Malcolm Hoenlein says he was just trying to explain why some in the Jewish community were concerned about aspects of President Obama’s Cairo speech, and wasn’t implying that Obama was losing Jewish community support, as an article in Newsmax claimed.
The writer of the piece "conflated the questions with the answers," said Hoenlein. When the Conference of Presidents executive vice chairman was asked whether there were people in the Jewish community who were troubled by Obama’s speech on the Middle East, he answered that, yes, there were "people who are genuinely concerned" and explained what they didn’t like about it. But the article, he noted, only states that "people are genuinely concerned" about Obama.
"My point was" the community "is not monolithic," he said, noting that the article never directly quotes him saying what the lede of the piece claims, that "President Obama’s strongest supporters among Jewish leaders are deeply troubled by his recent Middle East initiatives, and some are questioning what he really believes."
In fact, Hoenlein said he said the same things in the Newsmax interview that he has told several interviewers since the president’s speech, but no one else drew the same conclusion.
Indeed, most of the direct quotes in the piece are similar to what Hoenlein told JTA the morning of the president’s speech — both his praise of Obama’s talk of the "unbreakable" bond between the U.S. and Israel and his criticism of Obama’s failure to discuss the 3,000 year connection of Jews to the land of Israel and lack of tough language about Iran.
Conference of Presidents chairman Alan Solow said he didn’t wish to comment directly on Hoenlein’s interview with Newsmax because he wasn’t present. But Solow, an early and key backer of Obama during the presidential campaign, sees a Jewish community with a diversity of opinions — with most of them backing the president’s general approach in the Middle East.
"I see some in the community that are concerned about the approach President Obama is taking, many who are supportive of the position of President Obama and others who are in a wait-and-see posture," said Solow. "The general overall position is to try to be supportive of a process in which two allies, Israel and the United States of America, work together to reach a solution in their mutual interest, and the Conference wants to support that process as well."
Solow said other longtime backers of Obama he speaks to "continue to be widely supportive of his policies," but that "doesn’t mean they don’t have modest criticisms from time to time." For example, as Solow himself said earlier this month, while he thought Obama’s Cairo speech was "quite good overall," he also "wished he had been more forceful on Iran."
Meanwhile, the National Jewish Democratic Council criticized Hoenlein’s "anecdotal analysis" of American Jewish public opinion. Their statement is after the jump:[[READMORE]]
Marc R. Stanley, Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), and Ira N. Forman, CEO of NJDC, released the following statement:
WASHINGTON, DC – It is highly ironic that on the very day that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that he embraces President Barack Obama’s leadership in bringing about Middle East peace, a prominent Jewish organizational staffer — Malcolm Hoenlein — was quoted in a right-wing “news” website Newsmax saying that Jewish leaders are apparently questioning “what he [Obama] really believes and what does he really stand for.”
Hoenlein said that he was speaking personally and not representing the views of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, where he serves as Executive Vice Chairman. Speaking not just personally, but on behalf of our organization, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), we must point out that Obama has spoken repeatedly and eloquently about the unshakeable bond that ties the U.S. and the state of Israel together — including during his recently address to the entire Arab world in Cairo. Netanyahu has also repeatedly praised and thanked Obama, calling him (on May 18th) “someone who is acutely cognizant of our security concerns.”
We can personally attest that the Obama administration has a sophisticated understanding of the long and ancient connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and this President has demonstrated a detailed grasp of the conventional and nuclear threats to Israel’s security as well. He has also shown a clear awareness that anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric must be halted if peace is to be achieved in the region.
In addition, we take issue with Hoenlein’s anecdotal analysis of Jewish public opinion. Our outreach to Jewish Democratic leadership shows strong and consistent support for the President’s efforts to bring peace and security to Israel.
We call upon all American Jews to join Obama and Netanyahu in the ongoing search for peace and security in the Middle East.