For more than 10 years I worked on connecting Dr. Oz — the world’s most famous physician and a proud Muslim — with Israel and the Jewish community. Strong support for the Jewish State was to be a central platform of his campaign for the U.S. Senate. But political advisers Larry Weitzner and Jamestown Associates got in the way. Advising Dr. Oz that Israel as a domestic campaign issue was a loser among Pennsylvania voters, Dr. Oz went from someone who joined me on a remarkable public trip to Israel — including a high-profile meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — to being a candidate who refused for months to do a single public event in support of the Jewish state.
Weitzner and I clashed constantly, ruining my relationship with Oz, as he evidently advised Oz to avoid Israel. Only when the Oz campaign was on the brink and he needed pro-Israel PAC money did Oz finally do a fundraiser where he championed Israel.
By then it was too late. Dr. Oz would famously lose his race to John Fetterman, who had suffered a stroke months earlier. Not only did Weitzner and Jamestown ruin Dr. Oz’s campaign, they ruined Dr. Oz personally. He emerged from the race toxic to nearly everyone. You’re as likely to see Dr. Oz — who once had one of the most watched daily TV shows in the country — on mainstream TV as you are to see a Martian in Times Square.
Now comes the news via Politico that Jamestown has not been rehired by President Donald Trump, through whom Weitzner stood to make a mint with a truly massive budget, but has instead gone with the campaign of Nikki Haley.
If Trump did fire Weitzner, no doubt the debacle of the Oz campaign, which cost the Republicans the Senate, played a major role in his decision.
But Weitzner and Jamestown grafting themselves on to Nikki Haley’s campaign is troubling and worrisome.
Nikki Haley is one of the greatest champions of Israel ever seen on the American political scene. What she did for Israel at the United Nations has no precedent. I will never forget how she said that the United States was “taking names” of those who did not stand with Israel. Wow! Will Weitzner now be telling her that Americans don’t care for foreign policy issues and that a focus on Israel will yield no return?
Weitzner and Jamestown were the producers of one of the most scandalous and controversial — some would say disgustingly antisemitic — TV ads of the Trump 2016 campaign. As the Washington Post reported in an op-ed the day before the election, “Trump released a closing ad for his campaign … illustrated with images of prominent Jews: financier George Soros (accompanying the words ‘those who control the levers of power’), Fed Chair Janet Yellen (with the words ‘global special interests’) and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (following the ‘global power structure’ quote). The ad shows Hillary Clinton and says she partners ‘with these people who don’t have your good in mind.’ Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.”
Haaretz echoed the same theme about Weitzner’s ad. “Donald Trump’s final ad for this presidential campaign has been online for less than a few hours and has already inspired claims of being rife with ‘anti-Semitic overtones…’” The video, billed as “Donald Trump’s Argument for America,” assails what the presidential candidate calls the Washington establishment’s ties with “global special interests,” so-called people “that don’t have your good in mind.’” And just who are the “global special interests” Weitzner was referring to? Haaretz continued, “The only problem: the figures Trump’s campaign chose to illustrate both are exclusively Jewish and from the financial world.”
True to form as a political bully, Weitzner filed a legal action to silence me about his actions on Israel during the Oz campaign. He alleges that my criticisms of his having helped turn a world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon into a MAGA nut — he oversaw a campaign where Dr. Oz filmed a TV commercial loading a semi-automatic assault rifle, denied the 2020 election, mocked Fetterman’s stroke, and denied the Armenian genocide — harmed Jamestown’s reputation and lost him further clients. In truth, whatever clients Weitzner lost is due entirely to the national laughingstock that was the Oz campaign and the total destruction of Dr. Oz’s once glowing global reputation.
But true to an increasingly bizarre antisemitic posture and further promotion of anti-Jewish tropes, Weitzner has now joined his attorney, George Bochetto, in questioning my qualifications as a rabbi. With all this, they are hoping that I’ll finally shut up about my support for Israel.
Bochetto, who ran against Dr. Oz in the Pennsylvania Republican primary and repeatedly called the physician a total fraud, was eviscerated in the vote, garnering almost zero support. All you need to know about Bochetto is that his major qualification for a Senate run, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, is that he “worked on controversial cases such as the ongoing fight to stop the city from removing the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza.”
It’s pretty obvious what kind of America Bochetto believes in.
Does that explain why the title of rabbi so bothers Weitzner and Bochetto? I have been a rabbi since I was 21 years old, ordained by the central and most important Chabad yeshiva on earth, at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Last week the New York Post called me “the most famous rabbi in America,” something that the Washington Post and Newsweek had written previously.
But to so many antisemites, I’m not a rabbi at all. Hardly a day goes by where the legions of Israel haters who troll me and threaten me on social media don’t make the same accusation. “You’re not a real rabbi. You’re a fake and a fraud. You don’t care that Israel murders Palestinian babies. You’re part of Israel’s genocide against Arabs. You’re not a real man of God but a fraud. A real rabbi would speak out against the Israeli Nazi state.” And so on and so on.
Now Weitzner and Bochetto have joined the clarion call against rabbis who call out candidates who abandon Israel. Trading in the most offensive anti-Jewish tropes, they want to claim that a man who stands up for values in politics must be a religious faker and a fraud.
It’s easy to see why Trump dumped Weitzner. But why Nikki Haley picked up Jamestown is more difficult to decipher. And there’s a vital reason why all
For way too long, we in the Jewish and especially the pro-Israel community have turned a blind eye to the antisemitic dog whistles that were being propagated by the Trump campaign and others, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, on the Republican right. Our thinking was that Israel is a tiny country fighting for its survival. Trump was Israel’s greatest champion. So we have to overlook the growing rabble of white supremacists who either came out for Trump or were being actively courted by the Trump campaign. These neo-Nazi lunatics, we thought, were a bunch of clowns. They were nobodies and losers, loud but not dangerous.
But then, when Jews were murdered in synagogues across America, we knew that the antisemitic scourge from the fascist right-wing lunatics had turned deadly. Trump had to be called out for refusing to categorically condemn and utterly repudiate their support. And the political operatives — some of whom, like Weitzner, were even Jewish — who made a fortune by either playing along with, or encouraging this strategy, had to be called out as well.
I have heard from a number of Trump insiders that the former president is upset and confused. How could one man have done so much to protect and legitimize the Jewish state and not have the Jewish community behind him for his current presidential run?
But there is a huge difference between gratitude and loyalty, the former being an acknowledgment of things past and the latter asking of people a commitment for as yet undetermined actions about the future.
But why isn’t the pro-Israel community coming out in strong support of Trump, as they did in 2016 and especially in 2020?
Well, some would argue, there are just too many scandals that surround him, none more so than January 6th.
But the main reason I believe that Trump has lost Jewish support is the rise of domestic antisemitism and how he has only ever criticized the lunatic extreme right with lukewarm words. In essence, Trump has tried to have it both ways, supporting Israel more than any of his predecessors while still acknowledging that he needs votes from the radical Jew-hating white supremacists and antisemites to gain office.
And perhaps if Trump were to have an honest conversation with the Jewish community, he might say this: “Look, before my presidency Israel was daily pilloried at the United Nations, the Democrats were promoting dyed-in-the-wool antisemites like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and BDS was proliferating all over American campuses. I put a stop to that. But it comes at a cost. I need the support of these insane neo-Nazi loonies to hold the Oval Office. And isn’t’ it worth it? If Israel gets protected as a result?”
And Trump might have a point, if those right-wing loonies weren’t really dangerous. But once you have the Tree of Life shootings that murdered 11 Jews, and the attack in Poway that murdered another, and the FBI finding near weekly plans of mass murder against Jews in synagogues by right-wing demagogues, it’s no longer something that can be overlooked.
And Trump and his advisers would have to be honest and admit that he has either trafficked in, or allowed his campaigns to utilize, antisemitic tropes to gain more political traction. Hence, the earlier referenced final TV ad of Trump’s 2016 campaign, produced by his principal ad man Larry Weitzner of Jamestown Associates, which suggested that international Jewish finance was undermining America. It spoke to nearly all the antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish parasitic globalists trying to suck America dry just to make a buck.
Now that Trump has gotten rid of Weitzner and Jamestown, he can pull in Jewish support by severing the knot with any and all advisers who, like Weitzner, thought it wise to cater to right-wing antisemitic tropes about Jews. And Trump should finally, unconditionally, and irreversibly declare to the world that as the grandfather of Jewish grandchildren, he despises the white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He is sickened by their support. He finds them an abomination to American values. And should he be reelected to office, he will fight them by every legal means necessary.
And if that costs him the support of the neo-Nazis, so be it. You can’t hold on to these haters and then complain that the Jews are not loyal and are not grateful. President Trump knows that the time has finally come where he has to choose between seeking Jewish support and seeking neo-Nazi backers.
The same is true for Nikki Haley. If Haley continues to work with, and be influenced by, political operatives who do not share her passion for Israel, or who will produce ads trafficking in antisemitic tropes to win over MAGA extremists, then she will no doubt be abandoned by a community that is sick of having to choose between support for Israel and seeing the rise of neo-Nazis in America.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood is the author of “Judaism for Everyone”
and “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter