Conference of Presidents Parrots Avigdor Lieberman

By Daniel Luban

On Wednesday, Ha’aretz reported on the Netanyahu government’s latest spin in its clash with the U.S. and the international community over planned settlement construction in East Jerusalem: change the subject to the Nazis.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has ordered diplomats to use an old photograph of a former Palestinian religious leader meeting Adolf Hitler to counter world criticism of a Jewish building plan for East Jerusalem.

Israeli officials said on Wednesday that Lieberman told Israeli ambassadors to circulate the 1941 shot in Berlin of the Nazi leader seated next to Haj Amin al-Husseini, the late mufti or top Muslim religious leader in Jerusalem.

One official said Lieberman, an ultranationalist, hoped the photo would “embarrass” Western countries into ceasing to demand that Israel halt the project on land owned by the mufti’s family in a predominantly Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

Lieberman’s transparent attempt to divert attention from the East Jerusalem controversy was widely derided across the political spectrum. It is, of course, a complete non sequitur — why would the mufti’s Nazi ties have anything to do with the status of Jerusalem under a peace deal? (Al-Husseini died in 1974.) As with Netanyahu’s implied accusation that Obama wants to make the West Bank “Judenrein,” the operative political strategy seems to be “when in doubt, bring up the Nazis.” Even among hardliners, few seemed inclined to take Lieberman’s ploy seriously.

Few, that is, except for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the powerful and hardline Washington group whose policies generally track those of the Israeli right. Earlier this week, Conference of Presidents chairman Alan Solow and executive vice-president Malcolm Hoenlein issued a statement defending Netanyahu and calling the Obama administration’s objections to the proposed building project “disturbing”. It included this key paragraph:

It is particularly significant that the structure in question formerly was the house of the infamous Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseni who spent the war years in Berlin as a close ally of Hitler, aiding and abetting the Nazi extermination of Jews. He was also linked to the 1929 massacre in Hebron and other acts of incitement that resulted in deaths and destruction in what was then Palestine. There has been an expressed desire by some Palestinians to preserve the building as a tribute to Husseini.

The Conference of Presidents is perfectly free to side with Netanyahu over the U.S. government if they so desire — although in that case they should stop claiming to speak for all their member organizations, not all of which agree with their pro-settlement stance. But regardless, shouldn’t the group at least make an effort to pretend that it isn’t cribbing its talking points straight from Avigdor Lieberman?

[Cross-posted at The Faster Times.]

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Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. “He’s been dead for 35 years, for Chrissakes.”
    But his spirit is still very much alive in bigoted Arab rejectionism!
    And once they’ve dealt with the Jews the jihadists will deal with you, Jon Harrison.
    If only one of the silly little peoples – and no prizes for guessing which – decided it wanted peace tomorrow this whole thing could be resolved instantly.

  2. Oh, I’m quite prepared to have the U.S. military vaporize the jihadists and any state that harbors them, long before they decide to come after me. The fact is that America became a target because of its absurdly one-sided position on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

    The attitude in Israel and among its supporters here in the U.S. is that we ought to support Israel in all it does. Why the heck should I and the 95% of the U.S. population who aren’t Zionists care about some foreign Jews in Palestine? Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I love the Arabs. But the fact is that the Palestinians were deprived of their land and homes in retribution for the crimes of Europeans, principally Germans. That itself was a crime “against humanity.” The sufferings of the Jews do not permit Jews to oppress Palestinians. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap” is a lesson that the Israelis have yet to learn, amazing as that is.

    My real problem is that the Israeli tail wags the American dog. If the Israelis won’t behave like good clients should, then let’s stop being their patron! I’m sick of U.S. interests being damaged for the benefit of Israel, and I’m sick of sending arms and money to support a people’s unjust quest for lebensraum.

  3. JH: “The fact is that America became a target because of its absurdly one-sided position on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.”

    Wrong, wrong wrong! You’ve got it back-to-front, JH. Been reading too much Mearsheimer and Walt. If the US was not so one-sidedly pro-Arab, giving credence to their bogus claims and fraudulent ‘narrative’ we would have peace by now. There were far more Jewish refugees and the Arabs stole far more from us in Arab countries – property equivalent to FIVE times the size of Israel. I speak from personal experience.

    You think that the jihadists will not go after you if you feed them Israel, but a crocodile is a crocodile is a crocodile.

  4. “Exactly how does supporting Israeli settlement policy help the American people?”

    It speeds up the Return of Jesus, something 10s of millions of Americans are eager for. Pay more attention to the Hal Lindseys and John Haggees, as unpleasant as they are.

  5. bataween, I’m not afraid of the jihadists, nor am I naive enough to think that if I feed an enemy, I won’t be next on the menu. I can assure you that America is quite capable of annihilating the entire Islamic world, should the latter decide to attack us.

    I repeat, the affairs of silly little peoples like the Arabs and the Israelis are meaningless to Americans. We should look after ourselves. What happens to Israel is none of our business. Why in God’s name should I be expected to send money and arms to a foreign state whose policies damage American interests?

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