In the last issue of Los Angeles’ Jewish Journal, there was a full-page advertisement from the McCain campaign. The ad consisted of a letter written from a woman in New Jersey who said she was once a Democrat, but was now going to vote for McCain. She insisted that she wasn’t a right-wing nut. In fact, she specifically said she was liberal in social matters such as abortion and gay rights. No, her big issue was Israel. And some think that the Republicans are a better “friend” to Israel than the Democrats. I don’t know if I agree, or understand what this “friendship” really means, but there is this impression out there.
I’m not an Israeli. I don’t let one issue become the reason I vote for a candidate. But Israel is a big thing for most Jews. Is it surprising? Or wrong? Are we upset when the Irish care about Ireland? Or Chicago residents root for the Cubs? Passover just ended. The whole story of this ancient holiday, one that Jesus himself celebrated, is about Moses leading the chosen people into the Holy Land.
Do backers of Israel have too much of a say in American policy? Perhaps. Or is Israel in the best interest of America? The Arabs may have the oil, but when you get stuck at a seder, you’ll be glad you’re drinking the Israeli stuff rather than our own Manishevitz. And did you know that Natalie Portman was born in Israel? Enough said.
The Chosen People. I sometimes get the weirdest anti-Semitic emails about the phrase “chosen people,” as if Jews believe God gave them special freebies, like bigger penises on Jewish men. While this is true for some of us, I can’t vouch for every Jewish man. Maybe next week, I’ll write a post about “the chosen people” and have some of you goyim tell me what you think the phrase really means.
I’d like to also hear more of your feelings about our policies with Israel. Is America too biased towards Israel? Who do you think we should be biased to? Syria? Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. I already know which of you are anti-Semitic. Seriously, I’m open to different views. I have a few blogging friends who live in Europe who are very upset about the conditions of Palestinians in Gaza, and pretty much blame Israel. I understand the humanistic need to fight for those without a voice — the underdog. It is part of the liberal tradition. It is also why Republicans have made inroads with the Jewish community. Because many have forgotten that Israel is an underdog also.
I don’t think I met a Republican until I was twenty years old. A Republican in New York? A Jewish Republican? But politics make strange bedfellows. Soon, it was the religious right that was supporting Israel, while liberals like ex-President Jimmy Carter were sharing tea with Hamas leadership.
I consider myself fairly liberal. I care for the underdog. I just happen to see Israel as an underdog, despite its military power. Look on the map.
There’s a lot of guilt to go around in the Middle East. Israel can suck, too. Their policies have caused chaos in Gaza. But then again, I don’t live there. It is very hard to be sympathetic to those wanting to kill you.
I once read this very bizarre article (written by a French intellectual, of course) which theorized that Israel was bad for the Jewish people. This writer was proud of the older generation of Jews — the ones who thrived in Europe and added so much to European intellectual life — the Spinozas and Einsteins of the world. Now, Jews lost some of their moral high ground by having Israel. They became like everyone else. He seemed disappointed in these new Jews, because these Jews weren’t as alienated and miserable as they used to be. What should liberals do with Jews who aren’t victims — the prototypical victim?
I think the extreme right and the extreme left end up meeting in the same place concerning Jews and Israel: they don’t really feel comfortable with them being normal people. It’s as if they take “the chosen people” more seriously than Jews themselves. They need to be “chosen” for something, whether they want to or not.
How many other countries get the scrutiny that Israel gets? Or is as demonized by liberal Europeans, despite violence going on all over the world? Or is berated for land that was given them, and then won after the other side repeatedly attacked them? Or has given back most of the land and repeatedly made compromises? That actually respects the religion of their enemies?
Still, it would be nice to go back in time, to a more carefree era — back before half of the Jewish population was wiped out by the Nazis — back to the shtetls of Russia. Imagine if we could just move all the Jews back to Russia! I can give up blogging and return to my life as a grumpy milkman with three daughters, waiting to become a rich man. Wouldn’t that be a miracle of miracles?!
Of course, this dream could become a reality, as one blogger points out. In an interesting article in today’s BlogHer, Dana J. Tuszke writes “Quo Vadis, Israel?,” in which the blogger paves a way for peace in the Middle East by following H. Peter Nennhaus’s cool plan:
Nennhaus proposes that purchase of the land called the Kaliningrad Oblast from Russia, would encourage Russian immigrants to return to Russia by means of financial enticements, and the transfer of the Israelis to the Baltic, would prevent anyone from questioning the legitimacy of this new Israeli homeland.
What do you think? Could Israel relocate its entire nation? Could peace finally be achieved?
This is perfect for me, since I’ve already married a Russian and know how to drink vodka! Das Vadanya, Comrade Jews!