Dear President Obama,
And while you don’t know my name, you know that I and those like me represent 52 percent of U.S. Jews who support your diplomatic efforts over those presented by Congressional Republicans and Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who are now shamelessly working in concert, behind your back, to undermine your administration’s historic gains.
As the leader of Israel, Netanyahu often claims to speak for all Jews, absurdly conflating his political ideals with those of American Jewry. But he does not speak for most of us. Indeed, there are over three million American Jews for whom he does not speak. Over three million voices in the American Jewish community who reject current efforts to scuttle historic nuclear negotiations with Iran. Who reject efforts to undermine peaceful diplomacy. And who reject John Boehner’s outrageous breach of protocol by inviting a foreign leader to deliver a response to your State of the Union address.
I know you are rightly outraged, viewing Netanyahu as having spat in your face after your consistent defense of Israel on the international stage. I know that you and officials in your administration feel as though there should be consequences for what is about to transpire on March 3, when Netanyahu will rise before Congress as the leader of a foreign ‘ally’ and publicly reject your diplomatic efforts for political gain back home.
This, in my view, should be the consequence: the amplification of ‘pro-Israel’ voices like mine in the American Jewish community who reject Netanyahu, be it for his desire to bomb Iran, his desire to continue Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians or his expansion of settlements and rejection of peace.
I’m not actually asking for a personal invitation to the White House, though I would certainly not turn one down. What I’m asking is that you invite American Jewish leaders and activitsts to the White House on March 3 to publicly amplify those liberal and progressive voices Netanyahu claims to represent. I’m asking that you use this as an opportunity to reveal to the American public that most American Jews see Netanyahu as a harmful force, both in Israel, in the Middle East and in the world. I’m asking that you give us a chance to support your diplomatic efforts with Iran passionately and eloquently as Congress rises repeatedly to applaud Netanyahu’s damaging rhetoric.
And after you have done so, I ask that you invite civil leaders and activists in the Iranian-American and Palestinian-American communities in order to amplify their pro-diplomacy, pro-peace voices.
The New York Times calls what Israel and the GOP have done to be a disrespectful “breach of sense and diplomacy.” What NYT editors did not say is that this breach is an opportunity, now that the hole is gaping, for you to counter Netanyahu’s voice with powerful ones which exist within the nation you lead.
I ask that you let us help you lead.
An American Jew
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.