Friday, July 13, 2018

Liberals, Conservatives, and Orthodox Judaism

Democratic Party nominee for Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Axios)
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be both a political liberal and an Orthodox Jew these days. Not because of the ideal itself. There is much to admire about a liberal political philosophy. I am in fact liberal on some issues myself although I tend to lean towards a more conservative approach on most issues.

My political views are completely informed by my religious views. Which are based on  the Torah. The Torah is neither liberal or conservative. But on most issues the Torah is better served by a conservative approach. Which is why Evangelicals tend to be politically conservative. They too see the values of the Torah (what they call the old testament) better served that way.

I’m sure that my liberal friends will challenge me on this with an analysis of their own. And that’s fine. But I stand by my view. Being a liberal does not in and of itself make one anti religion or anti Torah. Clearly there are some very religious Jews – even some Charedim that describe themselves as liberal or hard core Democrats. The party of their choice in the 2 party system of American politics.

But liberal political parties are being taken over of late by a form  antisemitism disguised as legitimate criticism of Israel. For liberal Jews - that comes in the form of bashing its current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. While some of their grievances with him might be legitimate, liberal criticism does not stop with Netanyahu. The more liberal one is the less likely they will be to support Israel regardless of who the Prime Minister is. They will more likely support the critics of Israel. And although this is not an absolute - the reality is that as far as liberalism goes - the less religious one is (whether Jewish or not)  the more likely they will be anti Zionist. (Unless they are of the Satmar mentality who are anti Israel for reasons beyond the scope of this post).

This is what came to mind as I saw a protest of President Trump during his visit to England on this morning’s newscast. As the cameras were focusing on the protesters carrying anti Trump placards I saw at least one that was anti Israel - Pro Palestine. It seems as though those signs were as welcome there as any of the others.

Unfortunately that didn’t surprise me. Since England’s 2 party system  has its own version of Democrats called The Labour Party. Whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn has been called an antisemite by Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing leader of the Jewish Board of Deputies in England. And for good reason!  Of course he vehemently denies it. But ‘denial’ in his case is nothing more than a river in Egypt.

This is reflected by the fact that there is a internal dispute among Labour Party members to get Corbyn to more fully reject all forms of antisemitism which has has thus far resisted.
Furthermore…  as the New York Times recently noted: 
In Britain, the once center-left Labour Party has become so infused with anti-Zionist sentiment that Jews recently took to the streets of London to protest a drift in the party toward anti-Semitism.  
I think this clearly indicates where liberal-left thinking and the political parties identifying with them lies.You will not see anything remotely close to that among conservative parties.

One might counter by saying that this is England… and the Unites States is different. Because here there has always been 2 party support for Israel.Democrat and Republican alike. That was true. Until it wasn’t. Which is not that long ago.

Liberal Jews - even very religious ones might take umbrage at this. Claiming that the 2 party support has been weakened by the Prime Minister of Israel who has cast his lot with Republicans thus alienating Democrats that otherwise support Israel. I don’t think Netanyahu can be blamed for this. Although he may have contributed to it.

It is true that the Democratic leadership still strongly supports Israel. Both the Senate and House minority leaders (Chuck Shummer and Nancy Pelosi) are ardent supporters.

But the same cannot be said for some of the other party leaders like the Deputy Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison - a onetime supporter of Louis Farrakahn. And it is certainly not true for 28 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who challenged the Democratic Party’s establishment and won  by a huge margin  -  ending the 20 year career of her opponent, Congressman Joseph Crowley - who was seen as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi.

Is Ocasio-Cortez an antisemite? I doubt it since she supported a Jew (Bernie Sanders) for President. But she is clearly anti Israel whose narrative is right out of the BDS playbook.  Hard to be pro Israel and pro BDS at the same time.

It seems pretty clear where the young liberal-left blood of the Democratic Party is going. And it isn’t Israel. Nor is it going in any kind of a religious direction. It is going the way of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  And I don’t think the old Democratic guard can stop it. 

Blaming Netnayahu for all this is a bit naïve. Since much of  criticism of Israel by the liberal-left is for things Neatnyahu did that were supported by the political opponents to his left. Such as Ocasio-Cortez calling Israel’s defensive measure at the recent border clash with Gaza terrorists posing as protesters - a massacre. It wasn’t a massacre . Israel’s defensive measures at the Gaza border were supported by Israel’s main opposition parties.

The lament by some of my liberal friends about losing 2 party support for Israel is something I sympathize with. I’d love to still see that. And as noted think it’s  technically still there. But the handwriting is on the wall. I don’t see it lasting in light of what I believe is a reasonable analysis of the increasing move to the left by mainstream liberal parties. Who see humanism as the highest ideal of all, trumping religion considering it to be an ancient and archaic value system countering the higher values of humanism. And in the process seeing a conservative Orthodox friendly Israel the same way. They otherwise see Israel only as a Nazi-like occupier of an indigenous people.

This is why I am glad that at least the political conservative parties (Republicans in the US and the Conservative Party in the UK) are in power now.

As a religious Jew it is also quite gratifying to see that conservative justices will now become the majority on the Supreme Court. Thus stopping the swing away from religious freedom. And if Republicans can retain the executive branch for the full 2 terms - possibly adding more conservative Justices to the Supreme Court as the current aging liberal ones retire - that’s even better. God bless America.