A group of rabbis plan to make their displeasure with President Barack Obama’s policies and treatment of Israel during the last four years known over the next week.
The nonprofit group Real Peace Middle East (RPME) staged a protest Thursday morning in front of the Israeli consulate in Miami, the first of several actions planned in the days leading up to the final debate of the presidential election.
The organization, run by Rabbi Sam Intrator, who is based at Carlebach Minyan in Miami Beach, Fla., expected about a dozen rabbis to make it known that the lack of action and visible involvement with Israel poses a danger to the long-running efforts for peace in the Middle East, as well as the Jewish nation itself.
“We are troubled that in this current debate atmosphere that a major issue was being omitted in terms of serious conversations,” Intrator said. “Everybody knows that will be a foreign policy issue next year. We feel the debate needs to be broadened and this conversation needs to be had, especially after the Arab spring. We have some serious issues that need to be discussed.”
Intrator said the group decided to protest at the consulate ahead of the third Presidential debate, to be held at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Fla., because visible support of Israel is an important part of what they want to do.
The rabbis planned to present a proclamation to an Israeli representative during the protest, offering their unwavering support of the state.
Part of RPME’s effort to raise awareness of what they believe is an issue being wrongly ignored was the production of several videos, with the help of “Hollywood producers,” that Intrator hopes will motivate people to be more vocal about the volatile relations that dominate Israel and the Middle East. The videos, he said, are available to watch on YouTube, or on their website.
The fears of these rabbis, who Intrator said run the political gamut from liberal to conservative and Republican to Democrat, are based on the lack of action by the Obama administration during the last four years.
“I can only speak of his actions in this term that were very troubling,” he said. “So I worry deeply about his actions in his second term.”
Concerns were raised in Intrator’s mind from the moment Obama made settlements the major issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he said, because that is only a small part of the problem — the major one is that Palestinians and other Muslim groups seek the destruction of Israel, preaching it on state-run TV and teaching it to anybody who will listen.
“Palestinian incitement to hate Israel on government-controlled television, and anti-Israel sentiment in their textbooks and edcuation [is a big problem],” he said. “They don’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state — their goal is to have Israel be majority Palestinian. It’s called a right of return and is very clear in all of their rhetoric. If they have a total right of return, as they insist, it won’t be a Jewish state. That poses a serious problem to any peace process.”
Intrator said that Obama’s rejection of a recent request for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a bad message to the region and the rest of the world.
There are subtle messages that can be sent during in-person conversations, as well as during press conferences and photo ops that aren’t possible with a behind the scenes phone call.
As Iran pushes closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and groups throughout the region threaten not just America, but Israel, which they are much closer to, the concerns about how much attention, and whether or not it’s the right attention, have Intrator and others in the Jewish community concerned for what will happen there.
“The candidates should start addressing this issue,” Intrator said. “Even in the few minutes that they’re raised in the debate, the litany of important issues clearly cannot be addressed in those few minutes. So, we’re asking the media and the candidates to help us get some clarity on where they stand on these issues.”
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