The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called for Democrats and Republicans to sign a pledge to keep Israel from becoming a partisan wedge issue. According to the pledge:
America’s friendship with Israel is an emotional, moral and strategic bond that has always transcended politics. Support for Israel has never been merely a plank in a Republican or Democratic Party or candidate’s platform. It is a core American policy that serves our nation’s most fundamental national interests. Indeed, for the past six decades, every American President and Congressional leaders in both parties have championed the shared values and outlook that bind the two nations.
This broad bipartisan backing has been vital to America’s interests and to Israel’s security throughout decades of war and a constant struggle for survival.
The National Jewish Democratic Council has long opposed politicizing Israel and supports the spirit and intent of the pledge. The Forward quoted NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris touting the pledge for highlighting the negative effects of politicizing support for Israel:
Harris argued that his group had deliberately avoided throughout the years attacking Republicans on issues relating to Israel because it believed such attacks could be harmful to Israel. ‘Republicans and Democrats,’ he added, ‘should court the Jewish vote by touting their bona fides, not by misrepresenting the other side.’
In contrast, certain Republican-aligned Jewish groups, such as the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), have categorically opposed the efforts by AJC and ADL—two highly respected nonpartisan Jewish organizations—to keep Israel out of political attacks.
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks unfortunately rejected the pledge, falsely claiming that committing to bipartisanship somehow strips away the freedom of open debate:
‘An open and vigorous debate on the questions confronting our country is the cornerstone of the American electoral process. Allowing the American people to see where candidates stand, pro and con on critical issues, is the hallmark of our free and democratic political system. For this reason, the RJC will not be a signer to this pledge.
‘This effort to stifle debate on U.S. policy toward Israel runs counter to this American tradition. Accordingly, the RJC will not be silenced on this or any issue.’
ECI Chairman William Kristol also sadly dismissed the pledge out of hand supposedly as an obstruction of their free speech:
Here’s the Emergency Committee for Israel’s answer to Directors Abe Foxman and David Harris: You must be kidding.
Indeed, this attempt to silence those of us who have ‘questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel’ will re-energize us. Nor, incidentally, should those who support the administration’s approach to Israel be bashful about making their case. Directors Harris and Foxman need a refresher course on the virtues of free speech and robust debate in a democracy. Their effort to stifle discussion and debate is unworthy of the best traditions of America, and of Israel.
During the 2010 midterm election cycle, the group took direct aim at Democratic candidates who expressed liberal or dovish positions on Israel. A New York Times article focusing on political ads in the Pennsylvania Senate race that year examined an ECI ad claiming that Democratic candidate Joe Sestak had ‘raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas.’ The Times found this and other claims in the ad untrue or distorted.
RJC and ECI’s complete refutation of the pledge clearly illustrates their placement of politics as a higher priority than bipartisan support for Israel. As we consistently state, the U.S.-Israel relationship is much too essential for partisan games and requires both sides to work together to ensure America’s commitment continues into the future. For that reason, NJDC urges all members of the pro-Israel community to sign the pledge.
Click here to read the AJC/ADL pledge.
Click here to read The Forward’s reporting on the pledge.
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