Upward of 500 people assembled in Beth Tfiloh Congregations’s sanctuary to hear Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, expertly unfurl her thoughts about President Barack Obama’s promotion of the Iran nuclear deal, what its outcome could mean for Israel and the United States and his alleged threat to American Jewish civil rights.
In conversation with BT Rabbi Jonathan Gross, Glick, who made aliyah after college from her native Chicago, first took Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to task for their criticism of Jewish leaders, such as AIPAC, who were lobbying against the deal. She challenges the criticism by asking why it is acceptable for the teacher’s union to lobby billions of dollars to prevent principals from firing teachers, but “standing up to a deal that enables Iran to acquire nuclear weapons” is somehow corrupt, disloyal and treacherous.
“He acts as though there’s something illegitimate about Jews expressing concern … as if there’s something dirty about Jewish money and lobbyists,” she said.
Glick then detailed what she sees as a gross inconsistency of the president’s public remarks about the deal and the message he gave to American Jewish leaders in a private meeting earlier this week, for which she obtained the transcript.
She speaks from experience and with credibility not only because of her role as a journalist, but also as a core member of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians from 1994 to 1996. She also served as assistant foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and earned a master’s in public policy from Harvard in 2002.
She continued, Obama explains “every morning, noon and night” to the public, “‘If Congress kills the deal, [Iran] will re-engage in high-level uranium enrichment, and as a result, the U.S. will be required to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities,’” ostensibly starting a war.
Then, she said, the president changed his narrative and told the Jewish leaders, “‘There won’t be a war, Iran is going to engage in asymmetric retaliation and that will involve attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East but mainly against Israel, and Tel Aviv is going to have missiles raining down on it. The only one that will pay a price for this is Israel.’” He essentially threatened American Jews that the outcome is in their hands, she asserted.
Rabbi Menachem Goldberger of Tiferes Yisroel Congregation, who started the evening with a reading of Psalm 121, said, “I’m here because I strongly oppose the treaty with Iran. I think it’s dangerous to the entire world. I’m here in support; I’m expecting to hear more details.” He’s contacted Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski and Rep. John Sarbanes to voice his concern.
“You can’t negotiate with people who want to destroy you. It’s a simple thing,” said Goldberger.
When asked about the Israelis’ perspective on the deal, Glick said they are uncharacteristically unified and are “praying that Congress will kill it,” citing that they recognize that if the deal disintegrates, Israel may “get war with rockets and conventional missiles” but if it goes through, there could be nuclear war, meaning that as a country, Israel knows how to “pick our poison.”
Israel has long understood the benefit of “catering to the United States for our national security,” she said, though now the country must adapt — psychologically and militarily — to the “sense of betrayal that the United States has abandoned us, that the U.S. administration is really siding with Iran against Israel.”
Glick then ramped up to her most impassioned message regarding American Jews’ civil rights.
In her words, Obama threatened American Jewish leaders that he will “scapegoat American Jews and claim that you are disloyal to the United States of America and that you owe your loyalties to a foreign government, because you’re concerned by a deal that places Israel at existential risk. Unless you abandon your right, as American citizens, to lobby your lawmakers to oppose a deal you think is a disaster … you can expect me to continue to scapegoat you.”
Glick found the president’s message “stunning.”
“I feel it’s important for American Jews to recognize what we’re dealing with,” warned Glick. She said that it is a calculated campaign to “delegitimize political actions on the part of Americans on behalf of issues that they care about as a community. This cannot go unanswered.”
The talk was interrupted by numerous bursts of applause and several announcements urging people to contact politicians and voice their opinion on the deal.
Attendee Arnie Feiner said he has already contacted Sens. Cardin and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and will do so again. He and his wife, Lisa, both 72 and members of Chizuk Amuno, came to the open event, sponsored by BT congregants Eli and Mila Burman, because “this is extremely important — one of the most important foreign affairs issues since the end of World War II,” said Arnie. “And the way we perceive it, it’s about the very existence of Israel as well as a threat to not only America but the world in general.”
“I don’t think American Jews can stand for this,” Glick continued, and called it “the Alamo of American Jewry,” adding that “American Jewry [could] completely lose its political power as a community in America.”
“This is really about Jewish civil rights,” she said. “When the president of the United States tells the American Jewish leadership, ‘if you don’t back off in your opposition to this deal I’m going to continue scapegoating you as a community’ … it doesn’t matter if [American Jews] think it’s a good deal or not, the
very notion that the president of the United States should speak that way to citizens of the United States of any ethnic background and any ethnic persuasion is basically un-American.”