Jews: Hating Their Friends and Trusting Their Enemies

Ron Radosh writes of Bush and the Jews:

…George W. Bush’s commitment to Israel and his solidarity with the world’s Jews [leads] me to reflect on a great irony. Within the United States, a high percentage of Jews, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, have been opposed to the policies of the Bush administration and bear an animus to Bush personally.

When I returned home from the [White House annual Chanukah] party, a friend had e-mailed me two statements that address this issue. The first came from the head of America’s Reform Jewish congregations, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffe, who delivered his remarks as a sermon at the Union Board Services in Tampa, Florida on December 12th. Reform Jews are as a whole the most liberal politically of all Jewish religious bodies in our country. On various issues, especially social ones, they stand firmly opposed to the Republican Party political agenda. Whether it is gay rights, stem cell research, the fight of a woman to have an abortion if they choose, and questions pertaining to civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, they stand on the liberal side.

Rabbi Yoffe’s remarks were largely a meditation on our current crisis, and the hopes that American Jews shared for the success of the coming Obama Presidency, and their desire for the new President’s success in his endeavors to serve our country. He was particularly concerned for the creation of universal health care, and he urged President-elect Obama not to put its attainment off because of the serious economic issues confronting us.

It was a surprise, therefore, to read these words of Rabbi Yoffe:

“And what of the State of Israel? When we look at Israel today, we see a strong state with a reasonably healthy economy. Much of the credit should go to President George W. Bush. He supported Israel’s security needs, provided much-needed military aid, and accepted no excuses for Palestinian terror. The President is under siege right now, but we in the Jewish community must not forget that he has been a good friend to the Jewish State and the Jewish people.”(my emphasis.)

Reform Jews who often participated in the veritable orgy of Bush hatred must have blanched as they heard these words, but it would not have come as a surprise to those Jews who knew the President.

An op-ed by Noam Neusner, a Jewish liaison for President Bush from 2002 to 2005, explained to his readers how seriously George W. Bush was in his commitment. The Jews, Neusner writes, “really do matter to him.” It is not simply a case of pandering to a constituency, one he well knows does not support him politically. “I saw his eyes well up,” Neusner writes, “while watching the Holocaust-themed movie “Paper Clips”…I know how moved he was by meeting with Soviet Jewish refuseniks, Holocaust survivors and the parents of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.” Neusner attended one meeting the President had with Jews from around the world, who now lived in America after years of torment in countries like Cuba, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other bastions of anti-Semitism. As they told him how only in this nation did they find the right to live as Jews, Bush “walked out of the meeting shaking his head, appalled by the special hatred tyrants have reserved for the Jews.”

Neusner understands well that since Bush is a Southern evangelical Republican, it is virtually impossible for him to win over the Jews, and that criticism of him for favoring policies most Jews disagree with is “fair enough.” On foreign policy, some conservative Jews feel he did not do enough to confront Iran- he should have taken military action to stop them move to obtaining nuclear weapons- while others feel he was too bellicose.

But on Israel, Neusner cannot countenance that they see “his leadership on Israel and anti-Semitism” as both “quaint and one-dimensional.” Some take it for granted. “But they should not,” he warns, “be so casual with a friend.” In fact, Neusner argues that Bush was “more Zionist than many Israelis, more mindful of Jewish history than many Jews…and we American Jews can be thankful at least for that.”

A few years ago, I heard former Mayor Ed Koch of New York accept an award at a dinner honoring Jewish leaders in Washington, DC. President Bush was present, and Koch saluted him, telling his largely liberal audience that in his eyes- and Ed Koch is anything but a conservative- that George W. Bush was as a President the best friend that Israel ever had and the President most sympathetic to Jewish concerns.

Perhaps, like Rabbi Yoffe, more Jews in America will come to understand that.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, on the other hand, speculate on what they believe will be a showdown between a leftist Obama administration and a probable Netanyahu Israeli government:

With the election of Obama, the United States has moved dramatically to the left in its foreign policy at just the time that Israel, which seems likely to return Bibi Netanyahu to office in early February, is moving to the right. A collision is almost inevitable.

Caroline Glick, the highly astute conservative columnist for the Jerusalem Post, writes that the “international community” believes that Obama “will move quickly to place massive pressure on the next Israeli government to withdraw from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the interests of advancing a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians and the Syrians.”

She notes that “people who have been in close contact with Obama’s foreign policy transition team have privately acknowledged that the widespread belief that Obama will move swiftly to put the screws on Israel is fully justified. According to one source who has spent a great deal of time with the transition team since last month’s U.S. elections, Obama’s people are ‘scope-locked’ on Israel.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, there is a growing consensus, reflected in public opinion surveys, that trading land for peace is a chimera. Netanyahu points out that “we do not have a viable partner with whom to negotiate peace.” The Palestinian Authority does not speak for the people of either Gaza or the West Bank, and Hamas, which probably does (it won the election) does not want to be a party to any peace agreement. Recent experience suggests that Hamas will quickly install rocket launchers on any territory Israel concedes, using it not as a basis for peace but as a platform from which to kill more Jews…

And then Ronald A. Cass considers the Madoff scandal in which rich liberal Jews trusted a thief, apparently, because he’s Jewish:

Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, “Was it a Jew?” My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about “affinity fraud.” The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah’s Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal that, if offered by someone without such ties, would sound too good to be true.

The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your aunt — it just doesn’t feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work.

The level of affinity and of trust may be especially high among Jews. The Holocaust and generations of anti-Semitic laws and practices around the world made reliance on other Jews, and care for them, a survival instinct. As a result, Jews are often an easy target both for fund-raising appeals and fraud. But affinity plays a role in many groups, making members more trusting of appeals within the group…

How ironic: Jews hate those who stand by them and trust those who would betray them.

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