The shocking video of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa trying to push through Jerusalem as Israel's capital in the Democratic platform highlights the strong reservations that many American Jews are feeling toward the Democratic party.
The huge chorus of 'no' that thundered back at Villaraigosa (whom I know personally and respect deeply) was more about rejecting Jerusalem-as-Israel's-capital from being shoved down the Democrats' throats.
Now, I know to expect this from the BBC who, at the London Olympics, did not list Jerusalem as Israel's capital. I also know to expect it from, say, the Palestinian Authority. When I accompanied the Rev. Al Sharpton to Gaza City in 2001 and refused to meet Yasser Arafat, I waited in the presidential receiving room where there was a map of Israel with a Palestinian flag coloring the entire area. Neither Israel nor an Israeli Jerusalem even existed. But to hear this from a great American political party, which spawned such incredible pro-Israel personalities as Robert Kennedy, Scoop Jackson, Chuck Schumer, and current minority whip Steny Hoyer is quite shocking.
The debate about whether President Obama is favorably inclined toward Israel rages on. My own opinion has been clearly expressed in many published articles. In the summer of 2008 I received a phone call from the Obama campaign asking me to serve as national co-chair of 'Rabbis for Obama.' I told them I was flattered but could not accept. I was sure that Obama would go south on Israel, blaming the lack of progress in the peace process on Israeli intransigence rather than Palestinian terrorism. I was unfortunately proven correct. Obama's first two years as President were taken straight out of Jimmy Carter's playbook, putting immense pressure on Israel to make concessions without asking much of anything from the Palestinians, until his own self-described 'shellacking' in the 2010 midterms forced him to moderate his stance on Israel.
Be that as it may, I have never seen Obama's unrelenting pressure on Israel as indicative of the Democratic Party in general. What a shame, therefore, to witness today's reaction to Israel simply having its capital recognized by Democratic Party. My own opponent in New Jersey's Ninth Congressional District, Bill Pascrell, signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter, despite its lie accusing Israel of denying food and medicine to Palestinians in Gaza. Pascrell has also been working tirelessly to keep Imam Muhamad Qatanani, a former member of Hamas who regularly lambasts Israel from his pulpit in Paterson, in the country against a concerted effort by the Department of Homeland Security to deport him. Qatanani is quoted as saying, "Oh brothers and sisters. On such a day, a human disaster occurred; on 5 and ten, the 15th of May 1948 was the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the earth, It is what is known today as the Palestinian Nakba This Nakba, because of this Nakba, the State of Israel was established on the Land of Palestine." Qatanani also said, "First, brothers and sisters, we must understand that this land called Palestine has been an Arab land from 4,000 years ago before the presence of Abraham (upon him peace) It was an Arab land before Abraham (upon him peace) The first who inhabited it were the Arab Jebusites. We have a historical and geographic right. We must teach this to the young and our children." As well as advocating for Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, who was quoted as saying, "Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption...The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them -- even though they exaggerated this issue -- he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them... Allah Willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers." And this latest outrage of omitting Jerusalem as Israel's capital in the official Democratic platform gives me further pause.
What's going on?
In truth, my feelings are that some of my Democratic brothers and sisters are losing their will to fight evil and choosing moral equivalency instead. It is not just Israel that seems to evoke the Democratic Party's disdain. The Arabs of Syria are faring no better as they are slaughtered en masse as a Democratic president looks on with barely a whimper from his party to rescue these suffering souls.
Dennis Prager says that those who do not support Israel have a broken moral compass. Israel is a flourishing democracy with one of the most respected independent judiciaries in the world. Hamas is a terrorist organization whose charter calls for Jews to be killed wherever they may be. Hezbollah is another terrorist organization sworn to Israel's destruction and the Palestinian authority is corrupt to the core, having stolen billions from innocent Palestinians who live in squalor under their oppressive sovereignty. Israel is not perfect. But is there really a choice as to who is in the right?
Jerusalem is the greatest litmus test of all. It is mentioned 600 times in the Hebrew Bible and not once in the Koran. It is replete with thousands of years of Jewish history and housed both of Judaism's great Temples. It was the seat of Israel's great king David, who made it his capital, and has been focused on in the Jewish prayers for millennia. Few expressed this better than Elie Wiesel in the full-page ads he took out in newspapers across the world in April 2010 when President Obama first started mumbling of Jerusalem being a divided city:
For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics... Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother's lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.
It's time for Republicans, Democrats, and all Americans to come together to declare Jerusalem Israel's eternal, undivided capital and for the greatest country on earth, the beacon of freedom and democracy to the world, the United States of America, to move its embassy to Jerusalem and end this nonsense once and for all.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has just published the best-seller "Kosher Jesus," is the Republican nominee for New Jersey's Ninth Congressional District. In October he will publish a monumental book on the nature of human suffering "The Fed-Up Man of Faith." His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.