Friday, May 21, 2021

Rethinking our Political Perspectives

Ashkelon after a Hamas rocket attack (LA Times)
A ceasefire has been been declared by Israel and Hamas. Thank God. I hope it sticks. I do not want to see any more innocent people die or get hurt. On either side. I only hope Israel has reached its objective.

Now that things seem to have calmed down, it would be good time to reflect on our own  political sympathies. Here are my thoughts.

There are many Orthodox Jews whose sympathies lie with the liberal/left. As such they generally vote for Democrats. But I think the time has come for some serious thought about what it is exactly that most Democrats believe in and support.   

I understand why so many of us have such sympathies.  It’s all about fairness and empathy for the underdog. When they see people suffering, they want to help. Which is of course a very laudable feeling. But at the end of the day, what might seem fair in the moment is actually a gross miscarriage of justice. As this applies to support for Israel the liberal/left philosophy that seems to be increasingly influencing (if not outright dominating) Democratic politics and has expressed much sympathy toward Palestinians with respect to their conflict with Israel. 

The liberal/left looks at the here and now, That is how they assess who gets their sympathy. Which why it is Palestinians upon which they focus. Historical context becomes irrelevant when people are suffering now. Democrats are increasingly going in that direction. Which is eroding their support for Israel.

The counter argument for that erosion is to blame it on Israel’s right wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. A lot has been made about how Democrats have been alienated by Netanyahu’s behavior with respect to former President Barack Obama. 

I don’t think that’s it. I think is it just liberal/left politics that increasingly guides them. Most recently expressed by Senator Bernie Sanders, the most left wing member of the Senate, BDS supporter, Representative Rashida Tlaib, and the darling of the media, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

They consider themselves to have the moral high ground on every issue. Especially when it concerns Israel. Their criticism of Israel has nothing to to with their hatred for Netanyahu - although that hatred is very real. No. it’s not about that. It’s all about the poor Palestinian underdogs that are suffering and dying under Israel’s heavy military hand. It’s about death and destruction they see in virtually every news broadcast every day. They see Israel doing that - using American supplied military weapons. Which they want to stop. Or at least condition on not using it on any Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank.

Democrats are now pushing the President to put more pressure on Israel to make some sort of peace deal with them. What that peace deal might look like versus what it should look like is irrelevant to them. They want peace at any price because they see innocent Palestinians suffering under the thumb of Israeli oppression. Their position would be the same no matter who the Israeli prime minister is. 

The sad reality is that a lot of non Orthodox Jews feel the same way. As noted by Douglas Altabef:

…a group of some 90 American non-Orthodox rabbinical students published an open letter on May 13 castigating Israel for its “violent suppression of human rights,” and yes, engaging in “apartheid” policies… 

The gist of the missive takes the form of a series of questions: “What will it take for us to see that our Israel has the military and controls the borders? How many Palestinians must lose their homes, their schools, their lives, for us to understand that today, in 2021, Israel’s choices come from a place of power and that Israel’s actions constitute an intentional removal of Palestinians?” 

This isn’t just a group of random secular Jews that are not well read on Jewish issues. These are future ‘Rabbis’. People that will be leading those non orthodox Jews that care enough about Judaism to have an opinion on Israel. They will look to their  rabbi for guidance.  

Although as of now they consist of a minority of American Jews - since the latest Pew study estimates that 72% of non Orthodox Jews intermarry and could not care less about the  their religion or Israel -that  leaves 28% that do care. Which is still a sizable number.  

I suspect that a lot of heterodox Jews already feel this way. These rabbis just legitimize those feelings and ‘Kasher’ their views as ‘authentically Jewish’. 

I understand that those among us (Orthodox Jewry)  who lean heavily liberal/left  share similar political values with heterodox Jews. They also feel compassion and empathy for the underdog. They want to help alleviate their pain and suffering. But is this really the side you choose to be on? Do you really want to be on the side of those that want to undercut American support for Israel in a misguided service to that cause? 

I realize that it would be best if there was bi-partisan support for Israel. But at what price? That has historically been the case for decades. But that ship has sailed. Democrats have moved so far to the left that their positions on Israel can really hurt. Do you really want to be part of that?