Thursday, February 28, 2008

Memo to the American Organized Jewish Community

To: The organized Jewish community

From: Katrina

Re: Bad for the Jews

It has come to my attention that certain Jewish leaders have been making ninnies of themselves and, by extension, all of us. These leaders, who happen to be Republicans (I have no problem disclosing that I am a proud Democrat), have been saying as loudly as possible that Obama is bad for Israel, AND that American Jews agree with them (Many of this was quoted first in the Jerusalem Post, which, to its credit, also has a campaign section about Israel with a variety of views on Obama). Although certain other Jewish leaders, who are Democrats, have spoken out against this, it may be too late, since I saw a news story on CNN's Situation Room this evening about what Israel thinks of the American candidates. The fact that there even was such a story (as though the US should care what Israel, or any other allied country, thinks of their individual candidates, as long as neither one of them is an axe-murderer) indicates that certain people in media also take seriously this idea that "American Jews" are evaluating Obama solely on his position on Israel. Furthermore, the implication is that there is a substantive difference between his views on Israel's and McCain's, of which there is currently no evidence (other than, as CNN reported, that Obama might talk to Ahmadinejad--that's talk to, folks, not sign a mutural non-agression pact with--without preconditions instead of bombing first and asking questions later).

Remember 2004, Organized Jewish Community (OJC)? Republicans said the sky would fall if Kerry was elected, and then Bush proceded to: 1) do nothing for 3 years, and then 2) do something, which many of our friends in New York who had been so vehemently against Kerry nevertheless thought was totally unacceptable because it might result in peace (although no one seriously thought that it would result in peace, but, you know, it's the principle).

So, OJC, these are my requests: 1) Regardless of your party affiliation, stop portraying "American Jews" as a giant monlith whose behavior is identical with yours, or yours and your other New York friends; there are Jews all over the country, and the majority (including some in NY) both support peace in Israel, including with some symbolic concessions on Jeruslaem, and think that a candidate's fitness to be president involves his or her views on domestic and general foreign issues, in addition to his or her views on Israel; 2) Stop making the Jews look bad, traitorous, selfish, etc. This is related to 1), of course, but this Israel-centric behavior RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERAS OR NEWSPAPER REPORTERS just plays into the hands of the The Israel Lobby folks and everyone else who thinks that Jews control the government and/or don't care about anything other than Israel; and 3) Do some research on the remaining candidates from both parties and think about domestic policy for a while. You live here--and here's kind of a mess right now.


ha-Ne'eqad said...

The monolith will CRUSH.

Seriously, though, don't you think the "don't embarrass the Jews" angle is a dangerous one to take for left-wing Jews? "Don't be outspoken socialists, it will make the country think we're unpatriotic. Don't favor social justice over the immediate national interest, or people will worry we're not for the national interest." And especially don't connect these political positions with Judaism and Jewish ethics, or you're playing right into the anti-Semites' hands! Clearly this kind of argument is a double-edged sword. Anti-semitism has shown a healthy capacity for hating the Jews collectively no matter what politics they have individually. I have no illusions about this despite having strong political opinions of my own.

Meanwhile, the nature of democratic politics is such that if you think a candidate is bad, you must convince others that he is bad, and thereby prevent him from being elected. People's values will inevitably come out in the election. If there are Jews who feel the way you do about the candidates (I supposed you'd call them the "not treacherous" Jews), then they'll show it by voting, yes? In the meantime, we're allowed to argue that one candidate is better than another.

I also don't understand why a CNN segment on ISRAELI Jews' opinions on the candidates shows that media people think that AMERICAN Jews care only about Israel. I saw a feature on BRITISH people's opinions on the candidates and that doesn't prove that British Americans are undermining the democratic process. FARC seems to want Obama to win, but that doesn't mean all Columbian-Americans do. God knows there's plenty of concern about worldwide Muslim opinion; I'd be drubbed for suggesting that Muslims vote en bloc.

By the way, your post on Conservative Judaism was really interesting. It came up at Shabbes lunch in my New England college town.

katrina said...

ha-ne'eqad: I'm not saying that individual Jews or groups of Jews should not express their values in public, in an outspoken matter. My problem is when individual Jews or groups of Jews claim to speak in the name of ALL JEWS regarding values (whether I agree with the values or not). Also, these groups are 501(c)3s, which mean that they are supposed to focus on issues, not candidates. I know that that gets enforced just about as often as the law that people have to pay social security taxes for their cleaning ladies, but, silly me, I care about those laws.
Your point about Israeli opinions about the candidates is well-taken; I think I was overly sensitive to that. I don't think Muslims vote as a block, and I don't think that Jews do, either.