Monday, July 24, 2006

Clowns To The Left of Me, Jokers to The Right,
Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle with Jews

Israel in Crisis

It's amazing how the situation in Israel has flared up the passions of pundits on both sides of the political aisle. Even more shocking is how American Jews have been thrust into the spotlight by those pundits, each side telling us what we should do or how we should feel about the situation. The Righties are calling American Jews wimps, and the Lefties are calling us terrorists. Read on...

According to David Gelernter of the Weekly Standard, Jews who don't support President Bush must, obviously, not support Israel. He writes:

For years I have watched the Palestinians do absurdly self-destructive things and have never understood them until now. But watching the Bush administration stoutly defend Israel this week against the background of an American Jewish population that vocally (often sneeringly) dislikes him and his administration, and consistently votes by massive majorities for his Democratic opponents, I start to understand the Palestinians just a little.
According to Gelernter's version of the the truth, Republicans are the great defenders of Israel and Democrats are Nazis. Not only that, Gelernter characterizes American Jews as a homogenous entity, and evokes, with the words "sneeringly" and "vocally," anti-semitic stereotypes of the "loudmouth Jew" and "contemptuous Jew" so often found in pro-Nazi propoganda. Yes. That's right. Amazingly, in one brief paragraph, Gelernter manages to accuse the Democrats of being anti-semites while making anti-semitic statements himself!!!!

Apparently, we Jews are ungrateful of all the Republicans have done for us. Like accusing us of starting a "war on Christmas." Remember that? No? Well we'll be accused of it again this year, just wait till December.

Gelernter doesn't stop there. Apparently, by removing a crooked politician from office, we Jews only hurt ourselves.

The fall of Tom DeLay silenced one of the best friends Israel ever had in American politics, and one of the most effective symbols of Republican support for Israel.
So a criminal is Israel's best friend in American politics? I must have missed DeLay's huge role in the peace process. All I heard was "pander pander pander."

By far the most humorous paragraph is this one:

American Jews (especially the intellectual leadership) have a tragic history of acting against their own professed interests. In the years before Pearl Harbor, U.S. intellectuals on the whole (especially New York intellectuals) vehemently opposed American entry alongside Britain into the war against Nazi Germany. Of course many New York intellectuals were not Jews, and many American Jews didn't care for New York intellectuals.
This is a load of horseshit. 99.9% of Jews were all for going into the war. Democrats were for going to the war. It was the Republican leadership who wanted a more isolationist policy. Gelernter says "New York intellectuals" were against going into the war but then says that many New York Intellectuals were not Jews. So why even bring that up? He cites a very very small group of people within the Jewish community who were opposed to entering the war. This is our "tragic history"?? A couple of people writing an unpopular statement in an academic journal?

"As the left-wing agenda dries up, nothing remains to feed on (if you are used to getting your nourishment left of center) but the bitter weeds of hate.
Shakespeare just vomited in his grave. What a meaningless concoction of words.

Let me make this clear. Democrats support Israel. They always have. It's a stable democratic country in a very unstable, undemocratic part of the world. Campaigning against Israel's existence or right to defend itself is lunacy... which is why few people, on either side of the political spectrum, have done it. The "voices from the left" that Gelernter cites represent a far from mainstream view in the Democratic party. They're equivalent to the far-righters in the Facist... I mean Republican party who think we must secure the Middle East for the holy war and Christ's second coming.

And thus the tragic, pathetic surge of hatred for George Bush on the left, including among left-wing Jews. As I heard someone say last week, "I think Bush is doing great on Israel. Naturally, I still hate his guts."
Ah, when in doubt, resort to a straw man. "Heard someone say" is classic Republican argument. The truth is, a lot of Jews blame Bush for the current crisis in Israel. There were numerous opportunities for peace in these last 5 1/2 years. Yet Bush did not even offer a hand to help mediate a lasting peace. If Bush has had any policy on Israel, it has been "Do Nothing." Bush's inept dealings with Iran's growing nuclear capability and the mess he created in Iraq have increased the threats to Israel, not diminished them. Already, chief analysts within our own government suspect that Hezbollah's attacks on Israel were carried out on behalf of Iran, who sought to distract from nuclear negotiations. In the past, President Bill Clinton (a democrat) tried to do something about the violence in the middle east, and managed to establish periods of relative calm in the region. Who knows what would have been acheived if Yizhak Rabin had not been assasinated?

Gelernter gets bored around this point in his piece, which is the only explanation I can fathom for this next sentence:

...of course, the origins of no two nations more resemble each other than Israel's and America's, both created by Europeans clutching Bibles, searching for freedom, prepared to fight for a room of their own. Both populated by human beings, a species not noted for perfection.
Wow! Both countries are populated by human beings?? As opposed to... populated by man-eating insect creatures from Mars? Oh, and might I add, the Europeans who came to Israel were carrying different bibles than the ones carried by the pilgrims.

Just in case Gelernter really does wonder why Jews don't support Republicans (I suspect he's just chastising us for not "falling in line"), I thought I'd enlighten him.

Judaism teaches us the importance of takun olam (environmental stewardship) and tzedakah (charity), two things Republicans have ignored, and indeed, sought to undermine through constant giveaways to environmental polluters and the wealthy. Our Jewish history has taught us the importance of civil rights and social justice, things the Republicans are quick to take away (Patriot Act anybody?).

When Republicans say they want "prayer in schools" and "evolution is still up to debate," we Jews get nervous. Because we know all that is really code for "Christ in schools" and "Teach Jesus, not Darwin." We all know it people. The jig is up. You want us to convert. You weren't exactly subtle about it.

This is not to say that Israel is not an important issue to Jewish voters. But on the subject of Israel, for the most part, the political parties don't differ. It is not a divisive issue like abortion or gay marriage. Both Republicans and Democrats see the value of Israel's existence in the Middle East, both as a strategic democratic foothold and Jewish safe haven.

Finally, there are many political parties in Israel, but Gelernter seems to overlook this. The far right in Israel tends to favor unilateral actions, and often deals with the Palestinians forcefully (sometimes violently). But just as in the US, where we have different opinions about what our government should do, the middle and left in Israel tend to favor a more dynamic, thoughtful approach, full of mutual concessions and compromises. Contrary to Gelernter's beliefs, Jews are not homogenous. While he may pin yellow stars to us all, in reality, we're not so easily defined. Some of us choose to support Israel by encouraging it to seek ways in which it can achieve a peace without causing Palestinian casualties or compromising security. Does that make us idiots? For thousands of years our people have been oppressed... some of us empathize with the many innocent Palestinians who just want to live in peace.

But I guess I prefer Gelernter's rant to the musings of Cenk Uygur, who, in his blog on the Huffington Post, calls Israelis terrorists.

Uygur obviously doesn't know the meaning of the word.

The label of "terrorist" is a not a label of moral relativity. I've heard it said that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. In some contexts, that can be true. For instance, if you're Pol Pot, you may call the people resisting your rule, "terrorists." But the definition of "terrorist" is, in fact, static. There is a line seperating freedom fighter and terrorist. It's a difference in intents and targets. The difference between a military force and a terrorist group is even greater:

1) Terrorists kill innocent people on purpose. Their plans involve the targeted killing of unarmed civilians. Hamas and Hezbollah rockets have rarely been targeted towards Israeli military installations. Instead, they've targeted civilian communities.

2) The goal of terrorist actions is to inspire fear, and inflict punishment upon their enemies-- not to cause change. While they may make pie-in-the-sky statements about overthrowing a government or vanquishing a foreign army, they more often than not go after the easiest target-- the unarmed and innocent. Killing innocent people is hardly an effective method in acheiving independence.

3) Terrorists sacrifice their own members to kill men, women and children. Members of Hamas and Hezbollah have been known to strap bombs to their chests and, instead of going to the nearest military base, they go to the nearest discoteque, falafel joint, or bus stop to detonate themselves.

4) Terrorists use civilians as human shields. There are only two reasons why casualties on the Palestinian side are greater than on the Israeli side. The rockets Hamas and Hezbollah use are not that accurate, and Israel has kept its people away from the areas where the terrorist missiles can reach. Hamas and Hezbollah, on the other hand, fire rockets from the centers of civilian neighborhoods, hiding among innocent civilians to use them as human shields.

How can Uygur not see the difference between Israel and Hezbollah? By Uygur's standards, every nation on earth is run by terrorists, since all have, at one point or another, been involved with warfare that has claimed innocent lives.

As I commented on his post, the difference between Israel and Hezbollah is a simple as this:

Israel will stop its attacks when its people are safe. Hezbollah will only stop their attacks when Israel is wiped off the face of the earth.

Who's fighting the good fight here?


Jenni Jo said...

Great post, Adam.. I love reading your writing.


Angie said...

I agree- great post! It amazes me how some people are so ignorant.

Adam said...

Thanks for the comments!

Anonymous said...

You've captured the opinion of many moderate American Jews; thanks for putting this complex issue into such clear and well-chosen language. I'm sending the link to my family and friends.

Hot Mama said...

Your fair minded and clear headed analysis is right on! As usual the writing is terrific.

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