Anti-Israel Rabbis for Obama

Obama campaign touts support of rabbis who support boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel

Rabbis for Obama
August 24, 2012

After a sizable delegation of pro-Israel rabbis deserted Team Obama, the president’s reelection campaign sought the support of more than 200 far-left religious leaders associated with the fringe group J Street, a liberal lobbying outfit known for criticizing Israel.

"Rabbis for Obama" is the campaign’s latest appeal to Jewish voters, many of which have soured on President Obama’s policies towards Israel and the economy.

The Jewish outreach initiative began in 2008, when Jews across the country seemed hesitant to elect a politician who lacked pro-Israel bona fides. More than 300 left-leaning, pro-Israel rabbis lent their names to the 2008 incarnation of the group, which focused heavily on allaying concerns over the issue of Israel.

This time around, more than 600 self-described rabbis have enlisted in the endeavor—yet the bulk of them moonlight as J Street activists, according to a Free Beacon analysis.

The group’s revamped mission statement deemphasizes Israel, focusing instead on jobs and the economy.

Altogether, 88 rabbis who signed onto the 2008 Rabbis for Obama initiative declined to renew their membership in 2012. Nine of the sixteen co-chairs from 2008 are not listed this time around.

Of the 605 rabbis listed on the 2012 effort, 225 of them double as members of J Street’s rabbinic cabinet—a sign to some observers that Obama’s rabbinical support network has lurched leftward.

Of the numerous rabbis associated with groups that have been described by the Anti-Defamation League as "anti-Israel," a large cohort has adopted positions that place them far to the left of the mainstream Jewish community.

Pro-Obama Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, for instance, came under fire Thursday by Republican Jews for once dining with anti-Semitic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Several other self-described "Rabbis for Obama" also have troubled relationships with the Jewish state.

Rabbis David Mivasair is a Vancouver-based rabbi who has blamed the U.S. and Israel for the 9/11 terror attacks and has justified terrorist rocket attacks on Israel’s sovereign territory.

"The U.S. and Israel might have done something to elicit such enmity" from terrorists, Mivasair wrote in 2010 on his blog. He wrote that those who feel the U.S. and Israel are blameless act as though terrorism "arose spontaneously, a completely irrational aberration in human thinking, with no relationship whatsoever to anything that the USA and Israel have ever done."

Mivasair has also downplayed Palestinian terrorism.

"I have to say about a puny, ineffective rocket fired into some place like Sderot, something to think about is very likely that very likely the people firing it are the children or grandchildren of people who perhaps once lived in Sderot," he said in 2011, according to a report by a pro-Israel blog. "But it wasn’t Sderot, it was a Palestinian village that had existed there for centuries that had several hundred people who were forcibly expelled at gunpoint and when the place was empty, then Jews moved in and built a town."

In addition to claiming that there is "no justification whatsoever" for Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, Mivasair has condemned Israel as unjustly oppressive.

Mivasair serves on the "rabbinical council" of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the leading proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates economic warfare against Israeli-made goods.

Another controversial rabbi, Brant Rosen, serves as the spiritual leader of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Ill. He vociferously opposed the 2008 Gaza War and has endorsed the anti-Israel BDS movement.

Rosen stated that "Israel’s founding is inextricably bound up with its dispossession of the indigenous inhabitants of the land," according to a copy of his remarks posted on the Fresno Zionism blog.

The 2008 Gaza War, which began after Palestinian terrorists barraged Israelis with rocket attacks, was "not about security at all," Rosen wrote in his book, Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity.

"This is about bringing the Palestinian people to their knees. Once I admitted this to myself, I realized how utterly tired I had become," he wrote. "Tired of trying to excuse the inexcusable. Tired of using torturous, exhausting rationalizations to explain away what I knew in my heart was sheer and simple oppression." 

BDS is an appropriate response to Israel’s "brutal occupation," Rosen claimed in a June blog post. 

Rosen also lent his name to a 2010 missive expressing "deepest thanks" to Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the infamous Goldstone report, a widely disputed United Nations report that incorrectly accused Israel of committing war crimes. Goldstone later retracted the report’s claims as false.

Rosen also advocated against the Jewish community’s efforts to secure a moment of silence at the 2012 Olympics for the Israeli athletes who were slaughtered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich games.

"At what point does our need for the world to acknowledge Jewish suffering give way to a collective victim mentality?" Rosen wondered on his blog.

He also serves on the pro-BDS JVP’s rabbinical council.

Haim Beliak, another of Obama’s rabbis, is cofounder of Jews on First, a left-leaning First Amendment organization established to counter "the Christian right" and its "theocratic agenda."

Beliak, who is based in Los Angeles, joined Rosen in signing the pro-Goldstone letter and was a principal participant in the 2009 "Fast for Gaza," a daylong fast aimed at highlighting opposition to what they allege is Israel’s unjust blockade of Gaza.

"The blockade is an act of collective punishment, denying the entire population of Gaza with necessary food, medicine, fuel, and other basic necessities," the group wrote in its mission statement, according to a report in the Jewish Journal. "How can we (rabbis, Jews, human beings) be silent?"

"‘The old Israel doesn’t exist any more,’ and [Beliak] blamed American Jews for their failure to live up to the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and the biblical injunction of ‘Justice, justice shalt thou pursue,’" the Journal reported.

Chava Bahle is a "Jewish renewal" rabbi from northern Michigan who, along with several other "Rabbis for Obama," serves on JVP’s rabbinical council.

Bahle also supported the infamous 2010 "Gaza Freedom Flotilla," which carried a delegation of pro-Palestinian activists into Israeli waters. The activists attacked and beat a group of Israeli soldiers who attempted to board the ship.

Following the attack, Bahle signed a letter claiming that the main mission of "the Freedom Flotilla was to carry humanitarian aid."

"We call upon our community [the Jewish community] not to turn away in denial or blame those of good will and good purpose who risked their lives to relieve the beleaguered people of the Gaza strip," the letter stated.