Waking Up and Smelling Carter’s Coffee
On the news of the resignation of 14 members of the advisory board of the Carter Center (hat tip: Solomonia), the folks at the Daily Kos expressed the hunch that the only reason for their resignation was their being Jewish, and that this was hinted by their last names. Commenter Joanne (on the linked Solomonia post) had this to say:
Quite frankly, most of the names of those who quit do appear to be Jewish. Not all, but most. I am afraid that the quittings would've made a bigger impression if more of the names weren't Jewish. I hate to say this, but the thought that "it's because they're Jewish" occurred to me, too, even though I'm sympathetic to them.
I was about to reply that a Jewish-sounding last name wasn’t a sure-fire proof of being Jewish, that the resignations were motivated by real disgust with Carter’s bias and not identity politics, and so on, but then I said to myself: we can’t really know (not yet, anyway) and, if it’s the truth that they were Jews and motivated by Jewish solidarity, then it’s the truth, and that’s that. Going further with the assumption that the resignation was of Jews and for Jewish reasons, I realized a good lesson could be made out of it nonetheless. Those left-leaning Jews had woken up and smelled the coffee Carter had made them.
One of the regular commenters on Daily Kos is one D. Honig (username “dhonig”), who has a political cartoon blog called Hypnocrites. I don’t know exactly where his political stances lie—a lot of his cartoons are left-leaning, but there are some that are critical of the Left, and his comments on DKos too would challenge both sides (UPDATE: it seems to me he is an Old Left holdover or revivalist). There’s one cartoon of his, dating from July 21, 2006 (that was during the Lebanon War), titled “Single-Issue Jew”, which I recalled on this occasion. I reproduce it here with his kind permission:
If the last names are anything to go by, then there were at least 14 Jews working at the Carter Center. 14 Jews who had spent some time on helping him and furthering his goals, out of a shared belief in them. 14 Jews who had done all that until, one day, the man they had helped was starting to sound like Charles Lindbergh.
The majority of American Jews still vote Democrat. They see that party, and left-wing ideals in general, as matching Jewish ideals, or what they perceive to be Jewish ideals. They’re partly right, but also partly wrong, not only in their beliefs as to what Jewish ideals are, but also in their thought that the Western Left of today still stands for its past ideals.
Let us begin with the ideal of tikun olam. Is it not a Jewish ideal? On a certain blog that bears that name, a blog that has scarcely a single word to say in Israel’s favor, and tons of apologetics for “Palestinian” terrorism, it is translated as, “Make the World a Better Place”. That translation is part of the problem. It’s the sort of translation I’d make before I got religion. “Tikun” in modern Israeli Hebrew has the meaning of, “repairing”; but in the Hebrew of the Talmud, it has that meaning plus another one: “preparing”. When Rabbi Akiva says (Ethics of the Fathers 3:19), “Hakol metukan lis’udah”, he doesn’t mean, ”Everything is repaired for a meal”, he means, “Everything is prepared for a meal”. The full phrase is tikun olam b’malchut Sh-ddai, which means, “preparing the world [to be] in the Kingdom of G-d”.
Clearly this is far removed from the utopian ideals of the 1960’s New Left. But those ideals are contagious today, having absorbed not only Jewish but also other religious traditions. For example, in Christianity, people who can’t abide by the traditional religion of faith and demands replace it with Marxist activities, and Westerners who embrace Buddhism today tend less to construe its teachings of non-violence as roads toward freedom from the Wheel of Reincarnation and more as banners to rally under in every anti-American, anti-war (i.e. pro-Islam, pro-terrorism) rally. So Jews of today who are not into the traditional religion lineally descended from that which G-d established at Sinai express their Judaism through activities which they believe to embody good Jewish ideals. In sanegoria of those Jews, I must say their attempts to find something to express their Jewishness with means they’re not self-hating, that they have that Jewish point in them. However, many of those ideals are not Jewish at all.
The goal of the Jewish people from its very birth has always been: to crown G-d as King of All. There has never been any other goal, and all Jewish ideals are offshoots of that. Atheists complain of evidences of G-d that they are invariably things that happened in a long-past age; the Jewish nation is the ever-present proof of G-d’s work in this very age. Being good people toward one another is, without argument, a Jewish ideal, but it is only the prerequisite; the goal is to be holy. Judaism is not a collection of universal human ideals. If the good behavior of Jews toward one another sets an example for non-Jews to copy, then well and good, but it must be understood, and cannot be overstated, that even the ideas of goodness, let alone holiness, cannot be divorced from G-d’s standard. As the wisest of all humans said—proof of which is available in our age on a daily basis—“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
The Jewish view has never been that humans by their efforts alone put an end to the evils of the world. True, Judaism does not go so far as Christianity does in saying humans are incapable of standing up to their own evil inclinations, yet what hippified Jews forget is that Judaism isn’t a panacea, nor was it ever peddled as such. Judaism does not preach fleeing from the material world like Gnosticism does, but it is not a prescription for humans to cure all materials ills either. The Jews do their work as servants of HaShem, preparing (“tikun”) everything for that final ceremony in which He will declare Himself King of All (that’s the summary of the Aleinu, the piece at the end of each daily prayer). Since He was the one who instituted all the evils of the world (Isaiah 45:7), He is the only one who can put an end to them. Utopian ideologies like Communism, though their adherents are able to quote scripture to bolster their case, are usurpers of G-d in that they aim to achieve by human means what only He can do.
The ideals of feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, then, are both Jewish and universal, but they are not Jewish because they are universal, they are Jewish because G-d sets them forth in His Torah. In that, they are on the same level as separating milk and meat, circumcising boys on their eighth day and—this will have the Sixties Hippies in fits—ridding the Land of Israel of its indigenous Canaanite baby-sacrificers. But the Left of today stands even for the universal ideals selectively, as witnessed by, for example, Cindy Sheehan’s refusal to see Castro’s detainees in Cuba while rushing to Guantánamo, an American prison where Muslim terrorists are held in five-star conditions, for the sake of showing “America’s injustices”. Gone are the days of the purity of standing up for (I’m running through Honig’s cartoon) fair conditions for workers, an end for real racial discrimination and pushing for women’s rights; nowadays the Left has precious little to say about the exploitative labor in Venezuela, or about Arab Muslims massacring black Muslims in Sudan, or about the execution of women after being raped in Iran. It is bent on banning Christian jewelry from schoolgirls, pontificating on “Rules of Engagement” for US troops in Iraq and, of course, fighting that Great Monstrous Zionist Empire of Evil®, Israel, and its AIPAC tentacles gripping the USA.
So there we have 14 Jews abruptly woken up from their Leftist-Utopian slumber by a book by an ex-president of their own party in which the only Jewish state in the world is accused of being as evil—and, by implication, as unworthy of continuing to exist—as South Africa before the days of De Klerk; and by his subsequent putting down of any criticism of his book as stemming from “the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee”. “No war against Iran for Israel!” is another growing voice in American Democrat circles. It’s still not mainstream yet—Pelosi, for example, has been careful not to be swept by those sentiments, and even the proprietor and namesake of Daily Kos avoids the issues—but the day will not be long before Democrat-voting Jews will find themselves in the exact situation as in the last panel of Honig’s cartoon. And then what?
I have the benefit of earlier experience—I mean having been confronted with the situation earlier than the 14 resigners. I too had taken up a cause that resonated with me, only to be dismayed later by seeing it dominated by people spewing lies on Israel and standing for the “Palestinians”. I pondered three options, options which I think are the ones any Jew confronted with that situation ponders:
The first is to swim with the current in Israel-bashing and apologetics for the “Palestinians”, as the proprietor of the aforementioned blog Tikun Olam does. He and the likes of him, like David Grossman, still call themselves Zionists while bashing “Israel’s policies”; Jonathan Cook, sitting from his vantage point in Nazareth, inside “that horrible state that’s responsible for all the troubles of the world”, says that’s their fundamental flaw, and adds that unless they denounce Zionism—for it is “a racist ideology at its core”—they’re hypocrites. Gilead Atzmon has done just that, and from his armchair in London he denounces Judaism as well as Zionism. As for the end of that way, I wrote of it relatively long ago, right near the beginning of my blog, on August 9, 2006.
The second option is to try to be even-handed: to counter the accusations and libels against Israel and to uphold the rightness of Israel, together with agreeing to listen to “the grievances of the Palestinians”. In this position, suicide terrorism can never be justified (so far so good), but Israel deserves the animosity it gets until it makes all the territories taken in 1967 judenrein. The belief is that the 1949 Armistice territories of Israel are justly Israel’s, while the 1967 acquisitions are unjustly held now and, once given to the other side, will end all their legitimate grievances. What about the question of the 1947–9 refugees? Or of Jerusalem? Nagia el ha-gesher v’na’avor oto is the usual answer—“When we reach the bridge, we’ll pass it” (“All in good time”, in other words).
The third option is to recognize that all these affairs make up a big picture. To recognize that there is not an Israeli Goliath and a Palestinian David, but an Israeli David and an Islamic Goliath, of which the “Palestinian nation” constitutes its anti-Zionist arm. To recognize that there is an ideological continuity between a suicide bombing in Netanya (G-d forbid) and a shooting of monks in Yala, Thailand (G-d forbid). To realize that it isn’t, and never has been, about any sort of nationalist struggle for independence, but about real, starkly real, colonial expansion and imperialistic subjugation of the whole world, by any means possible, including using the West’s post-colonial guilt against it, and including staging or faking photographs, and including raising one’s own offspring on the heritage of suicide bombing and encouraging them to take that route. To understand that before us is true evil. Yes, that “ancient type of thinking” that, among others, G-d promotes in His Torah, no matter how many people think we’ve “progressed beyond it”.
Then, from the third option, the only option which the contemplation of the dire straits of our age allows, there comes the realization that all the utopian movements of all time have brought the greatest suffering to the world. You realize Nazism and Communism were both attempts by humans, in “a way which seemeth right” to them, to cure all the ills of the world, and because of that were doomed to fail. And then you realize that Islam, although it comes as theistic religion, is the same, for it is like the other two about human efforts, according to a “human, all too human” plan, to make the world a better place. At the end of all this, you come to the conclusion that, although it’s not up to you to cure all the world’s ills, it is up to you to prevent others from making the world a worse place by sympathizing with, or acquiescing to, an ideology that leads to the chains of tomorrow.
You don’t want to be the Loser Generation of Vietnam (I mean the hippies who protested it). You want to be the Greatest Generation of World War II. This is your chance.
Updated on Wednesday, January 24, 2007, 08:20, following a comment by “dhonig” on another post.