Jewish World Review July 29, 2002 / 20 Menachem-Av, 5762

Thou shalt judge our Jewish leaders

By David D. Perlmutter | Some years ago I was watching a news program in a hotel lounge when a famously silver-tongued reverend was introduced as a "leader of black America." A black man sitting near me laughed and said, "Funny, nobody ever sent me a ballot to vote on that."


Countries, organizations and even some religions have official leaders. But most ethnic groups in America and many religious groups--such as Jews--don't have a single CEO or pontiff who has any right to be called "leader." Nevertheless, every day on television news and in the paper appear the usual suspects of Jewish "leaders" in action. Yet, by that self-defined criterion we can ask Ronald Reagan's campaign question: Are we better off today for their leadership? Where are our glorious leaders in the fight that will decide the fate of the Jewish people and of Western civilization?

Their failings were highlighted for me at a briefing I attended by a top honcho of a Jewish organization. The noted accomplishments of the group he listed seemed to be squabbles for everybody's cause but ours: Bosnian Muslims, anti-school vouchers, pro-affirmative action, farm workers' rights, welfare rights, gun control, police brutality, and even abortion rights. I selfishly thought: Do any of these issues qualify as burning "Jewish" concerns? And weren't these people pushing for "immigration rights" and "open borders" before 9/11? I recall the statement (before 9/11) by Jewish anti-open immigration activist SuSu Levy: "I have no Jewish friends."

In contrast, one of my American Muslim students, as an aside, told me that he had stopped going to the mosque back in his hometown. He is a very sweet, kind, moderate fellow, and he just couldn't stand the sermons of a local imam. My student was too embarrassed to go into details, but he lamented that "hatred of Jews" and "radical anti-Americanism" were common themes. Unsurprisingly, when I checked news archives, this same imam was used by newshounds and embraced by local rabbis as a source for "explaining Islam" as a "religion of peace"--despite its adherents' unalloyed history of conquering, massacring and oppressing Jews and peoples of other religions.

So why have Jewish leaders not been at the vanguard--as some evangelical Christian leaders have--of exposing the Islamic fascist Fifth Column in America and the dominance of ideas of Islamic global conquest in many Muslim countries? Would we have shook hands in 1942 with brownshirts in the name of "tolerance"? Why aren't we connecting the dots between Saudi intelligence services and 9/11 or between the origins of the Palestinian movement and the Third Reich? Why aren't we publishing and brandishing the names of the many foreign policy "experts" and "Arab-American leaders" who are, in fact, on the payroll of the House of Saud? Why are we so afraid to attack instead of defending and conciliating?

Also, our chiefs have failed at coalition-building. This is exemplified by a simple reality check. At any of the pro-Israeli rallies a few months ago, did anybody see any black civil rights leader, farm worker advocate, or Bosnian Muslim imam holding a sign reading, "You stood with us, now we will stand with you"? The "leaders" of such groups, unlike our high brethren, quite rightly look out for the interests of their constituencies and act accordingly. Jewish leaders, on the other hand, seem to think that altruism is their only agenda.

At the same time, our leaders have been spitting in the faces of the only American group that fervently hopes and actively works for the survival of Israel and the Jewish people. I speak of course of the evangelical Christians of the right wing. Go back to before 9/11 and read major Jewish organization magazines and you would think that it was those "right wingers" and "born-agains" who were our enemy. Yet, while other "allies" of ours become and remain so only for political expediency, the good Christian conservatives work and pray for us out of principles of character and faith in God's eternal, unbroken and inviolate word.

This quality of steadfastness is crucial in an ally. Perhaps here American Jews need to take a French lesson. In the wake of the hundreds of synagogue burnings and assaults against Jews in the land of "liberty, equality and fraternity," I noted the pathetic comment of a French Jewish "leader": "The politicians from both the right and the left don't react to repeated attacks. It could be because Arabs are more numerous than Jews and we are in an election period now. But we don't understand how politicians can sacrifice our long-term integration and loyalty for purely electoral reasons."

I understand. Muslim oil money, thuggery and votes trump Jewish goodwill in Lyon today and will tomorrow in Washington.

Unfortunately, Jewish history is replete--the Holocaust is the most tragic example--with moderate, meek and appeasement-minded Jewish "leaders" ignoring the warning signs of doom. They hold their conferences, toast each other at banquets, publish spiffy annual reports and completely fail their constituency, their country and their civilization.

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JWR contributor David Perlmutter is an associate professor of mass communication at Louisiana State University and a senior fellow at the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs. He is the author of, among others, Visions of War : Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyber Age. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, David D. Perlmutter<