Ted talk

AJC CEO Ted Deutch emphasizes need for ‘clear and consistent message’ from Washington in support of Israel

At the AJC’s annual Global Forum, Deutch previewed plans for a large-scale effort to address antisemitism in primary and secondary education

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American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch listens as U.S. second gentleman Doug Emhoff speaks during an Economic and Social Council session about “Globalizing Efforts to Combat Antisemitism” at the United Nations World Headquarters on February 9, 2023, in New York City.

American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch emphasized the importance of a “clear and consistent message” in support of Israel, and against Hamas and Oct. 7 misinformation from Congress and the administration, ahead of a major AJC convening in Washington, D.C., next week.

AJC’s annual Global Forum begins on Sunday in D.C., and is set to feature speakers such as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, former Iran envoy Brian Hook, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Canadian lawmaker Anthony Housefather, among a range of other speakers from the U.S. and around the world.

Deutch said that rebuilding support for Israel on Capitol Hill begins with an emphasis on the Oct. 7 attack, “pushing back in the strongest way against those who have tried to rewrite the history of Oct. 7” and have supported terrorist groups through rhetoric and protests. 

He said that advocates for Israel must also highlight the threat that Iran poses to Israel, the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Deutch emphasized in an interview with Jewish Insider that his former colleagues in Congress need to make sure that they’re “focused on what’s actually happening, and that we’re not distracted by misinformation and false narratives” and false equivalences between Hamas and Israel.

“There needs to be moral clarity here, and pushing back against the lies of those who are calling for the destruction of Israel is of paramount importance as we defend Israel and, in turn, defend western civilization,” Deutch said.

He demurred when asked if he counts any lawmakers among those he said have supported terrorist groups, but said that every member of Congress “should be able to stand up and condemn the terrorists” who killed Americans and are backed by an Iranian regime dedicated to destroying America. “That’s what we should expect of all our elected officials.”

The AJC meeting is set to include a lobbying component on the Hill, during which Deutch said activists will push for antisemitism legislation as well as communicate to lawmakers Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, the threat from Iran and the possibilities for regional normalization.

Addressing the administration’s increasingly inconsistent public statements around the war in Gaza, Deutch emphasized the need for “clear and consistent messaging about the enduring and vital relationship and friendship between the United States and Israel.” He said that both are “important from a policy perspective and… the right position politically.”

He didn’t answer directly whether he still believes, in light of its recent messaging, that the administration is still committed to supporting Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas’ military and governing capacity, but said that it’s “vitally important” that the administration continue to “speak clearly” about its opposition to Hamas remaining a governing authority.

Deutch described clear U.S. messaging as also critical to deterring further aggression by Hezbollah or Iran against Israel.

At next week’s event, Deutch teased plans to announce a large-scale effort to address antisemitism in primary and secondary education, working with students, parents, faculty and trustees “to transform education, to protect Jewish students and in turn to support our democracy.”

Deutch said AJC expects to host 2,000 participants from 50 countries, as well as officials from 32.

Internationally, Deutch said that AJC has been working directly and with Jewish communities in partner countries in Europe and Latin America that have taken actions against Israel, to communicate to them that their actions will not only hurt Israel, but also will ultimately hurt the Palestinians and the countries themselves.

AJC has been working frequently with families of hostages during visits to Washington, with Deutch emphasizing that “we need to be doing everything that we can to exert every bit of pressure we have on the Qataris, and on the Egyptians and on anyone who has any ability to pressure Hamas.”

He added, “we need clear messaging from the entire world, led by the United States and Congress, that this war continues because of Hamas.”

Deutch described the International Atomic Energy Agency’s censure of Iran this week — which AJC had encouraged — as an important step, adding that the U.S. and its European partners need to “continue to work together… to ramp up the pressure on Iran,” so that “there is a price they understand that they will face if they continue.”

“The past eight months highlight for us why we can never allow ourselves to lose focus on Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons,” Deutch said.

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