Rabbi Jack Moline, the incoming director of the National Jewish Democratic Committee, last week charged into the debate over enhanced Iran sanctions in a way that raised eyebrows and some concern. An Iran sanctions bill has won a bipartisan majority in the Senate but with not enough votes yet to overcome a promised veto from President Obama. Both sides are lobbying hard on the issue.
On Jan. 10, NJDC’s Moline was quoted by JTA as criticizing the advocacy efforts of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and AJC in favor of the bill as seeking to impose a “litmus test” on senators and of using “strong-arm tactics” to win votes for the legislation. Under any measure, those are harsh words in the delicate world of politics and diplomacy.
In an interview with the Washington Jewish Week, Moline explained his position: “We have good and faithful Democrats on both sides of this, and we simply don’t want to see this become a litmus test or wedge issue for an agenda that is in some ways supportive of Israel and in other ways, I think, a political move by people who oppose the president.”
We understand NJDC’s interest in being supportive of the president. But Moline, who was the longtime rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Va., certainly knows the power of words and the value of careful diplomacy. He also knows that much of the most effective diplomacy is played out behind the scenes rather than in the press and that quiet diplomacy usually trumps bellicose advocacy. Moline has since apologized to AJC, but the fact remains that his choice to attack AIPAC and AJC in the press shows questionable judgment — especially on an issue that is as sensitive and relevant to the future of the State of Israel as Iran’s nuclear program.