thing in the world would be obscurity.”

AJC Criticizes Full-Page Ad in Today’s ‘New York Times’ [AJC]
AJC Slams Pro-Israel Group’s Attack on Obama [JTA]
Earlier: Is Obama Vulnerable on the Israel Issue?
The Company Rick Perry Keeps

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Thankfully, we live in a free country with no restrictions on expression. We can be free to support or oppose any politician we wish and there is no party line that needs to be followed. The AJC is wrong. We don’t live in the Pale of Settlement any more. However, unfortunately, many Jews still can’t figure that out.

Beatrix says:

The worst thing is making Jews scapegoats for the poor economy. The attacks on Soros concerned me because they were making him responsible for Obama rather than making Obama responsible for Obama.

Jews were prominent in Obama’s success and I’m not sure why anyone thought he could be President. The Democrats had a perfectly good candidate in Hillary, but I guess cold feet at the thought of a female leading America caused some people to look elsewhere. The same people who would love to have Hillary back.

Obama as President was like Bush nominating his lawyer Harriet Meirs for the supreme court. Yes, she’s a lawyer, but should she have been a Supreme Court Judge? Of course not. But many of the people who saw that had no problem supporting Obama.

That said, attacking Obama when he’s supporting Israel is foolish. I don’t think his speech will be particularly influential because he hasn’t earned that kind of respect, but he is the President.

I hate to trample on our collective ego here, but if you think this is about Jewish voters, you need to get out more. Say the GOP is wildly successful at using Israel as a wedge issue and gets Obama’s support down to 50% in 2012. It’s not going to make a difference. New York and California are still going blue. Will it matter in Florida? Obama is far behind there—he’ll need more than +/-30% of a tiny minority’s vote to win there.

This is about “Christian Zionists” and getting them fired up for the GOP. That is why the policies Obama embraces don’t matter. He could (I dunno) assassinate Osama Bin Laden (oh, wait he did that) and it wouldn’t make a difference to these folks.

Jewish groups that think they are going to do anything other than further divide the Jewish community on this issue are self-centered and ignorant of broader American politics. They are being pawns of the GOP and the Christian Right.

If that’s OK with them, fine, but they should just be honest about it.

C Fineblum says:

Stop it David Harris(whom I have respected immensely). the reason thagt Obama opposed Abbas’ UN demands today is that in seeking a Palestinian state, Abbass stabbed Obama in the back; scuttled his constant 2 state demands and embarrassed him internationally. I can assure you , Mr Harris, that Obama did not support Israel today because he loves us; he is just down right angry that all of his concessions and pandering to the PLO has been turned over on him. Wake up folks. This ois not 1932 anymore.

It’s nice to know that as a Jew, I can only belong to one political party, and one part of the political spectrum. I’d better call Krauthammer, Cantor, Brooks and Commentary home again.

And Netanyahu, Likud, and Tzipi (moderate) better wake up. Even a lefty like Barak has moved to the right. What is he thinking?

I think right wing Christians can make some room for us. Not all of them are waiting to die in the rapture—some of them want to live and want Jews to live, too. After Einstein, Salk and Sabin, some of them have even learned to respect us.

Bryna Weiss says:

David Harris is absolutely right!! I think these unwarranted attacks on the President are disgusting. He has shown, with his actions, that he is a strong and unbending supporter of Israel. Anyone who thinks the Settlements aren’t a problem that will continue to haunt Israelis, is living in a dream world. Israelis in the majority, are Peace loving, Democracy loving, fair and open people. That doesn’t change the fact that they face a People whose leaders would rather support killing and violence to retain their power, than to bring a Peaceful, decent life to them. President Obama clearly sees the difference and does everything that is possible to help Israel.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

In Rare Move, AJC Reprimands Anti-Obama Ad

Emergency Committee for Israel spot ran this week; too close to the U.N.?

More on Tablet:

Klinghoffer at the Met

By Paul Berman — John Adams’s masterpiece is about an American Jew murdered by Palestinian terrorists, but the real opera is off stage