Jewish World Review June 11, 1999 /27 Sivan 5759
WHO'S IN CHARGE OF ISRAELI DIPLOMACY?
The rumor is, now that he has time on his hands, Bibi will lecture in the United States and write books for big bucks. I've even heard that he may even reissue his 1993 book "A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World," with new chapters included about his exploits as prime minister. Now that I'd like to see. It will take a better writer than Bibi (or whoever is hired to ghost it in his name) to explain why he governed Israel as if the majority of the thoughts in that much-admired book were false. But laying Netanyahu's mendaciousness aside, the most bizarre aspect of this story was the news that Netanyahu's special envoy to the dictator of Syria was none other than Ronald Lauder. Lauder is the cosmetics heir who is currently president of the Jewish National Fund and chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (making him the unofficial "prince of exile").
In the past, he has been a failed candidate for mayor of New York, Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Austria and the benefactor of the revival of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. But whoever thought Lauder (who is also believed to be the man who bankrolled Bibi's American political consultant Arthur Finkelstein's losing activities in Israel) was doing double duty as our man in Damascus? Considering how much fuss was made over his ties to Bibi when he was voted in as head of the Conference, one wonders who there was in the know.
Giving a political dilettante like Lauder so much responsibility doesn't make me feel particularly safe. But I'll say this for him: He did manage to keep his mouth shut about it.
THE JEWISH SILENCE ON CHINA
The sorry record of the Clinton administration on this issue is no secret. Their "engagement" of the butchers of Beijing is a nice word for appeasement. With the applause and support of the business community (which always think making a buck is more important than human rights), the Clintons have made a mockery of American principles - and security - in their reckless embrace of China.
But sadly, the loudest noise I have heard on China was the silence of the American Jewish community. American Jews, who are usually in the forefront of human-rights campaigns (witness our leading organizations' attitude during the Bosnia conflict and on Kosovo), have been very quiet about the world's largest tyranny.
It's not because there are virtually no Jews in China to persecute. The lack of a Jewish component to a tragedy never stopped us in the Balkans and on other issues.
Is it because we don't know what is happening there? Surely not, as the destruction of the people and the culture of Tibet or the existence of a huge gulag for Chinese dissidents and religious believers called the laogai is no secret to anyone who wants to know.
Another answer may be the prominent involvement of many American Jews in trade with China. These are the people who will tell you how complex the situation in China is, but fail to notice that they are giving the same kind of excuses that apologists for the Soviet Union gave 20 years ago during our protests on behalf of Soviet Jewry.
Yet another is the fact of Israel's pursuit of both security and trade relations with the Chinese. The latter can be partially excused by a need to try to separate the Chinese from the Muslim world, but the odds of success there are about as great as Arik Sharon's recent attempt to ally Israel with Russia behind America's back. Whatever the excuse, it is still wrong.
Wherever the truth lies on this issue, with a few prominent exceptions, American Jews are still quiet about the greatest ongoing human-rights tragedy in the world. We ought to be ashamed. Too bad we're too busy patting ourselves on the back for our gung-ho attitude in the Balkans to care.
AJCONGRESS DOES THE MAMBO
It is a sad day when a group that was created to protest abuses of human rights puts itself in the position of supporting "engagement" with a tyrannical regime like Castro's Cuba. The point here is not about lessening the plight of the tiny remnant of Cuban Jewry. If we are so concerned about Cuban Jews, then we should be helping them get out of the country, not using their poverty as an excuse to provide Castro with much-needed foreign currency.
But I don't believe that's why AJCongress is supporting easing up on Castro. Just like its embarrassing support of President Clinton during the height of the impeachment debate, its position on Cuba has more to do with the closeness of AJCongress leaders to the president (who is using them to create support for a policy change on Cuba) than anything else.
I think a Jewish defense organization that has nothing better to do with its scarce resources than to be a stalking horse for the Clinton administration is a group that needs to reassess its priorities. To paraphrase the old slogan: Cuba sí, Castro, no. ¿AJCongress, por qué?
'WATTO' LOT OF NONSENSE
The character in question is "Watto," a winged insect-like creature who owns slaves, and buys and sells spaceship parts and junk.
Of course, there is nothing Jewish about Watto, but he does have a funny accent. (Some at my home paper, the Jewish Exponent, thought he was Arab; I thought he sounded Italian - all of which says more about the screenwriter's poverty of imagination than anything else.)
Fortunately, even the Anti-Defamation League wants no part of this bogus controversy.
So, to all of you out there who relentlessly search for anti-Semitism no
matter how trivial or nonexistent the "proof," I have but one thing to say:
JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
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