There is an unwritten rule that synagogues in the United States do not intervene in partisan American politics.
On Thursday, one of the largest synagogue organizations in the United States, the National Council of Young Israel, an umbrella organization which represents more than 150 synagogues around the U.S., decided to disregard that rule.
They did so by making an unprecedented appeal to Sen. Barack Obama and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to rescind the invitation extended to former President Jimmy Carter to address next week’s convention in Denver.
In a letter sent to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and the DNC Chairman, NCYI President Shomo Z. Mostofsky, and NCYI Executive Vice President Rabbi Pesach Lerner cited Carter’s anti-Israel statements and actions as the reasons behind their request.
“Over the past several years, President Carter has repeatedly and relentlessly undermined Israel’s position on the world stage,” wrote Mostofsky and Lerner. “He has blatantly disregarded the standard code of conduct on issues related to international affairs, always to the detriment of Israel and its citizens. Affording Mr. Carter a prime speaking engagement on the Democrats’ brightest stage is an affront to the State of Israel, and to all American Zionists, whether they are Christians or Jews.”
The full text of the National Council of Young Israel’s letters appears below.
Dear Senator Obama and Chairman Dean:
We are writing to express our profound disappointment at the decision to add former President James Carter to the list of speakers at next week’s Democratic National Convention. We ask that you rescind President Carter’s invitation to address the convention in Denver.
Over the past several years, President Carter has repeatedly and relentlessly undermined Israel’s position on the world stage. He has blatantly disregarded the standard code of conduct on issues related to international affairs, always to the detriment of Israel and its citizens. Affording Mr. Carter a prime speaking engagement on the Democrats’ brightest stage is an affront to the State of Israel, and to all American Zionists, whether they are Christians or Jews.
Mr. Carter’s transgressions against Israel are well known and well documented. In April 2008 he deliberately and wantonly ignored the wishes of the United States government when he traveled to Syria to meet with Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ terrorist organization. The fact that he embraced Hamas, a terrorist group that has repeatedly called for the destruction of the State of Israel, the obliteration of the United States, and the annihilation of the Jewish people, was a slap in the face to Israel, the U.S., and Jews everywhere.
In addition, let us not forget Mr. Carter’s 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” in which he condemned Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and criticized American Jews for what he called their efforts to curb any debate on the issue by exercising their power. In his book, Mr. Carter examined the history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and was highly critical of Israel’s policies.
A great deal of the controversy surrounding the book focused on Mr. Carter’s use of the word “apartheid” in the book’s title. Although apartheid was the official policy of racial segregation that was used in South Africa to discriminate against non-whites, Mr. Carter said that it is an appropriate term to describe Israel’s policies in relation to its treatment of the Palestinians.
Further, it was just several months ago when Mr. Carter inexplicably disclosed to the world classified details about Israel’s nuclear program, thereby undermining Israel’s ability to properly defend itself when attacked by its enemies.
In light of President Carter’s highly disturbing position towards the State of Israel, we strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to permit him to speak at the upcoming convention. Time and time again, Mr. Carter has proven that he has no compunction when it comes to using his bully pulpit to bully Israel, one of America’s strongest and closest allies. As the leaders of the Democratic Party, you have the ability to right this wrong and preclude Mr. Carter from taking the stage in Denver. It would be a shame to have such a special event for the Democratic Party tainted by the presence and involvement of an individual who has made prejudice one of his central themes.
Very truly yours,
Shlomo Z. Mostofsky, Esq., President
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President