I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel. What makes these
verbal assaults and distortions all the more painful is that they are being
orchestrated by President Obama.
For me, the situation today recalls what occurred in 70 AD when the Roman
emperor Vespasian launched a military campaign against the Jewish nation and
its ancient capital of Jerusalem. Ultimately, Masada, a rock plateau in the
Judean desert became the last refuge of the Jewish people against the Roman
onslaught. I have been to Jerusalem and Masada. From the top of Masada,
you can still see the remains of the Roman fortifications and garrisons, and
the stones and earth of the Roman siege ramp that was used to reach Masada.
The Jews of Masada committed suicide rather than let themselves be taken
captive by the Romans.
In Rome itself, I have seen the Arch of Titus with the sculpture showing
enslaved Jews and the treasures of the Jewish Temple of Solomon with the
Menorah, the symbol of the Jewish state, being carted away as booty during
the sacking of Jerusalem.
Oh, you may say, that is a far fetched analogy. Please hear me out.
The most recent sacking of the old city of Jerusalem - its Jewish quarter -
took place under the Jordanians in 1948 in the first war between the Jews
and the Arabs, with at least five Muslim states - Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon,
Syria and Iraq - seeking to destroy the Jewish state. At that time, Jordan
conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank and expelled every Jew living in
the Jewish quarter of the old city, destroying every building, including the
synagogues in the old quarter and expelling from every part of Judea and
Samaria every Jew living there so that for the first time in thousands of
years, the old walled city of Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank were
"Judenrein" -- a term used by the Nazis to indicate the forced removal or
murder of all Jews..
Jews had lived for centuries in Hebron, the city where Abraham, the first
Jew, pitched his tent and where he now lies buried, it is believed, in a
tomb with his wife, Sarah, as well as other ancient Jewish patriarchs and
matriarchs. I have visited that tomb and at the time asked an Israeli
soldier guarding it - so that it was open to all pilgrims, Christians,
Muslims and Jews -- "where is the seventh step leading to the tomb of
Abraham and Sarah," which was the furthest entry for Jews when the Muslims
were the authority controlling the holy place? He replied, "When we retook
and reunited the whole city of Jerusalem and conquered the West Bank in
1967, we removed the steps, so now everyone can enter," whereas when Muslims
were in charge of the tomb, no Jew could enter it. And I did.
I am not a religious person. I am comfortable in a synagogue, but generally
attend only twice a year, on the high holidays. When I entered the tomb of
Abraham and Sarah, as I recall, I felt connected with my past and the
traditions of my people. One is a Jew first by birth and then by religion.
Those who leave their religion, remain Jews forever by virtue of their
birth. If they don't think so, let them ask their neighbors, who will
remind them. I recall the words of the columnist Robert Novak, who was for
most of his life hostile to the Jewish state of Israel in an interview with
a reporter stating that while he had converted to Catholicism, he was still
a cultural Jew. I remain with pride a Jew both by religion and culture.
My support for the Jewish state has been long and steadfast. Never have I
thought that I would leave the U.S. to go and live in Israel. My loyalty
and love is first to the U.S. which has given me, the son of Polish Jewish
immigrants, so much. But, I have also long been cognizant of the fact that
every night when I went to sleep in peace and safety, there were Jewish
communities around the world in danger. And there was one country, Israel,
that would give them sanctuary and would send its soldiers to fight for them
and deliver them from evil, as Israel did at Entebbe in 1976.
I weep today because my president, Barack Obama, in a few weeks has changed
the relationship between the U.S. and Israel from that of closest of allies
to one in which there is an absence of trust on both sides. The contrast
between how the president and his administration deals with Israel and how
it has decided to deal with the Karzai administration in Afghanistan is
The Karzai administration, which operates a corrupt and opium-producing
state, refuses to change its corrupt ways - the president's own brother is
believed by many to run the drug traffic taking place in Afghanistan - and
shows the utmost contempt for the U.S. is being hailed by the Obama
administration as an ally and publicly treated with dignity. Karzai
recently even threatened to join the Taliban if we don't stop making demands
on him. Nevertheless, Karzai is receiving a gracious thank-you letter from
President Obama. The New York Times of April 10th reported, ".that Mr.
Obama had sent Mr. Karzai a thank-you note expressing gratitude to the
Afghan leader for dinner in Kabul. 'It was a respectful letter,' General
On the other hand, our closest ally - the one with the special relationship
with the U.S., has been demeaned and slandered, held responsible by the
administration for our problems in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the
Middle East. The plan I suspect is to so weaken the resolve of the Jewish
state and its leaders that it will be much easier to impose on Israel an
American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving Israel's
needs for security and defensible borders in the lurch.
I believe President Obama's policy is to create a whole new relationship
with the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq as a
counter to Iran - The Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Muslim world which we are now
prepared to see in possession of a nuclear weapon. If throwing Israel under
the bus is needed to accomplish this alliance, so be it.
I am shocked by the lack of outrage on the part of Israel's most ardent
supporters. The members of AIPAC, the chief pro-Israel lobbying
organization in Washington, gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a
standing ovation after she had carried out the instructions of President
Obama and, in a 43-minute telephone call, angrily hectored Prime Minister
Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have made pitifully weak
statements against Obama's mistreatment of Israel, if they made any at all.
The Democratic members, in particular, are weak. They are simply afraid to
criticize President Obama.
What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by
community leaders - Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a
civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting
with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent
Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the
one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King's memorable speech
was given? His reply was "Fifty people might come." Remember the 1930s?
Few stood up. They were silent. Remember the most insightful statement of
one of our greatest teachers, Rabbi Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who is
for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
We have indeed stood up for everyone else. When will we stand up for our
brothers and sisters living in the Jewish state of Israel?
If Obama is seeking to build a siege ramp around Israel, the Jews of modern
Israel will not commit suicide. They are willing to negotiate a settlement
with the Palestinians, but they will not allow themselves to be bullied
into following self-destructive policies.
To those who call me an alarmist, I reply that I'll be happy to apologize if
I am proven wrong. But those who stand silently by and watch the Obama
administration abandon Israel, to whom will they apologize?
The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served New York City as its 105th Mayor
from 1978 to 1989.