The Blog

Self-Inflicted Wounds

1:14 PM, Dec 28, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

I didn't get too worked up about the ridiculous appointment of Hannah Rosenthal to serve as the Obama administration's anti-Semitism czar because, frankly, nobody cares what the anti-Semitism czar says or does (unless they say or do something stupid, and of course Rosenthal has now done just that). It is a political position with no actual authority, though the choice of Rosenthal seemed to defeat the entire purpose of such a political position, which is to appoint a person that pleases the relevant constituency, in this case the Jewish community, and thus convinces that constituency that you take their concerns seriously.

Rosenthal's appointment seems to have had precisely the opposite effect, exacerbating the sense among the people who most closely follow these issues that the Obama administration is either indifferent to their concerns or just unbelievably ham-handed in their attempts to show otherwise. Still, the selection of such an inappropriate candidate for the job, evidenced by her ability to unite the entire constellation of pro-Israel groups against her within just weeks of being sworn in, has had one notable upside -- further isolating J Street from the pro-Israel community.

James Besser writes in the Jewish Week that "Her comments [attacking Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren --ed.] can only undercut her credibility with Jewish leaders already wary because of her J Street connections and diminish her standing internationally. They will also heap new fuel on the fires raging around J Street, a group the pro-Israel establishment continues to try to marginalize." That is absolutely true, and coming from a guy like Besser, who has been a reliable J Street booster these past few months, it reveals the extent of the damage that J Street has inflicted on itself these past few months. J Street could hardly be any more marginalized than it already is. A better word to describe its current status would be toxic.

The takeaway: going forward, having J Street on your resume is probably going to be a problem if you want a job in this administration. More than that though, J Street was established to provide Jewish cover for politicians who were less inclined to toe the pro-Israel line. But an organization this toxic can't provide cover. The last thing this administration will want when it makes tough demands of the government in Jerusalem is some statement from J Street saying how wonderfully pro-Israel those demands really are. In lieu of that, perhaps Rosenthal could just officially declare any criticism of this administration anti-Semitic.