By Richard L. Rubenstein
On Tuesday August 21, the Obama campaign launched “Rabbis for Obama,” with a list of some 613 rabbis who had declared their support for the President’s re-election. The announcement came after a sequence of events that began when it became known that the White House had agreed, at Turkey’s insistence, to the exclusion of Israel from the Global Antiterrorism Forum. Among the participating nations are Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, .Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Turkey, the Forum co-chair, has steadfastly been opposed to naming Hamas as a terrorist entity, thereby indicating its view that its rocket and kidnapping attacks against Israel are legitimate acts of self-defense.
On July 18, the anniversary of the Iranian-Hezbollah attack on the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in which 87 people were killed and 100 injured, a tourist bus in a Black Sea resort in Bulgaria was blown up by a Hezbollah suicide bomber. In addition to the bomber, seven vacationing Israelis were killed and dozens were wounded.
The very next day the White House invited rabbis of all major denominations to participate in a conference call with representatives of the FBI and the department of Homeland Security “to discuss the terrorist attack in Bulgaria” and “to address questions and concerns you may have.” Shortly thereafter, the Obama campaign announced the formation of Rabbis for Obama.
There are many reasons why I believe the rabbis who have signed on are fundamentally mistaken. The issues are urgent and rabbinic trust in President Obama is sadly and mistakenly misplaced. Boiled down to essentials, here is why I see the need for the formation of a Rabbis for Romney:
The supreme lesson of the Shoah for today’s Jews is that when an enemy threatens to destroy Israel and/or the Jewish people and seek the weaponry with which to implement the threat, Jews must believe that the enemy is not lying. From the time of the 1917 Balfour Declaration to today, some Muslims and other Arabs have promised to destroy the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Palestine), the State of Israel and its people, Nevertheless, no enemy has proven as dangerous as the revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran with its population of 75 million and the resources with which to become a nuclear power. Moreover, the theocratic leaders of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and their successors have not only have promised to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, they have used a religious term to designate Israel, “little Satan,” thereby indicating that they regard Israel’s destruction as a non-negotiable religious imperative.
They have also used the term “great Satan” to refer to the United States. And, what has been the American response? Ineffective sanctions and dilatory delaying tactics, while using every possible pressure tactic to prevent Israel from seeking to destroy the Iranian weapons program before it is too late.
On August 19, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted as saying that Israel and the United States are operating on different timetables. “They,” he said “are living with an existential concern that we are not living with.” Implicit in his frank remarks was the current administration’s belief that it can live with a nuclear Iran. Unfortunately, one or two nuclear missiles could make Israel’s survival impossible. Whatever his motives, Obama is doing everything possible to frustrate Israeli attempts to deal with Iran on its own timetable. In 2007, President Bush was also opposed to Israel’s plans to destroy the nuclear reactor Syria was building with North Korean assistance. Nevertheless, when Prime Minister Olmert told the President that Israel had done what it had to, Bush’s response was, “Thank you!” There is little chance that Israel would get a similar response from President Obama if it attacks Iran. Moreover, assurances that diplomacy still has time to work ignore the numerous intelligence failures of the CIA and other American security agencies, not excluding 9/11. Israel simply cannot afford such a failure.
I have no illusions concerning Romney. As president, he will do what he believes is in America’s national interest. That is his proper role. However, if Israel does attack, I am convinced that his response will be more like that of President Bush than anything President Obama would be likely to utter.
Some of those who have signed on with Rabbis for Obama have indicated that they do not object to the State of Israel but to Israel’s “occupation of Palestinian land.” And, that, of course, has been a principal demand of the Obama administration. When will they ever learn? Every time Israel has ceded territory, that territory has been turned into a base from which to attack her-Gaza, South Lebanon, and now Sinai. Nothing that Israel surrenders will bring peace. On the contrary, it will only facilitate her enemy’s destructive promises. It was Albert Einstein who once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus of the University of Bridgeport. His most recent book is “Jihad and Genocide” (Rowman and Littlefield: 2011).
The Ledger will address this issue in an editorial in our next issue. For a related editorial, read “The Political Rabbinate” (Ledger, Dec. 18, 2009) online at www.jewishledger.com.