The RJC’s misstep  

The RJC’s misstep  

One has to wonder what the Republican Jewish Coalition was thinking when it excluded maverick presidential candidate Ron Paul from its Dec. 7 candidates’ forum while extending invitations to the other six major GOP hopefuls.
For those who don’t understand what’s at work here, Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas, a libertarian with a small “l” (who once ran for president in 1988 as the national Libertarian Party candidate), and a Pittsburgh native, holds controversial views on many issues, including Israel.
He equates U.S. aid for Israel to corporate welfare. He claims the U.S. government intervenes too much in Israeli affairs and should just get out of the way of the Jewish state, even if it were attacked.
He also claims the reasons for al-Qaida’s attacks on 9/11 had more to do with their belief that the United States occupies Arab lands and mistreats Palestinians than its distaste for American values and lifestyles.
We don’t necessarily agree with Paul’s positions, but many Jews do, including some Jewish Republicans.
So what did the RJC — the organization that represents Jewish interests within the GOP — have to lose by including him in its forum?
Excluding Paul sends an odious message to the electorate; it suggests that Jews aren’t interested in a free and open debate on Israel, that we can’t handle tough questions and uneasy answers, that the only positions we’re interested in hearing are the ones we like.
Of course, all that is nonsense, as anyone who follows Israeli politics knows. Every position, from the extreme left to the extreme right is represented in the Jewish state — among Diaspora Jews, too. But there are Americans who are prepared to believe the worst about Jews, and the exclusion of Paul from the RJC forum played right into their hands.
The impact will be felt most on college campuses where Jewish students are facing a strong, well-financed anti-Israel campaign and calls for “BDS” (boycotts, divestment and sanctions). 
The alternative would have been to let Paul take part in the forum, let him have his say — the same say he has had in many other debates — and likely no harm to Israel or American Jews would have come.
But RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks called Paul’s positions “misguided and extreme views” — particularly those regarding aid to Israel.
Perhaps, but turning Paul into a political martyr certainly isn’t the answer. History teaches us that lesson many times over.
Let’s be clear; this is not an attack on Jewish Republicans, whose positions on Israel and domestic affairs are just as valid as Jewish Democrats’ and Independents’. We would be just as taken aback had the National Jewish Democratic Council excluded a major candidate from one of its debates; there’s simply nothing to gain from such a move.
The latest polls show Paul trailing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in Iowa leading up to that state’s first in-the nation caucus in January. Despite some early straw poll victories, he is not likely to be nominated, but thanks to the RJC, he became the beneficiary of more media attention than he could hope to receive had he participated in the forum. It didn’t have to be this way.