The left has to do some soul-searching and reflect why it describes anti-Semitism as political expression, but criticism of Muslims as hate speech. Liberal Jews have to do the same about Obama.
The 2016 presidential cycle is beginning to gear up, with Hillary Clinton assuming the mantle of presumptive Democratic nominee and Republican hopefuls preparing to compete with each other during the primary season. And Jewish Democrats are already lining up to shill for Clinton and attack the Republicans.
If the litmus test for Jewish voter loyalty is Israel, however, Democrats long ago abdicated any authority to determine “who’s good for the Jews” by their continuing support for Barack Obama – despite his relationships with Israel-bashers, his appeasement of Islamist regimes, his disrespectful treatment of Binyamin Netanyahu, and his pursuit of a deal with Iran that rewards aggression, enables its nuclear ambitions and threatens the existence of the Jewish State.
Jewish Democrats attacked Republican Senator Marco Rubio for allegedly creating a political wedge issue when he spoke in support of Israel from the Senate floor in response to the White House’s personal attacks against Netanyahu before his address to Congress in March. They criticized Rubio even as Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu and Democratic operatives were meddling in Israel’s election in an unsuccessful attempt to push a left-wing coalition to victory. It seems that party hacks were more interested in belittling Rubio’s unwavering support for Israel than in condemning the negative message sent by the fifty-eight Congressional Democrats (some of them Jews) who boycotted Bibi’s speech, and by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s churlish conduct in turning her back to the Prime Minister as he spoke.
Similarly, the National Jewish Democratic Council was quick to criticize Kentucky Senator Rand Paul for his position on aid to Israel and to insinuate that he would be detrimental to the Jewish State. This criticism is actually valid in light of Paul’s past statements about reducing aid to Israel and his isolationist rhetoric – as well as the dubious positions of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, regarding Israel. But it is hypocritical for Jewish Democrats to sound the alarm regarding Paul’s candidacy considering how they portrayed Obama as a friend to Israel and champion of Jewish values while ignoring his associations with anti-Semites, his uncritical acceptance of the revisionist Palestinian narrative, and his hostility toward the Jewish State – particularly during last year’s war in Gaza.
There is clearly a strategy to push a distorted narrative that taints all conservatives with the presumption of anti-Semitism, though hatred of Jews is far more prevalent on the political left these days. While there is a history of anti-Semitism on the right to be sure, there is just as long and pernicious a tradition of Jew-hatred on the left, where it has been a potent political force since the rise of socialism, communism and European liberalism. It permeated the ideological fabric of these movements because it was part of the societies in which they grew. Progressives today often project hostility for Jews and Israel onto conservatives while pretending that liberal and Muslim anti-Semitism does not exist.
Studies show that anti-Semitism today is much more pervasive on the left than the right. As reported in the “Annual Report: Anti-Semitism in 2013, Trends and Events” by Israel’s Ministry for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, for example, “[t]he anti-Zionism prevalent mainly on the left, which has already become an integral part of the permanent worldview of individuals and groups of the left, can today be defined as a cultural code replacing anti-Semitism and enabling its disseminators to deny all connection to anti-Semitism.”
And a 2014 German study analyzing anti-Semitic trends reflected by hate mail showed that most bigoted communications during the survey period came from the political mainstream, including university professors and the well-educated (i.e., segments of the population that tend to identify as liberal). In contrast, only three percent of the offensive communications came from right-wing nationalists. The study, conducted by Professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel, professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, and published in a book entitled, “The Language of Hostility toward Jews in the 21st Century,” indicated that hatred of Jews was often presented as criticism of Israel using traditional anti-Semitic canards and imagery.
Though progressive anti-Zionists glibly attempt to distinguish hatred of Israel from hatred of Jews, it is a distinction without a difference. The left-wing movements in Europe traditionally considered religion and nationality societal evils and, accordingly, disparaged the Jews because they represented the most enduring elements of both. The anti-Zionism espoused by so many progressives today makes use of the same stereotypes and conspiracy theories that have been ascribed to Jews for generations and, consequently, is no different from old-fashioned Jew-hatred.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) and Israel Apartheid Week (“IAW”) movements are purely creations of the progressive left in partnership with Islamist interests. The left is obsessed with demonizing Israel and advancing anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, with progressive academics routinely defending campus anti-Semitism as political speech while simultaneously censoring any criticism of Muslims as “Islamophobic.”
Conversely, the European right today is generally more supportive of Israel, Jews and free speech. American conservatives likewise exhibit greater affinity for Israel than do their liberal counterparts, and Congressional Republicans support pro-Israel legislation and resolutions far more frequently than do their Democratic colleagues. These trends were reflected in a recent Gallup poll showing that 83% of Republicans sympathize with Israel compared to only 48% of Democrats. Indeed, pejorative Congressional letters mischaracterizing Israeli policies as belligerent and reproaching Israel for defending herself are written almost exclusively by Democrats.
The left maintains a sympathetic attitude towards Islamist rejectionism as reflected by its support for BDS, IAW and the revisionist Palestinian narrative, and this cannot be obscured by the hurling of scandalous accusations of Jew-hatred against conservatives who, unlike liberals, have taken meaningful and effective steps to combat it. Nearly a quarter century ago, the late William F. Buckley rid the National Review of those whose denunciations of Israel he believed were motivated by anti-Semitism. He then wrote “In Search of Anti-Semitism,” which represented a watershed in political self-analysis and moral accountability.
The left has yet to engage in similar soul searching. Instead, it excuses anti-Semitism as political expression, even as it stifles criticism of Muslims as hate-speech. Unfortunately, warped views often attributed to the “hard left” have infected the liberal mainstream, as evidenced by the failure of its establishment to wholeheartedly condemn bigotry against Jews and Israel the way Buckley did in 1992, or to ostracize progressive extremists whose venom clearly sounds in classical anti-Semitism.
When it comes to party politics, Jewish Democrats have been deluding themselves since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when they substituted New Deal priorities for authentic Jewish values and regarded FDR as a savior. Despite their blind devotion, FDR was accepting only of those who were assimilated and aligned with him politically. He seemed indifferent to Jewish suffering in Europe, as reflected by the views of his special Mideast envoy, Harold Hoskins, who recommended censoring “Zionist propaganda” that consisted largely of publicizing the Nazi genocide and lobbying for rescue efforts. Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, advised the maintenance of tight immigration restrictions that effectively condemned many to the death camps, and such recommendations guided FDR’s policy for much of the Second World War.
When reports of the genocide began to spread early in the war, the administration prevailed upon its progressive Jewish allies to downplay the news and discredit those reporting it. Many Jewish New Dealers acquiesced in an effort to prevent distractions to the war effort and embarrassment to a president they idolized. Some of FDR’s Jewish acolytes waged a shameful campaign to malign those who were publicizing the Holocaust, including Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook), going so far as to demand that Bergson and his compatriots be investigated for tax crimes and jailed or deported, though no improprieties were ever found.
Some Jewish Democrats even attempted to undermine the 1943 “Rabbis’ March on Washington” conceived by Bergson in conjunction with the Aggudat HaRabonim. The event involved four-hundred Orthodox rabbinical scholars, including Rabbis Eliezer Silver, Avraham Kalmanowitz and Moshe Feinstein, many of whom were immigrants and none of whom looked or dressed like FDR’s secular political cronies. Encouraged by some of his Jewish confidantes, Roosevelt left the White House to avoid meeting the rabbis.
Many assimilated New Dealers sacrificed Jewish interests and pledged themselves to an administration that devoted military resources to saving works of European art, but which refused to bomb the concentration camps or the railway lines leading to them in order to stop the carnage. When US policy finally changed to make saving Jewish lives a priority, it proved too little, too late. Nevertheless, the lionization of Roosevelt provided the blueprint for a political cognitive dissonance that continues today.
The endorsement of President Obama is a case in point. He sat in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s church for more than twenty years and associated with radical academics and anti-Israel ideologues. As a senator he had no record of support for Israel, and since becoming president he has conspicuously refused to acknowledge the Jews’ historical rights in their homeland. He has treated Israel more like an enemy than an ally and has appeased Islamist regimes dedicated to destroying her and exterminating her people. Nevertheless, he has been portrayed as philo-Semitic by the liberal Jewish elite.
The real story should be apparent from his words and actions, however, including his public spats with Netanyahu and lecturing to Israelis who reject his worldview – which to the attuned ear might sound similar in tone to common progressive excoriation of Israel.
It would be more honest for his Jewish supporters to admit they no longer regard Israel and traditional values as political priorities. However, given their support for a man who has been deemed more hostile to the Jewish State than any other president, it is disingenuous for them to use faux concern for Israel as a pretext for discouraging other Jews from voting Republican.
Since the days of FDR, politically progressive Jews have sacrificed religious and ethnic loyalty for political acceptance. That was why Roosevelt knew he could count on Jewish support in downplaying reports of the Holocaust when he so requested. And this is why Obama recently met with American Jewish leaders in an attempt to silence criticism of an Iran policy that threatens the future of the Jewish homeland.
The partisan delusion continues with groups such as “Jewish Americans for Hillary,” whose website proclaims that “[t]hroughout her career, Hillary Clinton has fought for the issues that matter most to Jewish Americans.” Given her complicity in Obama’s efforts to “put daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, one has to wonder what issues they believe are important to American Jews. Her position during the Ramat Shlomo crisis in 2010 should indicate where she really stands. When Obama referred to Ramat Shlomo – an established Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem – as a “settlement” and demanded that Israel cease all building activities there, Clinton chided Netanyahu publicly and characterized neighborhood construction as “an insult to the United States.”
During her tenure under Obama, Clinton did not disagree when he demanded that Israel pull back to the 1949 armistice lines and divide Jerusalem; and she devalued Israeli sovereignty by lambasting construction on ancestral Jewish land while ignoring illegal Arab building. She promoted Mahmoud Abbas as moderate, whitewashed the PA’s support for terrorism, and presided over renewed American participation in the anti-Semitic UN Human Rights Council.
As Mrs. Clinton attempts to rewrite her history at the State Department and posture herself as a stalwart ally within the Obama administration, Jewish voters should instead consider the decline in American national prestige and the shameful treatment of Israel that characterized her tenure as America’s top diplomat.
If Jews who supported President Obama now truly care about Israel’s future, they should acknowledge how he has compromised her national integrity, empowered her enemies and exacerbated the existential threat to her survival. They must also recognize that he has not acted alone, and that his ill-conceived policies have been enabled by fellow Democrats – including Hillary Clinton, whose actual record on Israel is spotty and opportunistic at best.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Israel National News.