Israel & American Jews: Is the 2012 race headed to an ugly place?
For the past several days I’ve been getting a hinky feeling about the Israel-firster-Zionist-controlled-government thing that was dragged to the forefront in early December. I’m referring to the Josh Block kerfuffle that started when Salon’s Justin Elliot wrote an article about Mr. Block (who subsequently lost his gig) entitled Right-wing listserv targets Israel’s critics.
The original article was then followed up with one by Politico’s Ben Smith claiming that the subject of Israel was causing agitation amongst Democrats: Israel rift roils Democratic ranks.
That article was in turn pounced on by the Washington Post’s right-wing blogger, Jennifer Rubin, who wrote no less than three articles about it: Uncovering the anti-Israel enablers, The Israel media war in the Democratic Party, and Simon Wiesenthal Center: Time to clean up the discourse.
Over the course of the next several weeks I followed the back-and-forth between left & right over the accusations that were leveled against the Center for American Progress (CAP), Media Matters, and ThinkProgress. By mid-January things seemed to have quieted down a bit, then I found the following article and video at Salon on Wednesday 1/25:
What the Adelsons will want for their money
The $10 million in pro-Newt money that transformed the GOP primary appears to be all about US policy toward Israel
Koppel: But there has to be a so-what at the end of it. So if you win, what does Adelson get out of it?
Gingrich: Well, he knows I’m very pro-Israel. And that’s the central value of his life. I mean, he’s very worried that Israel is going to not survive.
Yes, the video is from Mondoweiss and I’m well aware of how they lean. That’s not the point. The point is that, to me, it sounded like a subtle dog whistle—bait for anti-Semites on both ends of the political spectrum. I pointed this out in a comment here at LGF and was told not to worry about it too much, so I left it alone (but my “this could get ugly” radar was still pinging loudly nonetheless).
Two days later, on Friday 1/27, Caroline Glick wrote an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post called The Zionist Imperative which, IMO, slammed American Jews as basically being a bunch of namby-pamby pantywaists with regard to their support for Israel. She also asserted that they must support Israel unconditionally, even at the expense of US interests (added emphasis mine):
[…] To oppose Iran’s nuclear program effectively, American Jews are required to oppose these strongly supported US policies. And at some point, this may require them to announce they support Israel’s right to survive and thrive even if that paramount right conflicts with how the US government perceives US national interests.
That is, it may require them to embrace Zionism unconditionally. […]
On the same day that the Glick article was published, another article by Michael Isikoff was published at MSNBC: Gingrich funder isn’t trying to ‘buy’ the presidency, aide says. That immediately reminded me of the old loaded question, “Do you still beat your wife?” One of the parts that stood out was this (added emphasis mine):
[…] In a talk to an Israeli group in July, 2010, Adelson said he wished he had served in the Israeli Army rather than the U.S. military—and that he hoped his young son would come back to Israel and ‘be a sniper for the IDF,’ a reference to the Israel Defense Forces. (YouTube video of speech)
‘I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back— his hobby is shooting — and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF,’ Adelson said at the event.
‘All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart,’ he said toward the end of his talk. […]
Bear with me while I point out one more piece. A day after the above, yesterday, Saturday 1/28, Chris Hayes’ “Story of the Week” on his MSNBC program Up had the title Democracy for Billionaires. Again, it was about Adelson (and Gingrich). The part about Israel starts around 3:30, then at about 5:02 Hayes says (added emphasis mine):
The complete and total breakdown of our campaign finance system, combined with the explosion of inequality, means that such a pairing was inevitable and is likely to grow more common in the future.
Think about it for a second. If you were a multi-billionaire—Adelson is worth over 20 billion—how much would you be willing to spend to own the President of the United States?
I didn’t know much about Sheldon Adelson prior to this week, and what I’ve read over the past several days I dislike immensely. I also think the Citizens United decision was a horrible mistake. I’m fully aware that one far-right billionaire doesn’t represent all Jews, nor does a right-winger like Glick saying that American Jews must put Israel’s interests before those of the U.S. mean that every American Jew (or even every conservative American Jew) feels that way or will take her advice.
What is making me extremely uncomfortable is where this appears to be headed since we now have the mainsteam media giving credence to and, well, mainstreaming some very ugly ideas that could lead to a dark place I don’t want to see us go as a nation.
Why should I care if I’m not a Jew? Well, first of all because feeding bigotry and conspiracy theories is just plain wrong, no matter who does it. Perhaps more importantly, it’s dangerous—especially when the target is a large group of people who happen to share a particular ethnicity or religion, and who also happen to be a minority in the country in which they’re being targeted. Obviously, being part of a religious minority myself makes the sense of danger even keener.
I hope I’m wrong on this and things don’t keep escalating they way they appear to be. I hope Gingrich gets trounced in Florida and drops out the race soon. I hope people on the right like Adelson and Glick will stop saying some of the things they’ve been saying (though, obviously, they have every right to say them) because they’re feeding something evil. As a liberal, I also desperately hope those on the left who are taking the bait and mainstreaming it will STOP IT before things spiral out of control.
I didn’t like it one bit when American Muslims were being vilified and accused of being “The Other”, supposedly involved in a nefarious conspiracy to take over America, and I dislike it equally as much when it’s Jews (or any other group) being treated the same.
Be on your guard, America.