Orthodox leader: U.S. Jews have no right to criticize Israel
By Sarah Bronson, Haaretz Correspondent
2 August 2004:
A prominent member of America's Orthodox community, who was also a Senate staff member for three decades, spoke out on Sunday night against American Jews who publicly criticize Israeli policies.
"An American who wants to take sides should make aliyah [immigrate to Israel]," said Rabbi Dr. David Luchins, a national associate vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU) and a national officer for the Jewish Council of Public Affairs. "Their kids should serve in the army. It's better for American Jews to stay out of Israeli politics."
Luchins carefully emphasized that "every Jew has the right to pray and pay for their side, whether it's Americans for Peace Now or Americans for Likud," and said he was not speaking on behalf of the organizations he serves.
However, the former senior aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan added that it's "devastating" for American Jews to criticize Israeli policies in front of U.S. politicians or in ads in The New York Times.
Taking a public stance against Israel is a "serious mistake," Luchins said in his speech at Jerusalem's OU Israel Center, because when American Jews write critical letters to their congressmen or protest Israeli policies, the average American does not perceive their underlying love for Israel.
"When the rallies happen in New York against the pull-out from Gush Katif," he predicted, "the headlines will say, `American Jews protest against Israeli policy,' and the average American will read: `American Jews protest Israel.'"
He also said that often, American and Israeli politicians make subtle, internal agreements between themselves, which they do not present to the public. A politician's publicly stated opinion about a peace proposal, for example, is sometimes a carefully planned diplomatic "charade," he explained. By writing critical letters or holding rallies, American Jews "sometimes mess up those charades - very badly."
Luchins also criticized American organizations that attempt to exert financial pressure on Israeli politicians.
"An Israeli Arab or a non-Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union has more of a say than the most ardent American Zionist who comes here 35 times a year," he asserted. Comparing Israeli politics to a baseball game and Israeli citizens to the teams, he told the audience that, "American Jewish Zionists have box seats, and we have the right and obligation to support our team. But we are not playing. Only the members of the team, even those who are benched, have the right to take part in team meetings. We fans talk strategy, but the only ones with the right to decide matters are the team members."