Author and former Congressional Candidate Rabbi Shmulay Beteach (R-NJ) has debunked the Republican Jewish Coalition’s over the top claim that UN Ambassador nominee Samantha Power “suggested that the U.S. should invade Israel militarily.”
In our conversation, she rejected utterly the notion that she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as ‘invade Israel’ talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians, then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book, A Problem From Hell, wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints that Israel is guilty of such atrocity. She explained that the only time she has written about Israel was in a later book, Chasing the Flame, on slain UN Diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello. There she described his time in UNIFIL, and included a discussion of the Government of Israel’s own findings on Sabra and Shatila.
To bolster her argument, she mentioned that her former Professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, whom I consider to be Israel’s most eloquent global champion, called her after A Problem from Hell was published, to applaud her for not remotely associating Israel with genocide, the way so many academic enemies had. I checked with my old friend, Professor Dershowitz, and he confirmed that he has warm feelings toward his former student, and considers her a moderate on Israel.
Listening to Power face-to-face and hearing her clarification set, amidst the visible hurt of being grouped together with Israel’s detractors, I found her argument convincing. Power, the world’s leading chronicler of genocide, is being dismissed as an enemy of the Jewish state based almost entirely on a fragment of a single interview lasting about two-and-a-half minutes. Most significantly, however we understand the meaning of her words in the unfortunate interview, they are utterly belied by her actions. She would later indeed become a senior adviser to the president of the United States, and not only would she never even remotely identify Israel as a genocidal power that needed to be stopped, but to the contrary, she would utilize her influence to advocate for military action against a genocidal Arab dictator, who is not only killing innocent Arab protestors, but is, along with Iran, one of Israel’s most outspoken enemies.
More after the jump.
In addition, some leading members of the American Jewish establishment shared with me that Power was instrumental in having America decline attendance in Durban II in April 2009, otherwise known as the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, which promised to be, like Durban I in 2001, a UN-sponsored Israel hate-fest.
There have been other, more minor comments by Power that have been interpreted as hostile to Israel, but those interpretations rely on the assumption, generated in 2002, that she is an Israel-hater. Based on Ms. Power’s clarification, and much more importantly, her actions, I believe this perception to be without merit and justice. We should now move on from her comments and judge her instead by her actions.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my personal stake in the rehabilitation of Samantha Power’s reputation in the Jewish community. Firstly, it seems incongruous that a woman that has done more in modern times to highlight the atrocity of genocide than anyone else should be ostracized from a community that has most experienced its tragic effects. Indeed, in our meeting, Power told me that the Jewish community is by far the most vocal against genocide, and that at the Save Darfur rally of May 1, 2006 there was “an endless sea of yarmulkes.” Likewise, in A Problem from Hell she writes of the Jewish community’s role in mobilizing military intervention in Bosnia.
Second, Muammar Gaddafi owned the home right next door to me in Englewood, New Jersey. I have been sickened over the past two years to awaken every morning to the site of the Libyan flag flying fifty feet from my home. I have done everything in my power to fight and oppose this brutal dictator ever since he announced plans to personally occupy the home and pitch a tent next-door to me. I have lobbied mayors, Governors, Congressmen, and Senators. Amid my deep respect for President Bush and his efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East, I was disappointed that his administration chose to normalize relations with Gaddafi. But one of the few American officials with the president’s ear who advocated punishing Gaddafi for his wickedness was Samantha Power.
Third — and to me most importantly — I have spent a large portion of my life fighting Israel’s enemies in public forums. Whether it was my eleven years at the University of Oxford, where I brought five Israeli Prime Ministers and endless cabinet ministers to respond to false accusations against the Jewish state; or the past eleven years, where I have been a defender of Israel on the American airwaves, championing the truth about Israel as a benevolent and liberal democracy; it has been one of my life’s highest callings. But as important as it is to expose our enemies, it is equally important to exonerate those who are not. A person’s reputation is all they have, and I know what it is like to feel unjustly maligned. Samantha Power has done the Jewish people service by highlighting the crime of genocide, and we welcome her repudiation of earlier comments on Israel. They were said over a decade ago, and she has expressed her regret for comments that lent themselves to misinterpretation. Judaism teaches that a person is judged primarily by their actions.
Power has lectured all over the world about the holocaust. She has used her influence to prevent a dictator from killing more of G-d’s children. She has highlighted the central role of world Jewry in preventing genocide. These are heroic actions, that should be applauded rather than criticized.