Now that the presidential election is finally over, it’s time to be blunt: The extreme nastiness of the discourse on Israel, coming mostly from those who opposed President Obama, did a great disservice to the American Jewish community. Well-funded advocacy groups, shadowy organizations and wealthy individuals poisoned the atmosphere and polarized the conversation. They resorted to fear tactics that harmed reputations and paid little heed to facts and fairness.
And it didn’t even work.
So before the next round of campaigning begins, some communal soul-searching is in order. Passionate debate is to be expected when something as significant as Israel’s future is at stake. But it’s time to say that the kind of meanness and mendacity on display this year has no home in the mainstream Jewish community.
A few examples: In March, the Emergency Committee for Israel ran a full-page (and mighty expensive) ad in The New York Times excoriating two small, liberal organizations for some things their staff members wrote. It used quotes from two Jewish leaders without their permission and out of context; both men unequivocably denounced the ad and ECI. The American Jewish Committee, also mentioned in the ad, released a statement saying it, too, was never consulted and wanted readers to know it.
This was only one of many newspaper ads, giant billboards and videos produced by ECI, which as a 501(c)4 tax-exempt organization is not obliged to disclose its donors. But we know that ECI is run by a small board that includes William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a regular of the Sunday talk shows and Jewish events, where he presents a far more amiable persona than is evident in ECI’s handiwork.