The Smearing of Jewish Diplomats

The Jewish pit bulls are at it again. During the Clinton era they were intent on tearing apart the peace process team that included Ambassador Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and Aaron Miller and now they are barking at Indyk’s successor Daniel Kurtzer, a respected diplomat who happens to also be an Orthodox Jew.

The attacks on Kurtzer are nothing short of anti-Semitic. Besides calling him names, as an Israeli legislator did, critics are suggesting that he is a traitor to the Jewish people for not advocating a Zionist agenda rather than that of the government that employs him and that he represents. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that Jews should not be allowed to serve in Israel!

One can certainly take issue with the diplomacy of the U.S. State Department in the Middle East and the Jewish diplomats are involved in the formulation of that policy. In particular, many of the peace process folks had a messianic zeal, and conviction that they were the ones that could bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In keeping with the State Department’s overall group think, the Jewish diplomats see Israel’s unwillingness to capitulate to Arab demands as the principle obstacle to peace.

What is interesting, of course, is to read the nongovernmental writings of many of the Jews who serve or served in the State Department. Not surprisingly, their positions tend to be very different. But that’s the whole point. When these individuals chose to join the foreign service, or become members of the administration, they agreed to sublimate their personal views to those of their bosses, ultimately the Secretary of State and the President. No one can pursue an independent pro-Israel agenda from within the government. If you prefer to do so, join a lobby, a nonprofit or become a commentator.

No one should be surprised that the people who work at the State Department are Arabists. In the old days there was a large degree of anti-Semitism, but today the tendency is based more on job opportunities and clientitis. In the case of the former, if you want to specialize in Israeli policy and become fluent in Hebrew, there is precisely one posting open for you, in Tel Aviv. If, however, you want to become an expert on the Arab world and speak Arabic, then there are probably two dozen posts from which to choose. Multiply the number of foreign service officers per embassy by the number of Arab/Islamic countries and compare it with the handful based in Israel and you’ll see why the department has the world view that it does.

In addition, these diplomats invariably develop clientitis; that is, the tendency to adopt the views of the people with whom they are negotiating. Diplomats spend as much time, after all, conveying the messages of the host governments back to the United States as they do relaying American policy to their hosts, and they have the opportunity to make oodles of money after they retire from the government by working for Arab governments and businesses. It is well documented how obsequious Arabists historically have been and the convictions they’ve developed about the need to do the bidding of the Arabs. We’re seeing it now in some of the ridiculous discussions about how the Arabs will bolt the anti-terror coalition if the United States were to go after terrorists in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian Authority.

And don’t think things have changed over the years. Pick up a volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States and you can choose almost any document from the 1960s and you’ll see the same views expressed by State Department officials as you hear today.

I will repeat what I said when Indyk came under attack. Does anyone really believe that it would be better to have some non-Jew who spent their career in Arab capitals representing the United States in Israel than a committed Jew who loves Israel? Rather than casting aspersions and trying to undercut Kurtzer, the pro-Israel community should make him the target of an unrelenting campaign to change administration policies that are objectionable. Even then, we must understand that Ambassador Kurtzer implements policy, he doesn’t make it.

Do Jews sometimes bend over backwards to look unbiased? Yes, they do. You see it in the coverage of Jewish journalists for major media outlets and from government officials. But, you know what? I’d still rather see Jews in those positions. The more the better. For every unhelpful Jew that might not want to let their Jewish background affect their judgment, there is likely to be a Hans Morgenthau, a Myer Feldman or a Stu Eizenstat who makes a positive difference.

After so many years of complaining of powerlessness, and being blocked from important posts, such as the Ambassador to Israel, it is amazing to hear Jews who have achieved a measure of influence come under attack. The next step to really making a change in the Middle East would be to rotate Kurtzer (who previously served in Cairo) to the anti-Semitic kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Now that would be a statement.