GOP Rep. Walsh: ‘American Jews Aren’t As Pro-Israel As They Should Be’

In addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week, President Obama reiterated support for a two-state solution and that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines.” Despite the fact that both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W.Bush endorsed this position, the right-wing is now apoplectic over the idea. In a response typical of the conservative reaction, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said Obama “betrayed” Israel and “put Israel at further risk.”

Today, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) joined the fracas, slamming Obama as “not pro-Israel” in an op-ed for the Daily Caller. The “1967 border insult,” he said, proves that Obama “has effectively abandoned the 50-year old U.S. alliance with Israel” and “is not capable of achieving peace.” However, in declaring himself to be “pro-Israel first and pro-peace second,” Walsh — who is Catholic — lashed out at “most American Jews” for siding with “vague notions of ‘peace'” over “Israel’s wellbeing [sic] and security.” Thus, Walsh asserted, “Too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be“:

So, where is the outrage from the American Jewish community? Don’t they understand that the president is not pro-Israel? Aren’t they troubled by his history of pro-Palestinian writings, speeches, and actions? The short answer is that most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians and vague notions of “peace” instead of with Israel’s wellbeing and security. Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be and too many share his belief that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli occupation. Nothing could be further from the truth.[…]

If we want peace in the Middle East, we have to publicly choose a side and defend that side. We have to stand with Israel. We must be their advisor [sic] and protector.

Many American Jews are none-to-pleased with Walsh’s patronizing delusion. Hadar Susskind, Vice President of Policy and Strategy for J Street (who also served in the Israeli army) explained to ThinkProgress how Walsh is completely divorced from reality. He noted that the 1967 border policy is “unequivocally and publicly” the policy of the U.S. presidents “going all the way back to Jimmy Carter, including Ronald Reagan,” and has been supported by numerous Israeli administrations. “American Jews are the most engaged community on this issue and the debate” and “actually disagree with extremely radical positions like Walsh’s that would jeopardize Israel’s security,” he added.

Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir — himself an Israeli-American — agreed. He told ThinkProgress that “because American Jews are so sophisticated on this issue, they know that Israel’s future is contingent upon peace. Peace is a necessary condition for Israel to be what American Jews want it to be — a just, secure, thriving member of the family of nations.” “American Jews are pro-Israel and pro-peace at the same time,” he said. “They understand that tight relationship between security and achieving peace with Palestinians” and that it is not “a zero sum game.”

As for Walsh, Nir called his characterization just plain “absurd.” “Clearly, there isn’t any ethnic group in America that is more supportive of its homeland than American Jews are of Israel. Nothing at all matches the support they show for Israel,” he said. But Nir was gracious in his account of Walsh. “This man is a first termer, he probably simply doesn’t know. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt of ignorance.”

Susskind offered this observation of Walsh: “Mark Twain has a saying that ‘it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.’ Walsh just removed all doubt.”


National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris released this statement to ThinkProgress:

I am positively astonished at Walsh’s offensive statements and deeply disturbed by his assertions. He knows precious little about anything he speaks about and he embarrasses himself in the extreme with his comments. Mr. Walsh owes the entire Jewish community an apology for his patently absurd and atrocious statements about our commitment to Israel.

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