Foxman: Perceived U.S. weakness endangering Israel, American Jews

Chemi Shalev — Haaretz Oct 31, 2013

Head of the Anti Defamation League Abe Fox. Click to enlarge

In a rare outpouring of concern and criticism about American leadership and resolve in the global arena, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said that the world increasingly sees a “weak and retreating” United States that “cannot be counted on.”

Speaking at the ADL’s Centennial conference in New York, Foxman expressed apprehension that the U.S. is undergoing a “deep and dangerous change” that would endanger both Israel’s security and the wellbeing of the American Jewish community. “It causes me to lose sleep,” he said.

Foxman noted that America’s previous bout of isolationism before World War II “enabled the greatest disaster ever to the Jewish people.” But now, he says, “we are seeing growing indications of a desire for America to retreat from the world once again.”

He lambasted Congressional resistance to U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for a military strike against Syria’s chemical weapons that resulted in U.S. acceptance of the Russian compromise offer. “A huge sigh of relief was heard throughout the nation, but what was also heard was questioning around the world whether America could be counted on.”

And while he didn’t rebuke Obama by name, the Administration’s attitude towards talks with Iran was also a cause for concern, he said. “America seems desperate to avoid a confrontation with Iran and the Iranians, aware of that, are playing it to a fare-thee-well.”

Foxman spoke about “three pillars” that had empowered American Jewry and allowed it to stand up for Israeli and for beleaguered Jewish communities around the world: Israel, the community itself, and America’s global leadership following World War II.

But while Israel is flourishing, and American Jews remain a strong force – notwithstanding the recent findings of the Pew Survey – “it is the third pillar, that of America and its role in the world, that causes me to lose some sleep.”

Foxman said that America’s “unsatisfactory involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq” coupled with “the financial crisis at home” have generated broader opposition to American military involvement overseas. But instead of standing up for what’s right, he added, “Members of Congress seemed merely to reflect the wishes of their constituencies.”

“It was bad enough that the American people understandably wanted out,” Foxman said, “but where was the leadership in Washington to stand up?”

Allowing Assad “the murderer of thousands” to stay in power, Foxman added, “will send a terrible message” and would constitute a victory for Iran. “Allies of America are wondering whether America’s desperation at all costs to avoid military confrontation signals a dangerous weakening of American resolve.”

Foxman ended on a positive note, claiming that he was “an optimist” but his speech was dark and full of foreboding, participants said.

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