VP candidate Sarah Palin and US Senator Hillary Clinton were invited by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to address an anti-Iran rally. New York Sen. Clinton was invited first, then Palin. Clinton accepted. Upon the invitation to Palin, Clinton backed out. Then the Conference invited vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, who had a conflict, whereupon the Obama campaign agreed to send US Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). The Conference responded by disinviting Palin and others.
Naive us. We thought that Clinton balanced Palin, and vice-versa. We thought the Conference, with invitations to the two most prominent female politicians in the land, forged a powerful and effective show of solidarity on Iran. Clinton didnt see it that way and backed out. Perhaps the Conference erred by not striking a crystal clear, perfect symmetry by inviting two powerful US senators, or the two VP candidates to begin with. For this, the Conference can be forgiven. But thereafter, the Conferences acts and their justification leave us, by turns, skeptical and appalled.
We are skeptical of the explanation of the general counsel of the UJA-Federation of New York, Ellen Zimmerman, who told JTA: For this to be legal, an invitation would have had to be issued to both vice-presidential candidates at the same time so they would have an equal opportunity speak at the [anti-Iran] rally . . . IRS rules are quite clear. Then why were these rules not quite clear to the people at the Conference, which is run by consummate professionals? The initial plan to balance the two most prominent female politicians in the country was not remotely partisan. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the decision to disinvite Palin was partisan.
That, however, is a trifle when stacked against a basic principle of Jewish ethics: Jews dont disinvite. Have the disinviters at the Conference forgotten the trenchant historical passage in Gitin delineating the events that precipitated the destruction of the Second Temple and the death of some one million Jews in ancient Palestine? The precipitating cause was the unbridled anger of an individual who was disinvited from a feast and so embarrassed thereby that he poured forth slander about the Jews to the Roman authorities, who then went to war and destroyed Jewish independence. Ever since, Jews do not disinvite.
A given invitation may have been unwise or uncomfortable to begin with. But once issued, even an inappropriate invitation is lived with; disinvitation is not an option. Perhaps it was wrong of the Conference to invite Palin (or Clinton or Biden or Wexler). It was far worse to disinvite Palin and the other, lesser known political invitees it was appalling.
Read our related news story along with Palin’s speech.
See our related blog entry “This Bird is a Hawk.”