Obama And Masada
04/12/2010 - 15:21

I present below, in its entirety and without further comment, former mayor Ed Koch's latest essay on the tensions between the White House and Israel. In it, he concedes that some will call him alarmist, but finds some parallels between the administration's treatment of Israel and the Roman siege against Jews at Masada.

Mayor Koch, as proud and Zionist a Jew as they come, has been increasingly incensed over the state of U.S.-Israel affairs, and seems to regret his support for President Obama in 2008. Please feel free to post comments below or email your reactions to me at adam@jewishweek.org.

A Dangerous Silence

By Ed Koch

         I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel. What makes these verbal assaults and distortions all the more painful is that they are being orchestrated by President Obama.
         For me, the situation today recalls what occurred in 70 AD when the Roman emperor Vespasian launched a military campaign against the Jewish nation and its ancient capital of Jerusalem. Ultimately, Masada, a rock plateau in the Judean desert became the last refuge of the Jewish people against the Roman onslaught. I have been to Jerusalem and Masada.  From the top of Masada, you can still see the remains of the Roman fortifications and garrisons, and the stones and earth of the Roman siege ramp that was used to reach Masada. The Jews of Masada committed suicide rather than let themselves be taken captive by the Romans.
         In Rome itself, I have seen the Arch of Titus with the sculpture showing enslaved Jews and the treasures of the Jewish Temple of Solomon with the Menorah, the symbol of the Jewish state, being carted away as booty during the sacking of Jerusalem.
         Oh, you may say, that is a far fetched analogy. Please hear me out.
         The most recent sacking of the old city of Jerusalem – its Jewish quarter – took place under the Jordanians in 1948 in the first war between the Jews and the Arabs, with at least five Muslim states – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – seeking to  destroy the Jewish state.  At that time, Jordan conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank and expelled every Jew living in the Jewish quarter of the old city, destroying every building, including the synagogues in the  old quarter and expelling from every part of Judea and Samaria every Jew living there so that for the first time in thousands of years, the old walled city of Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank were "Judenrein" -- a term used by the Nazis to indicate the  forced removal or murder of all Jews..  
         Jews had lived for centuries in Hebron, the city where Abraham, the first Jew, pitched his tent and where he now lies buried, it is believed, in a tomb with his wife, Sarah, as well as other ancient Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. I have visited that tomb and at the time  asked an Israeli soldier guarding it – so that it was open to all pilgrims, Christians, Muslims and Jews -- “where is the seventh step leading to the tomb of Abraham and Sarah,” which was the furthest entry for Jews when the Muslims were the authority controlling  the holy place?  He replied, “When we retook and reunited the whole city of Jerusalem and conquered the West Bank in 1967, we removed the steps, so now everyone can enter,” whereas when Muslims were in charge of the tomb,  no Jew could enter it.  And I did.
         I am not a religious person.  I am comfortable in a synagogue, but generally attend only twice a year, on the high holidays. When I entered the tomb of Abraham and Sarah, as I recall, I felt connected with my past and the traditions of my people. One is a Jew first by birth and then by religion. Those who leave their religion, remain Jews forever by virtue of their birth. If they don’t think so, let them ask their neighbors, who will remind them. I recall the words of the columnist Robert Novak, who was for most of his life hostile to the Jewish state of Israel in an interview with a reporter stating that while he had converted to Catholicism, he was still a cultural Jew. I remain with pride a Jew both by religion and culture.
         My support for the Jewish state has been long and steadfast.  Never have I thought that I would leave the U.S. to go and live in Israel. My loyalty and love is first to the U.S. which has given me, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, so much. But, I have also long been cognizant of the fact that every night when I went to sleep in peace and safety, there were Jewish communities around the world in danger. And there was one country, Israel, that would give them sanctuary and would send its soldiers to fight for them and deliver them from evil, as Israel did at Entebbe in 1976.
         I weep today because my president, Barack Obama, in a few weeks has changed the relationship between the U.S. and Israel from that of closest of allies to one in which there is an absence of trust on both sides. The contrast between how the president and his administration deals with Israel and how it has decided to deal with the Karzai administration in Afghanistan is striking.
         The Karzai administration, which operates a corrupt and opium-producing state, refuses to change its corrupt ways – the president’s own brother is believed by many to run the drug traffic taking place in Afghanistan – and shows the utmost contempt for  the U.S. is being hailed by the Obama administration as an ally and publicly treated with dignity. Karzai recently even threatened to join the Taliban if we don’t stop making demands on him. Nevertheless, Karzai is receiving a gracious thank-you letter from President Obama. The New York Times of April 10th reported, “…that Mr. Obama had sent Mr. Karzai a thank-you note expressing gratitude to the Afghan leader for dinner in Kabul. ‘It was a respectful letter,’ General Jones said.”
         On the other hand, our closest ally – the one with the special relationship with the U.S., has been demeaned and slandered, held responsible by the administration for our problems in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The plan I suspect is to so weaken the resolve of the Jewish state and its leaders that it will be much easier to impose on Israel an American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving Israel’s needs for security and defensible borders  in the lurch.
         I believe President Obama’s policy is to create a whole new relationship with the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq as a counter to Iran – The Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Muslim world which we are now prepared to see in possession  of a nuclear weapon.  If throwing Israel under the bus is needed to accomplish this alliance, so be it.
         I am shocked by the lack of outrage on the part of Israel’s most ardent supporters. The members of AIPAC, the chief pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington, gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a standing ovation after she had carried out the instructions of President Obama and, in a 43-minute telephone call, angrily hectored  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
         Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have made pitifully weak statements against Obama’s mistreatment of Israel, if they made any at all. The Democratic members, in particular, are weak. They are simply afraid to criticize President Obama.
         What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders – Jew and Christian. Where are they?  If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King’s memorable speech was given? His reply was “Fifty people might come.”  Remember the 1930s?  Few stood up. They were silent.  Remember the most insightful statement of one of our greatest teachers, Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?  And if not now, when?”
         We have indeed stood up for everyone else. When will we stand up for our brothers and sisters living in the Jewish state of Israel?  
         If Obama is seeking to build a siege ramp around Israel, the Jews of modern Israel will not commit suicide. They are willing to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, but they will not allow themselves to be bullied into following self-destructive policies.
         To those who call me an alarmist, I reply that I’ll be happy to apologize if I am proven wrong. But those who stand silently by and watch the Obama administration abandon Israel, to whom will they apologize?

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Pro right-wing Israel supporters such as Mayor Koch's argue for unquestioning U.S. support of Israel's foreign policies seems to be based on Israel's being our only "true" ally in the middle-east. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to examine this contention. Upon discovering that Jason Pollard, with his Israeli handlers help, handed over our most top secret intelligence documents to Israel. When the United States asked Israel to return these documents Israel refused. Instead it delivered them to the Soviet Union, for the release of Soviet Jews, in part to help populate the West Bank. More recently high AIPAC officials received documents from a U.S. intelligence official who received serious prison time for this crime. Would it be fair to ask if these actions were deserving of an "ally" who has been given, and continues to receive, billions of U.S. dollars from a nation in dire economic straits? Perhaps our voluble Mayor Koch might be kind enough to opine.
Koch says Obama demeans Israel. Israel demeans itself by having its settlement policy dictated by Netanyahu's decisions on settlements being driven by his unwillingness to shed the albatross of his present coalition, by his having the acknowledged hater Lieberman in his cabinet and by failing to recognize that an occupation for 43 long years which, to Israel's detriment, continues to erode Israel's moral standing with other democratic states and is misused as fodder in enrollment efforts by muslim extremists in many places. Netanyahu's stated openness to a two-state solution is suspect because he continues to be politically bound to Shas party views, making him unable to recognize in some measured way the competing Palestinean roots in Jerusalem.
Ed Koch is correct again. Ed--run for office again.
It's clear Ed has lost his marbles. Why does anyone pay attention to him these days?
submitted by Osnat on Tuesday 4/13/10 I agree G-d Bless Ed koch.
Thank you Mr. Koch.
G-d bless Ed Koch. He seems to be the only significant supporter of Israel these days who will speak truth to power.