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Secretary Lew Forced to Take Another One for the Team
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Secretary Lew Forced to Take Another One for the Team

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

There is something fundamentally wrong when a person who has served the U.S. Government for almost 40 years, who was Chief of Staff to the President, who now serves as his Secretary of the Treasury, who is an abiding Orthodox Jew, appears before an audience of American Jews and gets booed. While many of these individuals do not like President Obama, something is dead wrong when the speaker is degraded and jeered by an audience who disagree with the policies of the Government in which he serves. This is precisely what apparently happened yesterday in New York when Jacob Lew spoke at a day-long conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Post.

Lew was the representative of the Obama Administration and he addressed—as did many of the other speakers—the entire array of issues which concern Israel at the moment not exclusively those which fall within his own Department such as the U.S.-Israel trading relationship. From the Palestinian issue to terrorism to anti-Semitism he spoke to them all; but the one issue which riled the audience the most was his effort to defend the Administration’s position in its negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons.

The problem was that this audience only wanted to hear—and especially from a committed Jew—what it believed; that the Obama Administration was selling Israel and the world a bill of goods about Iran’s compliance with the concerns espoused by opponents of a probable nuclear deal. American Jews who disagree with Obama apparently were incapable of at least showing respect and decency to one of their own brothers who endeavored to explain an alternative understanding.

The truly sad part of the audience’s behavior beyond the obvious ugly manners which it displayed is the shortsightedness of its actions. Considering that the White House and all of Washington saw how Jacob Lew was treated, it diminishes the capacity and the credibility of the Secretary’s ability to advocate on behalf of any issue of concern to the Jewish community during the final 18 months of the Obama Administration. The White House has every reason to conclude that if this how Lew was treated by his own, why does his perspective on any issue concerning Israel and the Jewish community merit consideration? 

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