The NY Sun reports: The American Jewish community has fallen into a paroxysm of recrimination in the aftermath of Senator Clinton’s dropping out of the rally against Iran, and of the disinvitation to Governor Palin that followed. A long article in the newspaper Yated Ne’eman asserts that “the real culprits in this story” were “the die-hard Democrat partisans within the three sponsoring groups” — the United Jewish Communities, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs — “who were determined to block Palin’s appearance at the rally.”
Below is the Yated article given exclusively to YWN:
Palin Excluded from Anti-Iran Rally; Written By Yaakov Kornreich:
The current US presidential campaign interfered with the Jewish community’s efforts to build a united front against the Iranian nuclear threat last week. Supporters of the Obama campaign launched an effective political power play to force the secular leadership of the American Jewish community to dis- invite Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin from a speaking role at Monday’s anti-Iran rally near the UN.
Jewish communal events of this nature traditionally feature elected public officials of both parties, to avoid any hint of partisanship on the part of the organizers. That was the intent of the organizers of the Monday rally, staged to protest against the presence of Iran’s president, Mahmound Ahmadinejad at the meeting of the UN General Assembly this week.
The event was entitled “The Rally to Stop Iran Now.” The rally organizers were The National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, The Presidents Conference, United Jewish Communities (UJC-the national Federation agency), UJA- Federation of New York, the New York JCRC, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA-a secular national Jewish public policy group).
They had been planning this event for a month and a half. In August, before the Democrat Convention in August, the organizers had secured a commitment from New York Senator Hillary Clinton to attend and speak but efforts, at the same time, to secure the participation of a Republican US Senator had been unsuccessful. In an effort to balance the political composition of the program, the organizers asked Republican leaders, during and after the Republican national convention, to send a representative.
Events were set into motion early last week, when organizers learned that Palin would be in New York City, and would be available to appear at the rally. The sponsors and other organizations involved reacted positively when Palin agreed to come. The trouble started when Clinton reacted to insider reports that Palin would also be at the rally, even though her staff was informed, as they had requested, that Clinton and Palin had been scheduled to appear in separate parts of the program.
A Clinton spokesman said that “the attendance from a representative of the McCain campaign was news to us. This was never billed to us as a partisan political event, and because it is such an important issue, we do not want to distract from it by contributing to a political show.” The statement seems strange because Clinton was surely aware of the Jewish community’s tradition of inviting all public officials to participate in such events.
A spokesman for Palin expressed disappointment at Clinton’s decision to withdraw from the event, because the Alaska governor, “believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics.” A spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign blasted Clinton’s actions, saying, “The claim made by Mrs. Clinton’s office that she did not want to attend because it would be a partisan event doesn’t add up, since Mrs. Palin’s attendance would seem to make it bipartisan.” The McCain-Palin spokesman also suggested that the Obama campaign may have been behind Clinton’s decision to back out, an allegation which an Obama spokesman denied as, “Utterly false. We did not pressure Senator Clinton and had no discussions on it at all.”
TAX EXEMPTION THREATENED
The situation then deteriorated. According to a report from the local New York CBS network affiliate, three of the rally’s sponsoring organizations were threatened by unnamed New York Democrats from within their ranks. They said that if Palin were allowed to speak at the rally, the tax-exempt status of the groups with the IRS would be challenged for taking sides in a partisan election.
According to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, tax- exempt organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” As a practical matter, this regulation means that, during a campaign season, non-profit organizations must issue speaking invitations to their public events to candidates of both major parties.
This has not been a problem for the Jewish community in the past, because the community’s causes, be they support for Israel or, during the Cold War, the release of imprisoned Soviet Jews, enjoyed broad bi- partisan support.
A RARELY ENFORCED REGULATION
Furthermore, that particular IRS regulation is rarely enforced. For many years in urban black communities, the churches have served as the primary organizing forces for local black political leaders, who are invariably Democrats. Had the IRS non- partisan rule been strictly enforced on those urban black churches, there would be practically no black political leaders on the national scene today.
However, in recent years, when evangelical churches across the country began to take a similarly active role in promoting Republican candidates supporting their traditional moral values, Democrats took strong exception. Casting about for a way to counter the religious right, they suddenly rediscovered this provision in the IRS code which they had ignored for so many years when it was convenient for their partisan interests.
In this context, synagogues and other Jewish charitable organizations have recently been warned by some of the same groups which sponsored the anti-Iran rally, to be on their guard against violating the IRS 501(c)(3) political non- partisanship rule, so it is unlikely that they themselves had really run afoul of it in organizing this event.
However, the climate of fear engendered by the liberal crusade against the religious right is such that three of the five sponsoring groups, the UJC, UJA-Federation of NY, and the JCPA, were warned by their own legal counsels, in writing, that they might endanger their tax exempt status if Palin were to speak.
THE ADVICE OF A CLINTON ADVOCATE
Ann Lewis, an adviser to Clinton who had played an active role in the Jewish component of her campaign to win the Democrat nomination, said of the rally, after Clinton had pulled out, that “the way to keep it non-partisan, in our mind, is you invite both candidates.” Shortly after Clinton announced that she would not be speaking at the anti- Iran rally, the organizers issued an invitation to the Obama-Biden campaign to send a representative. In fact, that campaign did agree to send “a high level surrogate,” Congressman Robert Wexler, a Jewish Democrat from Florida to speak at the rally.
But that was not good enough for the real culprits in this story, the die-hard Democrat partisans within the three sponsoring groups, who were determined to block Palin’s appearance at the rally, regardless of any considerations of law or fair play. They rejected the option of allowing the rally to proceed with both Governor Palin and Congressman Wexler, representing the Obama-Biden campaign, speaking on the program. They insisted that even a high level surrogate supplied by the Obama campaign was not good enough. They declared that unless Democrat vice presidential candidate, Joe Biden himself, was also on the program, Palin should not be allowed to speak. They also made it clear that, unless Palin was removed from the program, they would force the three sponsoring organizations to withdraw from the rally, using the legal 501(c)(3) tax exemption issue as an excuse to destroy the event.
CHOOSING THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS
Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Presidents Conference, and NYJCRC Executive Director Michael Miller, fought until the last possible minute to keep Palin and the other political speakers on the program. However, it soon became apparent that their only alternative to removing those speakers from the program was to cancel the rally entirely, handing Ahmadinejad a public relations victory and further damaging Israeli and US efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear threat. If the UJC, UJA-Federation and JCPA had been forced to pull out of the event at the 11th hour, that would have undermined the unity of the community and made proceeding with the rally almost impossible.
The organizers issued a statement saying that, “In order to keep the focus on Iranian threats and to ensure that this critical message not be obscured, the organizers of the rally have decided not to have any American political personalities appear.” It also announced that Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Israeli Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik would be the featured speakers at the demonstration.
McCain issued a statement blasting the Democrats for politicizing the event. It said, “Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue. Regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad’s goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama’s campaign had the opportunity to join us. Sen. Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.”
Obama’s campaign then issued a denial that it had anything to do with the controversy which resulted in the withdrawal of the invitation to Palin.
At least two Jewish groups supporting Obama, which criticized and campaigned against the invitation to Palin to speak at the rally, claimed credit for the decision of the sponsoring groups to remove her and other political speakers from the event program, and declared that to be a victory for Obama’s cause.
DENYING PALIN ACCESS TO THE COMMUNITY
Why were these activists so determined to keep Palin off the rally program? Their goal was to deny any recognition or legitimacy to the Republican ticket, and Palin in particular. They now see her as a threat to Obama’s appeal to independent and female Jewish voters, for which they still have no real counter.
Instead of simply expressing their reasons for preferring the Obama- Biden ticket, these die-hard secular- liberal partisans used their positions of influence within those three sponsoring organizations to block an open debate over which ticket is supporting the right policies for the US and Israel to confront the threat from Iran.
Their actions had nothing to do with the enforcement of arcane IRS regulations. That was merely a convenient means to their end. They were determined to muzzle, and, if possible, discredit the Republican ticket, by denying them a forum in which they would have had an opportunity to tell members of the Jewish community directly how they intended to protect Israel and the US from Iran’s nuclear threat.
For these liberal secular Jews, an Obama victory in November has become their highest priority, more important than the very real existential threat that the hate- obsessed Iranian leader, Ahmadinejad, and his nuclear weapons program poses to Israel and every Jew in the world.
Palin’s opponents represent a Jewish outlook which considers the triumph of liberal secular values to be more important than Israel’s survival as a Jewish state, at least according to the terms which any religious Jew would consider to be authentically Jewish.
They are also motivated by an irrational hatred for President Bush, and blame American supporters of Israel, at least in part, for what they consider to be Bush’s greatest sin, the 2002 US-led invasion of Iraq. They ignore the real threat to Israel’s survival that Saddam Hussein posed at that time. Similarly, they do not take seriously the current nuclear threat which Iran and Ahmadinejad pose to Israel and vital US interests around the world.
The fear of these secular liberals, which they share with the leadership of the Democrat party, is that those who urge the US and Israel to take the measures necessary to stop Iran’s nuclear program would repeat Bush’s mistake in attacking Iraq. They have convinced themselves that Iran’s nuclear threat is no more real than the threat from Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction, even though, in this case, UN weapons inspectors have documented Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts, and Iran’s refusal to adequately explain troubling discoveries by UN weapons inspectors about its nuclear program.
IN DENIAL OVER THE IRANIAN THREAT
Despite all their rhetoric about the importance of respecting international law and opinion, they are unwilling to see the US or Israel do anything sufficient to enforce the resolutions of the Security Council requiring Iran to put an immediate halt to its uranium enrichment activities. They see a determined effort by the US and Israel to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program to be more of a danger to world peace and US interests than Iran actually acquiring nuclear weapons. They refuse to take seriously the open threats against Israel’s existence made by Ahmadinejad. They ignore the long record of support by Iran’s Islamic rulers for terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, and their incessant attacks on Israel and US interests around the world. They also refuse to recognize the danger that, once the Iranians acquire them, they are fully capable of supplying terrorists with nuclear weapons in the same way that they have supplied Hezbollah with thousands of rockets with which to bombard Israel, and Iraqi insurgents with deadly improvised explosive devices and more sophisticated weapons with which to attack US troops.
These apologists for Iran see an ally in Obama, and his stated willingness to open a dialogue with Ahmadinejad and other declared enemies of the US without preconditions. They are also heartened by Obama’s opposition to the Bush administration’s efforts to impose more serious US sanctions on Iran by declaring its Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, and the support expressed for Obama by some of Israel’s most determined enemies.
Iranian apologists, such as Sam Sedaei, write on liberal blogs like the Huffington Post opposing the very concept of the Rally to Stop Iran Now for “escalating a conflict with Iran on fictitious pretenses.” They encourage liberals to remain in denial over the growing evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, even when European countries, which have been trying for years to negotiate a peaceful end to its uranium enrichment program, have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is no other explanation for Iran’s frustrating behavior.
ECHOES OF PRE-WORLD WAR II APPEASEMENT
Other liberal commentators have started to talk openly about the need to accept Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as inevitable, and to suggest that it may not necessarily pose a dire threat to Israel’s existence and vital US national security interests, or destabilize the entire Middle East by touching off a region-wide nuclear arms race.
Their rhetoric recalls the fatal attitude of British and French advocates of appeasing Hitler in the late 1930’s, rather than acting firmly to stop German aggression while they still had the military capability to do so.
The secular liberal Jews who were willing to risk destroying the anti- Iran rally by creating the artificial controversy over the Palin invitation see Israel’s security as secondary in importance to their partisan US political goals. They are the same ones who believe that the only way to save Israel is to dismember it, re- dividing Yerushalayim, giving up the Har HaBayis, and forsaking the ancient roots of the Jewish people as represented by the holy places in Chevron and Bais Lechem. They do not really believe that the land of Israel rightfully belongs to the Jewish people, and thus are eager to court the good opinion of other countries which have no love for Israel by agreeing to establish a Palestinian state, even if it means abandoning more than 90% of the West Bank, and leaving the balance of Israel endangered by new terrorist enclaves established along its shrunken borders.
BUYING INTO THE BIG LIE
They are intent on pursuing a philosophy of two wrongs making a right. They believe the big lie that Israel is responsible for the plight of descendants of the Arab refugees from Israel’s War of Independence 60 years ago. They also believe that the only way to atone for alleged Israeli crimes against the Palestinians is by creating 60,000 new Jewish refugees by displacing them from their West Bank homes beyond the security fence. It would be a repeat of the same tragedy suffered by the displaced Jewish residents of Gaza, but on a far larger scale.
They include those like the so- called J Street group, which is supported by George Soros and others on the left, which claim to promote the 2-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They advocate the exclusive use of peaceful diplomacy over military force to resolve all such problems, which it calls a “new direction for American policy in the Middle East.” despite the history of the past 16 years of failed US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts using the methods it endorses. Just as they refuse to recognize the fatal flaws which have doomed the Oslo approach and all of its renamed successors, namely the failure of the West to hold the Palestinians accountable for their unwillingness to negotiate peace with Israel in good faith, so too are they unwilling to recognize the harsh and growing reality of the Iranian nuclear threat. Last week, the J Street group gathered 20,000 signatures on a petition calling on the anti-Iran rally to disinvite Sarah Palin.
A similar call was issued by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). The NJDC also publicly criticized the organizers for issuing the invitation to Palin in the first place. A few days earlier, NJDC sent an e-mail to Jewish activists across the country painting Palin as a right wing extremist, attempting to associate her with Pat Buchanan and Jews for J-, and repeating disproven allegations that while mayor of a town in Alaska, Palin had pressured the local librarian to ban some books.
INSIDE PRESSURE FORCED A DIFFICULT CHOICE
After the decision was made to disinvite Palin, the NJDC and the J Street group claimed credit for forcing the move. However, the organizers of the rally insist that the J Street petition had no impact on the final decision to pull the invitation to Palin, nor did the statement from the NJDC. The culprit was largely the pressure exerted by the Obama partisans within three of the rally’s sponsoring groups.
A FURIOUS REACTION FROM THE COMMUNITY
The removal of Palin from the rally program infuriated many within the Jewish community who had welcomed the participation of such a high profile public figure, regardless of her political affiliation, because of the long tradition of such events being held on a non-partisan basis. They were largely unaware of the politically motivated behind- the-scenes efforts to prevent Palin from participating. Some criticized Clinton for initiating the crisis by withdrawing her participation. Others, from both sides, not knowing the facts, unjustly faulted Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents and Miller of the NYJCRC for the situation that dictated these developments. Hoenlein’s priority was to maintain communal unity. That is why, before the rally, he absorbed the criticism without naming those who had instigated and exploited the crisis. He did promise that after the rally he would “set the record straight.”
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat representing Boro Park, said, “This is insulting. This is embarrassing, especially to Governor Palin, to me and I think it should be to every single New Yorker. It’s an absolute shame that this has happened. To threaten organizations … to threaten the Conference of Presidents that if you don’t withdraw the invitation to Gov. Palin we’re going to look into your tax exempt status … that’s McCarthyism.”
In the Bottom Line interview which appears in this paper, Hoenlein tried to explain the unexpectedly strong political forces which were unleashed by Clinton’s decision to back out of her appearance at the rally and explained how he had tried to avoid the embarrassment of having to publicly rescind the invitation to Palin.
Hoenlein noted the willingness of the Obama campaign to send Wexler to speak after it was aware that Palin would be on the rally program as well. He also praised the McCain-Palin campaign and staff. He said that they were well aware of the circumstances which forced the rally organizers to cancel all of the political speakers, and that efforts had already begun to undo any damage that the situation may have caused.
Without singling out anyone by name, those involved with putting the rally together expressed their deep concern that respected lay leaders of the three organizations had been willing to subordinate such a vital cause as countering the threat to Israel’s security from Iran to their own partisan political interests.
GROUPS NOT CONSULTED
This entire drama was played out at the highest levels of the organized secular American Jewish community in a very brief period of time. Within a span of little more than 48 hours, Palin accepted the invitation to appear at the rally, Clinton pulled out, the three member groups were threatened, and the organizers were forced to cancel all the political speakers on the program.
Hoenlein wrote to assure several organizations and individuals that neither the Presidents Conference nor its member groups were responsible for the ultimate decision. The Presidents Conference and other such “umbrella” groups normally operate on a consensus basis, with the unanimous agreement of all member organizations, both large and small, on all major policy decisions. The National Council of Young Israel issued a statement complaining that it was not consulted on the decision to disinvite Palin, and that, if asked, it would have objected. Later, the National Council issued a clarification, saying that it now understands that the decision to disinvite Palin was not made by the Presidents Conference, and asked those groups which were responsible to explain their actions.
Events last week were moving too quickly to permit consultation with all 50 Presidents Conference members, and such routine details as compiling the list of speakers at a rally program are normally left to the discretion of the organizers.
UNPRECEDENTED POLITICAL PRESSURE
Sources within the sponsoring groups, with many years of experience in organizing such events, noted that the level of interference from insiders intent upon imposing their political agenda on this rally was unprecedented, even for a presidential election year. One source pointed to the fact that Matt Dorf, who handles the Jewish campaign for the Democratic National Committee, is a principle in the firm of Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, which advises two of the three sponsoring organizations which threatened to pull out of the rally. “Obviously, somebody with access to high level information inside these organizations made mischief with regard to the rally,” the source said, “and was unconcerned with the consequences.”
A NATIONAL DEBATE OVER POLICY TOWARDS IRAN
The Iranian nuclear weapons threat was also being used as a political football in Congress. Last week, while the drama over Palin’s presence at the anti-Iran rally was being played out in New York City, Democrats in the Senate sought to tack an amendment onto an unrelated piece of legislation slated to pass before the November election that promoted Obama’s approach to Iran. The amendment was ultimately blocked, without explanation, by a senior Republican senator who is not up for election in November, even though he said that he agreed with the substance of the proposal.
In separate broadcast interviews, McCain and Obama offered two distinct approaches to the Iranian nuclear threat. Obama promised to examine every option to respond to that threat, “including military, to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” He agreed that, “a nuclear armed Iran is not just a threat to us, it’s a threat to Israel. And it is a game changer in the region. It’s unacceptable.”
But McCain was much more assertive, citing Iranian nuclear weapons as an example of the kind of threat which he thinks would justify a pre-emptive US military strike.
“Suppose that the Iranians had nuclear weapons. And you had a whole lot of other information about Iranian intentions [to use them] and you could make the case to the American people and to the world. I think it’s obvious that we would have to prevent what we’re absolutely certain is a direct threat to the lives of the American people,” McCain said.
WAR IS POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS
The German general Clausewitz once defined war as “the continuation of politics by other means.” The unhealthy political obsession of those within the three sponsoring organizations, who feared that allowing Palin to speak at the rally might somehow have led to the US attacking Iran, could backfire. The suppression of Iran’s opponents in the US could tempt it to rash actions, which, instead of discouraging a war between the US and Iran, might make such a war inevitable.
AHMADINEJAD RENEWS HIS ATTACKS ON ISRAEL
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City Tuesday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued his attacks on Israel using a variety of classic anti-Semitic motifs. He called Zionists criminals and murderers who are “acquisitive” and “deceitful,” and who dominate global finance despite their “minuscule” numbers. He also blamed the “underhanded actions of the Zionists” as one of the causes of unrest in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
He complained that US “presidential nominees have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings and swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to win financial or media support,” and added that the US is “spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and threats of the Zionist network against their will.”
Unwilling to refer to Israel by its name, Ahmadinejad said that the “Zionist regime” was on the path to collapse. He again said that Iran has an “inalienable” right to pursue its nuclear program. He accused “a few bullying powers” of opposing Iran’s progress, and declared that it will continue to “resist the bullying and continue to defend its rights,” and reject “illegal demands” by the UN Security Council that it shut down its uranium enrichment program.
Separately, in an interview published by the Los Angeles Times, Ahmadinejad said that Israel’s demise would benefit everyone, especially the United States. “The [Israeli] regime resembles an airplane that has lost its engine and is kind of going down. And no one can help it.”