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Why the Silence When AIPAC is Attacked?

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Last week Chas Freeman, who was nominated to be the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, was forced to withdraw from consideration because of his previous bile-ridden statements about Israel, his support for the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and most importantly having been a leading apologist for Saudi Arabia which is not surprising considering he was on their payroll. But it was the only the Jews whom he decided to attack when he withdrew. In his official statement Freeman, sounding unhinged, wrote that the "tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods and an utter disregard for the truth."

Heavens. Can no one stop those lying Jews?

And to think that this hothead came within a hair's breath of being responsible for '"policy-neutral intelligence assessments" that would daily land on the president's desk!

Barack Obama was largely elected President of the United States because of his temperament. Americans trusted a man who always exhibited a cool and collected manner to steward this country in a moment of real crisis. An unstable senior analyst who is so easily blows a gasket deserves no place in any senior position of authority.

But what really puzzled me about fracas was how few public figures both inside and outside the Jewish community stood up to respond to the smear on the heroes in the Israel lobby.

I have been involved with AIPAC for fifteen years. Their leaders are great Americans who lobby our elected officials not for an auto bailout or to rescue a bank who wants to buy a thirty-thousand dollar toilet or have Sheryl Crow sing to its shareholders, but for the support and protection of America's most trustworthy ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. If Israel flourishes in the Middle East then American-style democracy triumphs in a critical region that controls most of the world's energy. What the 9/11 attacks taught us is that Israel is a canary-in-the-coalmine for the United States and attacks against Israel presage imminent dangers to the United States.

To know the leaders of AIPAC -- David Victor, its president, Howard Kohr its executive director, and its many dedicated professionals -- is to come into contact with men and women who subordinate ego and influence to a cause much larger than themselves. The same is true of Morton Klein of the ZOA and so many others who constitute 'the Israel lobby.' Theirs is a thankless task because all who despise Israel -- and it's amazing, although no altogether surprising, to discover just how many do -- end up despising them for advocating on Israel's behalf. So let me count myself among those who publicly salute them.

I love America. It's a country whose commitment to goodness, however imperfect, is without parallel. And America's greatness is demonstrated in its commitment to a tiny country that struggles to be free even though it has no natural resources that are of use to the United States. As an American I identify with a country that fights for its liberty, has a press so free that it regularly exposes the corruption of its leaders, and whose politicians are utterly beholden to the people. And I therefore am extremely proud to support and identify with the guardians of the American-Israel relationship. There is no shame to count myself among those who champion AIPAC, only immense pride.

And yes, I am aware of the suffering of my Palestinian brothers and sisters, equal children of G-d to every Jew. But I cannot, by any rational examination of the facts, hold Israel accountable for their suffering when it is their leaders who have repeatedly chosen violence and terrorism whenever Israel has stretched its hand out in peace.

By contrast, Chas Freeman's championing of Saudi Arabia at Israel's expense makes a mockery of American values. Is there anything American about a monarchy that brutalizes political opponents and throws critical newspaper editors in jail? Has Freeman forgot that we came into being by fighting a king who imposed tyranny on his colonies? Is there anything uniquely American about a regime which, just last week, sentenced a 75-year-old widow to 40 lashes and four months in prison for spending time with her 25-year-old nephew who delivered to her five loaves of bread? And is there anything American about a country that allowed 15 teenage girls to burn to death in their religious school five years ago this month because they tried to run from the blaze without their face-covering?

Yet, Freeman's recent assessment of Saudi Arabia was this: "I believe King Abdullah is very rapidly becoming Abdullah the Great... Since he became king I've been struck by the scope of change. It has been quite extraordinary." For anyone who agrees with Freeman that Saudi Arabia is a reformed and newly liberal state, I would simply administer the kind of challenge which President Kennedy did in 1963 at the Berlin Wall. Given a choice of living in Israel or Saudi Arabia, which would you choose? Not sure, ask Western woman or a gay man.

I realize that there are other Chas Freemans out there who disdain Israel and subscribe to a Protocols-of-Zion-belief that a Jewish cabal of pro-Israel activists controls the American government and has hijacked its foreign policy. To those of you who are still rational on the subject, I ask you this. Suppose that the Jews could be persuaded that Israel is a failed experiment and they ought to completely disband and be absorbed in friendly countries like Australia, Canada, and the United States. Would good times suddenly come to the remaining inhabitants Middle East? Would Bashir Assad stop crushing democratic protesters with armed police? Would Hamas stop its reign of terror and assassination without trial in Gaza? Would the Saudis suddenly allow a woman to ride a bike or drive a car? And would the nearly one million Arabs whom the New York Times says Saddam Hussein murdered suddenly come back to life?

Since the probable answer to all those questions is no, we now know why even after Yasser Arafat was granted authority over 95% of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank more than one million Israeli Arabs chose to continue to live under Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish State of Israel rather than choosing to live under the all-too-unfortunate oppression which is the lot of our nearly all our Arab brothers throughout the Middle East.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, has just published his newest best-seller The Kosher Sutra. www.shmuley.com

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