Reform on Iraq: Bad for Israel
As a follow-up to Rabbi Rosenblum’s piece about the Reform convention from Friday, it is worth noting that the resolution on Iraq isn’t merely evidence of a threat to Jewish continuity. It also runs contrary to Israeli interests, and thus further diminishes the chances that Reform’s current toehold in Israel will ever grow to accommodate a foot. It is also a slap in the face of the Mossad, an organization to which most Israelis still look with pride.
Even with the best spin possible placed upon this resolution (upon which HaAretz can always be relied), it still doesn’t sound too good. You are not going to get the Israeli citizenship to line up behind an organization that is soft on Jewish practices, but absolutist in its opposition to a war they very much support.
The failure to remove Hussein was regarded as just one more in a string of Bush senior’s excessively pro-Arab policies. Bush decided to leave Hussein with his sovereign state rather than assert Western American control in the Middle East; to Israelis, this was little short of stupid.
Aware of Saddam’s WMD attacks upon the Kurdish rebels, during the first Gulf War there was a real worry that Hussein might carry out his threat to use gas on Israel — every Israeli and every visitor had a gas mask and sealed room, and the first missile attacks caused genuine fear. [Then as well, the Reform movement showed how it stood with Israel: the entire HUC year-in-Israel program packed up and moved back to New York. The charedi yeshiva students who went back did so primarily because of parental pressure; the majority of us were able to remain, taking our masks with us to the Bais Medrash, the study hall.]
Why Saddam never used his WMDs at that time is still a matter of speculation. There were those who theorized at the time that while Israel was listening to the Americans and not responding to conventional attacks (which would have threatened the Gulf coalition, which included many Arab forces), they would have responded to a mass-casualty WMD attack in kind — and the Israelis are rumored to have only one variety of WMD.
As a result of Bush’s failure to remove the hated dictator from his position of power — among other policies which were seen as excessively pro-Arab — the Israeli body politic was solidly pro-Clinton: I recall Dov Shurin, broadcasting on the right-wing Arutz-7 radio station in a late-night English program on the eve of the election, “hoping that the Bush will burn.” And to everyone’s delight, he did. [Little did we know what Clinton would help bring upon the Jewish state.]
To Israel, the removal of the Iraqi dictator was the right move, if ten years too late. And as far as the so-called “lie” about WMDs, the Israelis flatly contradict those who claim they did not exist. The Mossad, one of the world’s elite spy agencies, is quite certain that the trucks arriving in Syria from Iraq on the eve of Gulf War II were carrying non-conventional weapons.
So the Reform movement lined up behind left-wing US politicians who discard the Israeli opinion, and adopted a position which finds little sympathy in Israel. If this is the focus of Reform, it should be little wonder that Israelis will continue to ignore it — save for those secular parties who will continue to employ the movement as a tool with which to fight the Orthodox.