In a recent statement, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) raised speculation the President Obama may be “playing for some other team.” His remarks depict the United States’ unfreezing of Iranian assets per the 2015 diplomatic agreement reached between the P5+1 nations and Iran as a “ransom payment” – a claim that State Department spokesman John Kirby has rejected as “utterly false.” Politics aside, the comment is a thinly-veiled implication that President Obama somehow holds loyalty to foreign entities, a sentiment that is both inappropriate and offensive. Comments that attack the fundamental integrity of our president are beyond the boundaries of acceptable and productive discourse surrounding United States foreign policy, regardless of Rep. Zeldin’s opinions on the agreement reached between the P5+1 nations and Iran.
Rep. Zeldin should know better. Jewish Americans on both sides of the aisle in our government have long dealt with hateful accusations of loyalty to Israel at the expense of their duty to the United States. Since 2015, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have both faced similar attacks linking Jewish identity to their commitment to serving the American people. Accusations such as these, whether directed at Jews or not, are offensive and wrong. We call on Rep. Zeldin to apologize to President Obama and to take leadership going forward in advancing political discourse that respects the integrity and intentions of our elected leaders.