It has been only the convergence of many demands – including the work of return home to Los Angeles – that has so long delayed the the next installment of “The Open Mind” debates, what The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have called – well, they haven’t actually called them anything yet. But just you wait.
The next real entry in the series appears next Monday, as a digestif for your Thanksgiving overload. As a cocktail, here is today’s post from Shrinkwrapped, with my deft and definitive rejoinder in his comments section available beneath it.
In the last election 75% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama, primarily because he had the most liberal voting record in the Senate and was a minority. In opposition to his support among the American Jewish population were the less well emphasized points, that he had a long history of closeness with minimally disguised and often overt anti-Semites, and that his inner circle was populated by people with longstanding positions inimical to Israel. None of this is news. Jews have been among the most reliably liberal voting blocs at least since the 1960s and there has been a significant delinkage of interests between secular American Jews and Israel over the last 30-40 years. However, the marriage of Judaism and liberal politics is coming under increasing pressure. It is quite possible that American Jews will be forced to choose between their liberalism and their Jewish identities in the not too distant future.
[I strongly suspect that most Jewish liberalism is a matter of temperament and emotion rather than any particularly well refined political philosophy. Jews, out of a mix of their history with their envy, fears of evoking envy, and a while host of other affective experiences, identify with those who can be seen as victims. Even the most secular Jew grows up in a culture in which Tikkun Olum, ie improving the world, is an implicit substrate. When combined with the post-baby boom narcissism that comes with ease and material success in America, such feelings collide and a stance supportive of using government to improve the lot of the less fortunate comes naturally. Most liberal Jews are much more comfortable paying higher taxes than actually living among the less fortunate. (This is why houses in Scarsdale, am almost wholly white suburban town cost a multiple of similar homes in New Rochelle, an integrated town complete with projects.)
However, I don’t mean this to be an explication of Jewish liberalism, John Podhoretz (Why Are Jews Liberals?) has already given a fair amount of thought to the question and I hope to review his book at some future time.]
Anti-Semitism and Leftism are inextricably linked. Every generation Jewish leftists find this out anew’ every generation Jews are surprised at the intensity and persistence of Left wing anti-Semitism.
In many ways, the left must be anti-Semitic, just as they must be anti-American. After all, part of their core philosophy is that in the perfect state of society under any particular iteration of left ideology, people will naturally all fall within a fairly narrow range of outcomes. Whether explicit under communism (“from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) to the watered down versions of ensuring equal outcomes under liberal affirmative action, those on the left by philosophy or temperament are uncomfortable or antagonistic toward those who range too far from the mean.
For reasons not worth entertaining now, Jews have historically been successful wherever they have resided. When Jews are visibly over-represented in the media, Hollywood, government, finance, etc, it is hard to miss. (As a bonus, when Jews predominate in the media they tend to skew the attention of the media to those “newsworthy” items that are of interest to them and those who are like them. If Israel were a normal country, the attention paid to it would be minimal. After all, there were far worse atrocities committed in Chechnya by the Russians than anything Israel did in Gaza, yet the world’s attention was riveted by the Israeli incursion into Gaza.)
Beyond the ideological problems with a visible group that is highly successfully (and the covert implication that any group thus successful must be taking advantage of either unfair advantages or must be leveraging their success over the failures and efforts of those they have oppressed) there is the historical, and always available, anti-Semitism that is easily exploited by those who need scapegoats for their own failures.
And this leads to the inevitable clash for the Jew and the Left. Once allied with a left wing tribe, such as the Democratic party, tribal feelings become powerful perceptual screens. In other words, once allied with a party (tribe) anything that the party supports is first perceived through the filter of the party line and only then can any critical thought take place. Thus, for those who do not pay close attention, the party line that Israeli settlements is the major obstacle to peace in the Mideast is uncritically accepted since it so easily passes through the tribal filter. It then requires affirmative work to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved. At the moment most American Jews are continuing to go along with the Obama Democratic party position. This can only hold as long as the majority of American Jews remain ignorant of the depths of anti-Semitism on the Left and at the core of their party.
The conflict is currently appearing in statu nascendi for my blog friend and rival Jay Adler*. He is correctly horrified by the vilification of Israel that is a prominent feature of the international community and press. (He does not want to close his eyes to The Faces of Evil and wonders Who Will Watch the Watchers II.) What is particularly troubling, and should trouble Jay is that 20% of the Democrats in Congress not only want to close their eyes but refuse to recognize injustice when it seems obvious:
In an October 1974 cable to Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, following passage of his legislation helping Soviet Jews emigrate, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yigal Allon wrote that “your efforts in this matter manifest once again your deep understanding of our needs and your constant support of the cause of Israel.” What a difference 35 years make.
Nowadays, liberal members of Jackson’s party routinely cast votes against Israel, while the leftist commentators supporting them relish vilifying the Jewish state. Whether it’s blasting the settlements, criticizing Israel’s Lebanon or Gaza conflicts, or deferring sanctions on Iran, the American Left is more unified than ever in its opposition to Israel and its policies.
Nowhere has this disturbing trend emerged more clearly than in the recent debate in the US House of Representatives over a resolution calling on the president to “oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora.”
The resolution chastises the UN Human Rights Council for “one-sidedly mandating the ‘fact-finding mission'” by Justice Richard Goldstone to focus only on supposed Israeli wrongdoing while “mak[ing] no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks…by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel.” It recites in painstaking detail the myriad factual, inferential, and legal errors that readers of this page well know render Goldstone’s report fatally flawed.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, earned an overwhelming 344 votes. But 36 members of Congress, all but three of them Democrats, voted against the resolution, while another 20 members voted “present,” or abstained; thus, more than 20% of Democrats refused to support the bill.
SO WHAT’S motivating these Democrats, almost all of them from the party’s liberal wing, to stand up for the Goldstone Report?
Being a little anti-Semitic is like being a little pregnant. Unless the monstrous fetus of anti-Semitism is terminated, it will one day turn upon and devour its parents (including those Jews who have aided and abetted its germination.) Anti-Semitism is already deeply embedded in many of our institutions:
An Islamic charity alleged to be a front for the Iranian regime has been funding anti-Israel and pro-Iran professors at Columbia and Rutgers Universities, the New York Post reported on Monday.
The Manhattan-based Alavi Foundation, which promotes Islamic charity and Persian education, has been accused by the American government of funneling money to U.S. schools supported by Iran and to a ring of Iranian spies in Europe, says The Post.
According to the report, the foundation has also given thousands of dollars to Columbia and Rutgers to fund its Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs.
“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, told The Post.
The Post reported that the Alavi Foundation gave Columbia $100,000 in 2007, after the university agreed to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Columbia University spokesman Robert Hornsby told The Post that the money it received ahead of Ahmadinejad’s visit was the largest single gift it had received from the foundation. He also told The Post that the university had been unaware that the charity was directly linked to the Iranian government.
In addition, says the report, the foundation gave $351,600 to Rutgers from 2005-2007 to fund its Persian Studies Program. That allegation was corroborated by a spokesman for the university, but no other comment was offered on the matter.
U.S. agents have begun confiscating as much as $650 million in assets from the foundation, according to the report.
Right wing anti-Semitism in American (the KKK, John Birch Society) long ago led to American Jews alienation from the Right, an alienation which, for too many, continues to this day. Many Jews, despite the foreign experience of anti-Semitism being prevalent on the Left, have never imagined left wing anti-Semitism to exist. Many will continue to close their eyes to the phenomenon. There are those ideologically committed Jewish leftists who will continue to support the anti-Semites on the left in America. However, those who refuse to remain blinkered will find it increasingly difficult to deny that at the core of the Left, and in many ways in the core of the current Democratic party, the rot of anti-Semitism has taken hold.
*My advice to Jay Adler is to continue our series of discussions (and I in no way equate his delay in returning to the fray to a paucity of decent arguments; that is tongue in cheek, Jay), continue your series of investigations into that particularly virulent form of oppression known as anti-Semitism, and remember that those of us who are on the Libertarian Right, aka Classical Liberals, will always welcome you whenever you are ready.
Anyway, SW, thanks for the links. You see I’ve added another. Your shekels are on the way. Hit you all up next week with a resumption of The Open Mind. I know I’ve been missed.
November 23, 2009 at 12:36 PM | Permalink
I’m sorry to dash (not I’m not) my “blog friend and rival’s” fantasy of my nascent recognition of bias against Israel and my slow walk across the Bridge of Spies, but my position on this subject (and the greater one of undemocratic forces in the world in general) is very longstanding and in no way (weep not, my friend) inimical to the essence of liberalism. I won’t reply at too great length because then we might as well share “open minds” on the subject (and perhaps we shall) – and Judge Crater has already recoiled with appropriate disbelief and fact-based summation at the fantasticality of “Anti-Semitism and Leftism are inextricably linked.”
Of course, there is a significant and growing problem with Antisemitism on the left, and its origins are not as simple as that basement lab conservative bromide. Over the twentieth century and beyond, depending upon the locale, it has partaken of various measures of Marxist transnationalism, postcolonial ideology, and deeply embedded cultural histories of Antisemitism. Over much longer history, however, Antisemitism everywhere has demonstrably been the sentiment and activity of nationalistic, conservative and reactionary forces in a society. That doesn’t alter the reality of the new threat, though.
I must add that I think Shrink is too quick to label reflexive and historically uninformed anti-Israeli political sentiments as Antisemitism. I do not hesitate drop a brickload on anti-Semites, but I do not think too readily conjoining the two is beneficial.
Finally, it’s curious how we are prone to filter reality through our predispositions. (Doesn’t SW sorta specialize in that phenomenon?) In any other consideration, an 80%-20% imbalance in a vote, on an issue, would be considered quite overwhelming. If you got that kind of vote for President you could be king, but by this calculus it’s a grip on “the core of the Democratic Party.” Now let me see, what percentage of Republican legislators were willing to state when asked that they rejected birtherism…?