Observing what’s right and doing what’s just

January 18, 2012

Below is an excerpt from a speech recently given by Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee and the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union at the JLC Human Rights Awards Dinner on Thursday, January 13th in New York City.

“Observing what’s right and doing what’s just.”

That’s Isaiah’s challenge to each of us.

And that doesn’t end with standing up for Jewish values here at home, but around the world — and nowhere is that more urgent than in the Middle East.

Together with our allies overseas, the JLC is pushing back against a well-orchestrated campaign to demonize Israel as an apartheid state. This is not a disagreement with certain Israeli policies, something that is quite legitimate.

Rather, it’s a campaign whose end goal is to undermine the very idea of a Jewish state. And they’ve made some headway in doing that. Yet, while unions in some countries bought into that new twist on what is still anti-Semitism, I’m proud to tell you that, here in America, not a single union has! And thanks to some of the people at this table and in this room they never will!

But not all of the threats facing Israel today are coming from outside its borders. Some are home grown.

We’ve all been thrilled by the winds of change in the Middle East. Still, with this change we’ve also seen new expressions of contempt for Israel within the Arab world. It’s a contempt that’s rooted, in no small part, in the conviction that Israel will never accept the right of the Palestinians to an independent state. And, sadly, Israel is cursed with a right-wing coalition government that’s regularly giving credence to it.

We all know Benjamin Netanyahu talks a good game about a two-state solution, but, at the very same time, his administration continues to shamelessly promote the construction of illegal settlements on the West Bank – a policy that severely impedes negotiations.

It’s like an employer who comes to the bargaining table telling us he wants a contract that’s a win-win for both sides while, at the same time, he has his lawyers working on decertification petitions.

The upshot is that Hamas – a terrorist organization that murders Israeli men, women and children and Palestinians — is winning new support and, as they do, moderates who were once ready to negotiate peace are backing away and trying to sound as tough as the terrorists.

The truth is that if Netanyahu doesn’t negotiate with Palestinian moderates today, there simply won’t be any moderates left to negotiate with tomorrow.

That’s why it’s time all of us – Jew and non-Jew – send a message to Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition that the only path to peace is through good faith negotiations with the Palestinians.

There’s nothing anti-Israel about being pro-peace and looking for a settlement worked out fairly by both sides. We all understand that, and I’ll tell you someone else who does: President Obama.

It’s the reason why Netanyahu’s right wing supporters in this country have pulled out the stops to slander the president as some kind of enemy of Israel. They hope that if they repeat that lie long and loud enough that some Jews might actually fall for it … enough, maybe, to flip Florida against President Obama this fall.

Now, the JLC is barred from getting involved in elections, but we are not barred from telling the truth, and, as I see it, the truth is that Israel has no stronger friends in this country today than Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton – and we’re going to do what we can to make sure the Jewish community in Florida – and across America — knows it.

It’s about observing what’s right and doing’s what’s just.