Perhaps the president was trying to cement his campaign’s relationship with a key constituency and donor base. Or maybe her Jewishness played no role in her selection. Either way, tapping Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as head of the Democratic National Committee started a fuss with the Jewish community.
Adam Kredo of Washington Jewish Week has been tracking the controversy. He wrote:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the newly appointed head of the Democratic National Committee, “has sustained ... controversial ties to the fringe anti-Israel lobby J Street,” claims the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Wasserman Schultz co-hosted a 2009 Jewish American Heritage Month event hosted by J Street and mentioned the group in a statement on the House floor commemorating JAHM, the RJC reminds readers in a press release sent today.
Wasserman Schultz told JTA at the 2009 event: “I will meet and participate with any organization that supports Israel and supports peace and is working to foster an advanced peace process. ... I want to be able to maximize my ability to advance the interests of Israel, and there are different organizations doing that. AIPAC is one of them, and I’m committed to them. J Street has worthy goals as well. The more advocates for Israel in America, the better.” . . .
“We are deeply troubled by incoming DNC Chairman Wasserman Schultz's embrace of groups, such as J Street, that undermine Israel’s security,” [Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director] said in a statement. “In blindly conferring legitimacy for fringe groups like J Street, she has raised serious questions about her own credibility and judgment.”
For the sake of clarity, I’ll note that, as far as I can tell, Wasserman Schultz has never signed onto J Street’s letters and has declined its formal endorsement.
That brought an objection from the National Jewish Democratic Council, which said the RJC was “playing politics,” and AIPAC chimed in, vouching for Wasserman Schultz’s pro-Israel bona fides. Josh Block, as quoted by Kredo, sees the problem as J Street, not Wasserman Schultz:
“The lesson here isn’t about the RJC, or even Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, who is unquestionably a staunch supporter of a strong US-Israel relationship,” Block wrote. “The lesson here is that any association with J Street, even for the most pro-Israel elected officials, opens them up to attack.”
(*His missive is rife with links, which I’ve preserved: “Like I said about J Street in November, being associated with a group that helped Richard Goldstone slander Israel on the Hill, that refuses to condemn his report that accuses the top leadership in Israel of PURPOSEFULLY targeted civilians in Gaza, that says there’s no difference between Israel defending itself and Hamas terrorism, lies about their secret money from anti-Israel George Soros and half their budget coming from Hong Kong — not American Jews as they claimed — and lied again and again when confronted, even twisting the arm of a former Israeli MK to lie for them after she was recorded on tape exposing their ties to Goldstone, is HAZARDOUS to one’s pro-Israel reputation. AND that was BEFORE they called on the US gang up on Israel in the UN and not veto a one sided, anti-Israel UNSC resolution, prompting Rep. Gary Ackerman to condemn them for being hostile to Israel.)
William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America also weighed in on Wasserman Schultz’s side.
What to make of this? Well, to be honest, I’ve never thought Wasserman Schultz was in the club of Goldstone-cheering left-wingers. She might not have spoken out against the president when he condemned Israel for building apartments in its capital, but she wasn’t alone among Democrats in that regard. She was not endorsed by J Street in 2010, didn’t go to its confab this year and she did not sign the infamous Gaza 54 letter (signed by 54 Democratic congressmen urging Obama to demand relaxation of the blockade) In fact, she’s never signed on to a J Street letter on settlements, Palestinian recognition or anything else.
Still, I thought it was fair to ask Wasserman Schultz some basic questions: 1) Does she oppose a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood? 2) Does she condemn without equivocation Palestinian incitement to violence? (J Street opposed a letter on this topic after the murders of the Fogel family members in Itamar.) 3) Does she believe the Goldstone report should be retracted? and 4) Does she believe that the United States must remain committed to defending Israel’s right to defensible borders? Her spokesman replied promptly, “Yes to 1-4.”
Well, that’s a relief. Now we just need to be sure the president who appointed her agrees.