On Saturday, Febrary 28, 2015, the twitter-sphere was aflame with people denouncing Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Some posts got downright personal and called him nasty names, including a “self-promoter.”
His alleged “crime?”
An organization led by Rabbi Boteach placed of a full page advertisement in The New York Times that criticized U.S. National Security Council Advisor Susan Rice, accusing her of complicity with genocide.
The ad was timed to coincide with a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington, D.C., the AIPAC conference, Rabbi Boteach’s DC conference, and Rice’s criticism of Netanyahu’s planned speech before the U.S. Congress.
Part of the ad’s copy read: “Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) criticized the ad, as did the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), J Street, the Orthodox Union (OU), the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), and the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). Abe Foxman, the retiring national director of the ADL write in a statement, “The spurious and perverse association of criticism of Israel’s prime minister with ignoring genocide not only poisons the discourse on a vital global security issue,… it trivializes the horrific nature of genocide and the memory of its victims.” AIPAC stated that the ad was an “ad hominem attack” with “no place in our discourse.” The Office of the Prime Minister of Israel – opposed to personal attacks against U.S. leaders – condemned the ad as well.
U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D – CA) announced that he would withdraw from a forum organized by Rabbi Boteach for skeptics of the Obama Administration’s Iran policy due to the placement of the ad. He wrote, “I cannot appear at a forum which was advertised using an unwarranted incendiary personal attack.
Boteach responded in the press that his claim against Rice was a characterizaton of Rice by his “good friend,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power in an essay from September 2001 in “The Atlantic.”
An essay in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, titled “Never Forget: Iran is the Problem, not Boteach”, the rabbi wrote that we should not lose sight of the real problem. It is not Boteach, but Iran.
If only that unity could be channeled into publicizing the existential threat a nuclear Iran poses to America and the world, perhaps the US Administration would truly recognize the danger that a nuclear armed Iran would be, and reject any deal that would leave Iran within reach of the bomb. Boteach’s tactics are reminiscent of Peter Bergson (aka Hillel Kook) and his supporters who tried to move the United States to protect the Jews of Europe being slaughtered by Germany during WWII by allowing increased immigration of European Jews into America. Bergson’s group ran shocking full page ads in the Times and other newspapers as part of their campaign to tell the world of the destruction of European Jewry.
The copy of the Boteach ad is below: