Jewish groups condemn Boteach ‘genocide’ ad on Susan Rice

Full page slot in New York Times calls national security adviser ‘blind’ to genocide, ‘both the Jewish people’s and Rwanda’s’

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice during an interview with Charlie Rose on the Public Broadcasting Service, February 24, 2015. (screen capture/YouTube/Charlie Rose)
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice during an interview with Charlie Rose on the Public Broadcasting Service, February 24, 2015. (screen capture/YouTube/Charlie Rose)

American Jewish groups voiced outrage Saturday at a full page ad in the New York Times calling National Security Adviser Susan Rice “blind” to genocide, with critics saying the statement was “revolting,” “outrageous” and “spurious.”

The advertisement, taken out by “This World: The Values Network” run by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, was published two days before Rice’s scheduled speech at the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference on Monday. It panned Rice for portraying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “desperate plea for his nation’s existence to a joint session of Congress on March 3rd as ‘destructive,'” and said she was “blind” to genocide, “both the Jewish people’s and Rwanda’s.”

Last week Rice told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to speak to Congress in Washington about Iran’s nuclear program without coordinating with the White House has “injected a degree of partisanship” that is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the US and Israel.

The ad accused Rice of a “pattern of callous disregard for genocide,” referring to controversy from the 1990s, when Rice was on president Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff and reportedly advised against describing the mass killings in Rwanda as “genocide.” The ad charged her of working “to impede UN action against the Rwandan genocide and minimize public opposition to American inaction.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (Photo credit: courtesy)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (Photo credit: courtesy)

American Jewish organizations condemned the ad. Marshall Wittmann, the spokesman for AIPAC, said that “Ad hominem attacks should have no place in our discourse.”

Taking to Twitter, the American Jewish Committee called the Boteach ad “way over the top” and said the charge that she sought genocide against Israel “revolting.”

Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement Saturday responding to the ad saying its “spurious and perverse association of criticism of Israel’s prime minister with ignoring genocide not only poisons the discourse on a vital global security issue, it trivializes the horrific nature of genocide and the memory of its victims.”

Also condemning it were the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federations of North America, J Street, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement.

In an interview, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who directs the Rabbinical Assembly, said Rice deserved an apology from Boteach.

The ad “is completely inconsistent with the record of friendship and loyalty this public official has shown Israel and the Jewish people,” Schonfeld said.

“It is not up to Shmuley Boteach to make it appear this is the way the Jewish community treats our friends,” Schonfeld said.

Boteach’s This World: The Values Network will be holding what it calls a bipartisan discussion in “Guarding against a nuclear Iran” on Monday in a Senate office building. It will include Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist, and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Boteach has appealed in his publicity to AIPAC activists to attend the talk.

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, a group that has been pronouncedly skeptical of the Iran talks, on Twitter described the ad as an “inappropriate ad hominem attack” that “doesn’t advance discourse on key issue of Iran.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, who heads the JCPA, the public policy umbrella for the community, said the ad was a blow against bipartisan support for Israel.

“It’s a sad moment for the Jewish community to have this ad appear,” he said in an interview.

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