(JTA) — New York’s decidedly left-leaning new mayor, Bill de Blasio, was assailed by a group of decidedly left-leaning Jews for a speech in which he pledged his friendship to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Now, a prominent right-leaning Jewish activist is coming to de Blasio’s defense.
In an open letter to de Blasio, 58 Jewish liberals — including some prominent names like Peter Beinart, Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem — rapped the new mayor’s AIPAC address, writing that the pro-Israel lobbying group “speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone.”
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a former aide to leading New York Republicans, organized a retort to the open letter. His name appears atop a list of seven signatories in an ad taken out in some small local Jewish newspapers (the Long Island Jewish World and Manhattan Jewish Sentinel) slamming the open letter’s signatories.
Wiesenfeld’s ad calls de Blasio’s speech “eloquent,” adding that AIPAC is representative of “mainstream American Jewry.” The ad compares the open letter’s attack on AIPAC to Rabbi Stephen Wise’s widely criticized response during the Holocaust to Jewish contemporaries who were more outspoken in demanding aggressive American action to stop the genocide.
The open letter criticizing AIPAC was also cited by The New York Times in a long article on the lobbying group’s setbacks in its fight with the Obama administration over Iran sanctions legislation. The paper called the letter a “small but telling contretemps.”
Just how telling is this “contretemps” though? It’s not clear how many of the letter’s signatories were ever big AIPAC boosters, so their antipathy is not necessarily a new development. Still, the letter’s charge that the avowedly bipartisan AIPAC represents only the Israeli right — which also is not a new accusation from the left — does seem to be gaining more popular currency nowadays.