By Brian Faler
Thursday, August 12, 2004
RALPH NADER, THAT master of controversy, has a new bete noire: the
Anti-Defamation League. The independent presidential candidate has become
embroiled in an ugly exchange with the Jewish organization, after he
suggested that President Bush and Congress were "puppets" of the Israeli
The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer comes to the United States and
meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill,
where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced," Nader
said earlier this summer. That prompted an angry letter from the league,
which complained that the "image of the Jewish state as a 'puppeteer,'
controlling the powerful US Congress feeds into many age-old stereotypes
which have no place in legitimate public discourse."
Nader is not backing down. In a letter to the group that will be released
today, he reiterated his arguments, challenged the league to cite a recent
example of when American leaders have pursued a policy opposed by the
Israeli government and pointed to Israeli peace groups that he said share
his criticism of that country's leadership. "There is far more freedom in
the media, in town squares and among citizens, soldiers, elected
representatives and academicians in Israel to debate and discuss the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict than there is in the United States," Nader
The longtime consumer advocate's willingness to criticize Israel may win him
some votes, since both Bush and Democratic nominee John F. Kerry strongly
support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But not if Abraham H. Foxman,
the national director of the league has anything to say about it. "What he
said smacks of bigotry," Foxman said.
August 5, 2004
Abraham H. Foxman
823 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Foxman:
How nice to hear your views. Years ago, fresh out of law school, I was
reading your clear writings against bigotry and discrimination. Your charter
has always been to advance civil liberties and free speech in our country by
and for all ethnic and religious groups. These days all freedom-loving
people have much work to do.
As you know there is far more freedom in the media, in town squares and
among citizens, soldiers, elected representatives and academicians in Israel
to debate and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than there is in the
United States. Israelis of all backgrounds have made this point.
Do you agree and if so, what is your explanation for such a difference?
About half of the Israeli people over the years have disagreed with the
present Israeli government's policies toward the Palestinian people.
Included in this number is the broad and deep Israeli peace movement which
mobilized about 120,000 people in a Tel Aviv square recently.
Do you agree with their policies and strategy for a peaceful settlement
between Israelis and Palestinians? Or do you agree with the House Resolution
460 in Congress signed by 407 members of the House to support the Prime
Minister's proposal? See attachment re the omission of any reference to a
viable Palestinian state - generally considered by both Israelis and
Palestinians, including those who have worked out accords together, to be a
sine qua non for a settlement of this resolvable conflict - a point
supported by over two-thirds of Americans of the Jewish faith. Would such a
reasonable resolution ever pass the Congress? For more information on the
growing pro-peace movements among the American Jewish Community see: Ester
Kaplan, "The Jewish Divide on Israel," The Nation, June 24, 2004.
Enclosed is the "Courage to Refuse - Combatant's Letter" signed by hundreds
of reserve combat officials and soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. It
is posted on their web at: www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp . One highlight
of their statement needs careful consideration: "We shall not continue to
fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and
humiliate an entire people. We hereby declare that we shall continue serving
in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense.
The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose - and
we shall take no part in them" (Emphasis in original). Do you agree with
these patriotic, front line soldiers' observation that Israel is dominating,
expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people - the Palestinian
people - and that in their words "the Territories are not Israel?"
What is your view of Rabbi Lerner's Tikkun's call for peace, along with the
proposals of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and
Americans for Peace Now? As between the present Israeli government's
position on this conflict and the position of these groups, which do you
favor and why?
Do you share the views in the open letter signed by 400 rabbis, including
leaders of some of the largest congregations in our country, sent this March
by Rabbis for Human Rights of North America to Ariel Sharon protesting
Israel's house-demolition policy?
Have you ever disagreed with the Israeli government's treatment of the
Palestinian people in any way, shape or manner in the occupied territories?
Do you think that these Semitic peoples have ever suffered from bigotry and
devastation by their occupiers in the occupied West Bank, Gaza or inside
Israel? If you want a reference here, check the website of the great Israeli
human rights group B'T selem.
Since you are a man of many opinions, with a specialty focused on the
Semitic peoples, explain the United States' support over the decades of
authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, in the greater Middle East, over their
own people which is fomenting resistance by fundamentalists.
These questions have all occurred to you years ago, no doubt. So it would be
helpful to receive your views.
As for the metaphors - puppeteer and puppets - the Romans had a phrase for
the obvious - res ipsa loquitur. The Israelis have a joke for the obvious -
that the United States is the second state of Israel.
How often, if ever, has the United States - either the Congress or the White
House-pursued a course of action, since 1956, that contradicted the Israeli
government's position? You do read Ha'aretz, don't you? You know of the
group Rabbis for Justice.
To end the hostilities which have taken so many precious lives of innocent
children, women and men - with far more such losses on the Palestinian side
- the occupying military power with a massive preponderance of force has a
responsibility to take the initiative. In a recent presentation in Chicago,
former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the point explicitly - Israel
should take the initiative itself unilaterally and start disengaging from
the West Bank and Gaza and not keep looking for the right Palestinian
Authority. Amram Mitzna, the Labor Party's candidate for Prime Minister in
the 2003 election, went ever further in showing how peace can be pursued
through unilateral withdrawal. Do you concur with these positions?
Citizen groups are in awe of AIPAC's ditto machine on Capitol Hill as are
many members of Congress who, against their private judgment, resign
themselves to sign on the dotted line. AIPAC is such an effective
demonstration of civic action - which is their right - that Muslim Americans
are studying it in order to learn how to advance a more balanced
Congressional deliberation in the interests of the American people.
Finally, treat yourself to a recent column on February 5, 2004 in The New
York Times, by Thomas Friedman, an author on Middle East affairs, who has
been critical of both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. Mr. Friedman
"Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in
his office in Ramallah, and he's had George Bush under house arrest in the
Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush
surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice
president, Dick Cheney, who's ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates, and
by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on
Israel in an election year-all conspiring to make sure the president does
These are the words of a double Pulitzer Prize winner.
Do you agree with Mr. Friedman's characterization? Sounds like a
puppeteer-puppet relationship, doesn't it? Others who are close to this
phenomenon have made similar judgments in Israel and in the United States.
Keep after bigotry and once in a while help out the Arab Semites when they
are struggling against bigotry, discrimination, profiling and race-based
hostility in their beloved adopted country - the U.S.A. This would be in
accord with your organization's inclusive title.