Archive for the ‘American Jews and Israel’ Category

A Chink in the Democrats’ Jewish Voting Bloc — A Taste of More to Come?

September 23, 2011

In early 2008, I asked, “Who will leave the Democrats first: Blacks or Jews?”.  The congressional election in New York’s 9th Congressional District in New York City, won this month by Republican Bob Turner, provides a preliminary answer.  The election represents a significant chink in Jews’ solidly Democrat voting record.  That district has been termed the most heavily Jewish of any CD, and is estimated at 30% Jewish.

The election result is considered to stem from the Democrats’ abysmal handling of the economy and Obama’s visceral and manifest hostility to Israel.  That Obama would be no true friend of Israel was manifest to many of us four years ago, but others are slowly realizing that in fact he is not.  But for the Jewish vote to truly be competitive in future elections, many more voters will have to come to that conclusion, and further, that Obama’s Islamophiliac and anti-Israel attitudes are rather consonant with much of today’s Democrat party.

On the other hand, the Democrats’ nomination of a black presidential candidate, and a successful one at that, has since further cemented the Democrats as the black community’s overwhelming choice.  That remains true despite the tremendous damage, economic and otherwise, that the combination of that party and that president has inflicted on both the black community and the country as a whole.

The only contingency that might tend to pry black allegiance from the Dems lies in the remote chance that further stark Obama failure, and a concomitant threat to other Dem officeholders up for reelection, causes the party to drop him from its 2012 ticket.

Indeed, both groups, Jews and blacks, are now bound to the Democrats by tradition. It has been claimed that people change their spouses more often than their political parties, and it certainly appears that the tradition issue is a powerful factor in the Jews’ and blacks’ allegiance to the Democrats.

Republicans and conservatives assert that, in fact, their policies better benefit the lower economic classes, including blacks, and all Americans, by providing the means and incentives for individuals to succeed on their own, and creating more wealth and prosperity for the society as a whole.

Jews, on the other hand, are more represented in the upper economic classes, yet still vote Democrat virtually on a par with blacks, essentially against their economic interests. That is the basis for the old saying, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans,” and the concept remains essentially valid decades after the saying was coined.

Of course, the vast majority of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were exceedingly poor. Thus their Democratic affiliation may have made sense at that time. However, their emphasis on education, entrepreneurship, and entry into the professions has resulted in a great American success story. This, in turn, has resulted in the rise of many of them to economic success in this country.

But they still vote overwhelmingly Democrat. A minority can be found among prominent Republicans and conservatives in government and politics, as well as other fields.

In addition to the tradition issue, Jews’ allegiance to the Democrats stems from their liberal/left wing views, particularly on social issues, such as abortion and concern for the poor.

Although some Jews have a concern for the well being of Israel, many do not, and the number who do is probably decreasing. And among many of those who do care about Israel, their level of concern is not great. But, given those limitations, the dissonance between the positions of those Jews who do care about Israel and the Democrat party is increasing significantly.

The Democrats have become a haven for the anti-Israel sentiment prominent among the left wing, and at least some Jews realize that the Democrats’ philosophy of a more flaccid projection of U.S. power internationally – as evidenced by their desire for disproportionate reductions in the defense budget — may gravely redound to the detriment of Israel and the United States, too.

So, who will leave the Democrats first: Blacks or Jews? Although many in both groups have good reason to, a rational outside observer would probably conclude that the Jews have more reason to.

But it’s still a toss-up. Increasing numbers of blacks may realize over time that the Democrats don’t serve their group or individual interests; most Jews may already realize that the party does not serve theirs in any tangible way, but their Democrat affiliation serves them on a psychological level, as they see themselves as on “the right side,” or with the party that “does good.”

Jews Hope their Prayers Won’t Be Answered

September 6, 2011

Or, What’s the Matter with the Jews?

Last year, in Is Rabbi Ovadia the Only Jew Who Reads the Prayer Book?, I noted the absurdity of the situation where so-called Jewish leaders inveighed against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s comments that were entirely consistent with traditional Jewish prayers.

Unfortunately, though, the problem is broader than simply Rabbi Ovadia’s comments and his critics.  In fact, when it comes to Israel, the dominant attitudes of the American Jewish community are stark variance with the Jewish liturgy.

The Siddur Sim Shalom includes the language in the Birkat HaMazon, “Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, soon, in our day.” It does not say “Rebuild West Jerusalem.”

A side note – is it not interesting how the media routinely refers to all sorts of cities in Iraq and elsewhere in the Moslem world as “holy cities”, but somehow you have never heard them refer to Jerusalem as a holy city?)

In the Musaf Amidah we pray, “May it be your will… to lead us in joy to our land and to settle us within our borders.” I have also seen the language “Restore us to our homeland.”  None of the liturgy says “settle us within the 1949 armistice lines” or the non-existent “1967 borders.”

I do not know which is more rote, the recital of these traditional prayers that the mendicants actually hope will not be fulfilled, or their votes come election day for the Democrat lever.  (Granted, of course, that many of these “liberal” paragons of Jewish values never set foot in a shul.)

Several years ago, the book What’s the matter with Kansas? received wide note for asking why Kansans seemed to vote against their interests by voting Republican.  The answer was that the Kansans really were voting in line with their interests.  (If that was not obvious when the book was published, it certainly should be now!)

The  analogous yet more trenchant question is  “what’s the matter with the Jews?”  Large majority of American Jews continue to vote Democrat in the face of the continuing overwhelming evidence that the Democrats are in step with the Islamo-leftist axis, constantly working against the interests of American Jews and Israel.   (That it is also working against the interests of America as a whole and the western world is also true, but that is a somewhat different point to defend.)

Two additional recent datums illustrating the point are that every Democrat in the Congress opposed the recent UN Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act bill to restrict UN funding of anti-American, anti-Israel or anti-semitic activities.  The Obama/Hillary Clinton administration also opposed another recent bill that would stop it from giving money to the Palestinian Authority that could be used for terrorism, as Hillary said that would keep her from being able to do her job.

In sum, when leftist Jews berate Jewish conservatives or the Israeli government as betraying Jewish values, be assured they are simply displaying their own confusion between Jewish values, which their nemeses are likely upholding, but which they do not share, and their own, very different, leftist ideology.

In fact, it is an arrogant and erroneous display of chutzpah to assume that Jewish values are represented by American liberals or the Democrat party.  The primary area in which these people display any kind of liberalism is in their acceptance of the hatred displayed by their fellow “liberals”/leftists towards Israel, Jews, and Republicans and conservatives.

You Heard it Here First!

September 1, 2011

Some of the statements I made in my articles posted on these pages in recent years undoubtedly struck some readers, and especially non-readers, as outlandish.  But, sad to say, the intervening time has confirmed the truth of more of them than any of us would have liked.  Some examples follow:

With Some of the Friends We Have, We Barely Need Enemies, posted  November 30, 2009, which itself referred to previous articles I posted, discussed how Jewish and ostensibly pro-Israel organizations were actually working against those interests.  Subsequently, facts about the true nature of groups such as J-Street were revealed, prompting some, such as New York Congressman Gary Ackerman, to disavow their ties to it.

What is a “Supporter of Israel”?, originally published in 2006, was one of those articles referenced in the 2009 column.  It called to task America’s largest synagogue movement, the Union for Reform Judaism for its anti-Israel activities.  There, things have gone from bad to worse, as Eric Yoffie, its at best lukewarm to Israel leader, has been replaced by J-Streeter Jacobs.

Earlier this year, Caroline Glick wrote documenting Jewish groups aiding the enemy, and noted the formation of the Committee Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, established specifically to end Jewish Federation funding for anti-Israel activities.  The Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Federation-funded Theater J was a prime offender.

On October 4, 2009 I raised the provocative question, Who Is More Pro-Israel, Your Rabbi Or Rush Limbaugh?, using Limbaugh as shorthand for the genre of conservative talk radio hosts.  Since then, on the one hand we have seen the brave and staunch support for Israel shown by talker Glenn Beck, and on the other, the revelation of the sad yet successful leftist/anti-Israel indoctrination of rabbinical students in some seminaries.

Further, I discovered an old file of material from a “Zionism” course I took in the mid-1970’s at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary.  So what did I find that our “leaders” indoctrinated us with, even back then?  Yes, the Israel-hatred of Chomsky!

The New American Jewish Bible, August 23, 2009, stated that the New York Times and other analogous left-wing  media outlets had supplanted the Torah in large parts of the Jewish community.  So I was not totally shocked when in June of this year, the newly named editor of that newspaper, born-Jewish Jill Abramson proclaimed “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.”  But somehow, I have a feeling that I should be able to collect from her for plagiarism.

[Apparently, saying the Times substitutes for religion is still not PC enough for them to publicly admit, so the “Newspaper of Record” removed it from the on-line record.  Or is it their fear of being called on her plagiarism?]

Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?, dated August 23, 2009, asked a question that has become much more common since.  I concluded many were not fooled, but some now say they were.

Is Obama Stupid?, September 22, 2009, came to the affirmative conclusion.  His sheen of intellectual brilliance has by now worn off among some of his erstwhile worshippers.  [Perhaps his refusal to release his academic records now seems wiser every day.]  As documented in instances far too numerous to note here, what his admirers derided as the “cowboy diplomacy” of his predecessor has been replaced by Obama’s Cretin Diplomacy.

J’Accuse! of August 28, 2009 stated that much of the anti-Israel invective found around the world was actually anti-semitic in nature.  In the last two years, many more thinkers and authors have realized that and said so.

Posted last year, Goodbye, America asked whether America was at a turning point, beyond which recovery from the critical mass of leftist momentum which has infested it would be close to impossible.  Since then, millions of Americans, led by Tea Party adherents, have realized this danger.  One obvious manifestation is the now widely apparent looming menace of the ever-increasing national debt.

Perhaps the most prescient of my earlier writings was Israel (and America) Will Rue the Day that George W. Bush Leaves Office, published in mid-2008 on the now defunct israelenews.com.  The column made clear that none of the leading US presidential candidates was either truly good for America or Israel.  And by any measure, Obama was without question the worst of the lot.  So it did not take long before, as his mentor Pastor Jeremiah Wright had said, “the chickens were coming home to roost.”

My assertions here that these astonishing developments are now more widely acknowledged and documented may warrant even more incredulity than when I raised them originally as simply my conclusions.  But they are now easily verified to anyone’s satisfaction simply with some Google searching.

As a final note, I am aware that displaying a jaundiced eye is not particularly conducive to popularity; neither is being right.

Is Rabbi Ovadia the Only Jew Who Reads the Prayer Book?

September 7, 2010

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ill wishes towards Israel’s Palestinian Arab enemies, including the Palestinian Authority and its Holocaust–denier President, elicited disdain and disavowals from much of the leadership of Israel and the Jewish world.

Rabbi Ovadia’s “words do not reflect the approach of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor the position of the government of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Jewish Theological Seminary and related groups said, “As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef”.

ADL leader Abe Foxman said, “We are outraged by the offensive and incendiary comments made by Rav Ovadia Yosef.”  And the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations added, “We are disturbed by the reported comments of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.”

Why these entities have reacted this way is an interesting question.

This is even putting aside the paternalistic attitude of superiority so commonly used to justify ignoring the constant barrage of hate and incitement to genocide that emanates from many of Israel and Judaism’s enemies, both from Palestinian Arabs and others (most notoriously, Iran).   And that vitriol is not voiced just by an individual — but is promulgated by their governments and their leaders, including Israel’s purported “partners for peace.”

But I was gratified to learn that I was not the only one who found the situation peculiar.  In a letter published on the Jerusalem Post’s website, Chana Pinto accurately and articulately pointed out that in our prayers, Jews beseech G_d to defeat our enemies.  For example, the Amida includes “Frustrate the hopes of those who malign us,” and “Let all your enemies be speedily destroyed.”

So is Rabbi Ovadia the only prominent Jew who reads the prayer book?  Are the other Jewish leaders ignorant of our prayers in the prayer books they themselves publish? Are they akin to America’s legislators who now routinely pass multi-thousand page bills without reading them or knowing what is in them, much less understanding and reflecting on their implications?

Or is it that these other Jewish leaders are aware of their prayers, but Rabbi Ovadia is the only one who means it when he says them?

Perhaps if the Conservative leaders and their Reform counterparts (who,  of course, also attacked Rabbi Ovadia) are so offended by their own prayers, they should change them.  If Obama and his Democrats can ram their unwanted legislation down the throats of Americans, perhaps these Jewish leaders can change our prayers to be more consonant with their political and worldly sensibilities.

This controversy over the Rabbi’s remarks reminded me of a similar hypocrisy that occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency.  Bush was well known to have been inspired by his faith and G_d during his time in office.  And he was routinely and vitriolically mocked and criticized for doing so.  Many Jews  were among those so criticizing him.

But reference the “Prayer for Our Country,” a commonly recited Shabbat and Festival prayer in Conservative (and other) American congregations.  The prayer includes the plea to G_d, “teach them (our ‘leader and advisors and all who exercise just and rightful authority’) insights of Your Torah so they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security…may forever abide in our midst”.

So these Jews who criticized Bush for being inspired by the Bible were criticizing him for doing precisely what they were praying for him to do!  Just as today Rabbi Ovadia is pilloried for asking for just what we ask for in prayer.  In both cases, of course, the prayers may have been so rote as to be less than sincere.

But the key answer to the question as to why so many people claimed offense at the Rabbi’s remarks is two-fold.  One is that throughout the world, most people don’t want Israel to prevail in its struggle, and Israeli and Jewish leaders are sensitive to that sentiment.

Second, and more important, is the widespread and tragic refusal by Israelis, Jews, and westerners in general, to acknowledge that Israel is at war.   Israel is at war with Palestinian Arabs, not just the Gazans. (Hey, if it’s not a state of war, why do we need peace talks?  Does this enemy to whose defense the Israeli government and Jews throughout the world are rushing even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?  Last time I checked, no.  And the enemy even says that it never will.)

Related to the refusal to acknowledge the state of war is, on the part of many, a lack of understanding of what war actually entails.  That results in horror when the enemy is killed, injured, or even inconvenienced (e.g. think “checkpoints” and “blockade”).

As has been learned over the course of  human history, Israel will never achieve the security of peace until it defeats its enemies.  And as has also been true throughout human history, Israel will never be able to defeat its enemies by being nice to them, or even by loving them.  Love bombs don’t work.  Real ordnance is needed.

And if G_d provides help, all the better.

The Top Ten Reasons Jews Voted for Obama

August 31, 2010

With the November U.S. Congressional elections approaching, it may be instructive to examine why the approximately 80% of Jewish Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 did so.  Thus, below are ten major reasons.  They are not in any particular order, but the reader is invited to assign rankings based on his experience with these voters.

Some of the reasons are obviously related to each other, and most of these voters chose him for a combination of these arguments:

  1. “Obama will support Israel and be good for Israel.”
  2. “He will screw Israel, but that will be good for Israel.”
  3. “I don’t care about Israel.”
  4. “If McCain wins, he will pack the courts with right wing extremists like himself (the Democrat Senate, whose approval would be required for confirmation notwithstanding).  And that would be a grave blow to “Jewish values” such as homosexual marriage and abortion on demand.”
  5. “Obama is so cool; everybody I know is voting for him.”  (He can read a teleprompter.)
  6. “He is the Democrat.  I have always voted Democrat.  What, change now?”
  7. “He is black!”
  8. “Not voting for him would be racist!”
  9. “It’s a vote towards tikkun olam.  That stems from my inherited yet possibly subconscious socialistic proclivities, so obviously shared by Obama (e.g. more ‘spread the wealth around’).”
  10. “The media I follow (major newspapers and radio and TV networks) blessed him.  (See The New American Jewish Bible.) They said he’s kosher.  In fact, even better than kosher – he’s great! They revealed no skeletons in his closet of any kind.”

Voters throughout the world often make choices for fatuous and superficial reasons. (Isn’t it interesting how often the candidate with the best hair wins?)  The 2008 U.S. elections were a good example of superficial decision-making by voters.  Perhaps enough of them have seen the tragic results for American liberty and prosperity (not to mention Israel’s security — e.g. think “Iran”) to help stem that negative tide with their next votes come November.

Last War Wiesenthal

April 19, 2010

This column was going to be about a few of the most flagrant, unreported myths of our time – like “CNN, the most trusted name in news.”   Well, at least that’s good for a laugh!

Another of the myths I was going to tackle was some variation of “Jews are smart”, “Jewish leaders are smart,” and “Jewish organizations are looking out for you.”

But then I received the latest fundraising letter from the Simon Weisenthal Center.  Just analyzing this letter provides an excellent opportunity to address the latter group of myths.

Today’s Weisenthal Center still uses the name of its storied, intrepid Nazi-hunter namesake, but I surmise that Simon Weisenthal would be rolling over in his grave if he knew how craven the organization that bears his name is today.

The fundraising letter lists a number of the recent attacks and threats to Jews and Israel.  It tells us that there are lots of people out there who hate Jews and Israel and seek to kill us.  But no where does it tell us why. Nor does it tell us where the hatred is emanating from.  No where does the Weisenthal Center let on to having any knowledge of Islam being a factor in the hatred and attacks.  No where does the letter mention the words Islam, Muslim, or jihad. 

Could the Weisenthal Center be ignorant that religion is a factor?  In fact, of course, it is the major factor.  Or is the problem that Obama told them that the hatred is due to Jews living in Jerusalem? And that it is not Muslims who have the problem with that and have brought most of the world on board with them in their hatred?  Did Obama tell his friends at the Weisenthal Center not to mention that it is Muslims who are behind the hatred and anti-semitism?  Or was it just some big left-wing donor who doesn’t want it mentioned?  (Even I would be surprised if it turns out to be because the Weisenthal Center is taking Arab money, but J Street does it, so why is that inconceivable?)

The letter rightly mentions the Presbyterian Church, and it rightly mentions Iran.  But you could just as soon conclude from the Weisenthal Center’s letter that Iran is a Christian country.

So the Weisenthal Center won’t, or can’t, even identify the root source of the hatred we face.  And, of course, being unwilling or unable to name the enemy hardly bodes well for defeating it.  Maybe they don’t want to.  But at least they are politically correct for the left-wing circles they travel in.

Unfortunately, the Weisenthal Center is not alone in this syndrome among U.S. Jewish organizations.  For one other example, I recall a very similar fundraising letter from the American Jewish Congress.

I previously discussed the problem of Jewish organizations more generally in Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations.

One final thought – if American Jews are really so smart, would they have voted for Obama to the tune of almost 80%?  And they even voted for him in large numbers in the primaries, when they had other Democrats (the most important criterion) to choose from.  (Answer:  No, they are no so smart at all!)



We Warned You — So Now What?

March 18, 2010

In mid-2008, I published Israel (and America) Will Rue the Day that George W. Bush Leaves Office on the now defunct israelenews.com.  The column made clear that while none of the leading US presidential candidates were either truly good for American or friends of Israel, and by any measure, Obama was without question the worst of the lot.  So now, as his mentor Pastor Jeremiah Wright has said, “the chickens are coming home to roost.”

But do American Jews, who overwhelmingly supported Wright’s parishioner, care?  Outside of an uncharacteristic objection from the ADL’s Abe Foxman, who usually saves his protestations for conservatives, and a handful of Congressional Democrats, I haven’t heard many objections  from Obama’s court Jews.  And why not?  That was answered in Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?, published last year.

Nobody should be surprised by the actions of Obama and his team of the Islamo-leftist coalition.  Saddened and worried, yes, of course, but surprised, no.  As Obama lapped up the anti-Israel venom of his Pastor Wright for 20 years and other like-minded friends, of course he would come to have a one-sided view, and it wouldn’t be kind to Israel.

You may remember his apologists and other “experts” telling us:

  • Obama wants to be a domestic president, and will be too busy to worry about the poor Palestinians.
  • Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, China, et. al. would be more important mid east and world problems, and the Palestinians would take a back burner.
  • the Washington establishment would force him to take a largely traditional, consensus position.
  • Obama learned his lesson after his full ‘settlement freeze’ demand fiasco, and would now moderate his position.

So here we go again — more demands for unreciprocated concessions by Israel.  We know that, unfortunately, hatred of Jews and Israel is often ingrained and reflexive, no matter how irrational.

Because it is an error to ascribe rationality to others, especially an enemy, it is an error to assume that once they learn the facts or the folly of their ways, they will change course.  Perhaps a mild case of the suicide bomber?

So what can Israel do?  Be guided by the maxim that the sooner Arabs and the world accept Israel’s legitimacy, its strength, and its permanence, the sooner peace will be possible.  (Thus little wonder Arabs began rioting coincident with the Obama administration’s harsh words for Israel.  And also not so coincidentally, just as the Gazans intensified their rocket attacks on the very day Obama won election in November 2008, which immediately precipitated the Gaza War.)

So no more concessions for nothing!  And because it was not news to anybody who cared to pay attention to the facts that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and within its sovereignty, Israel should NOT have apologized even for the timing of the announcement of the Jerusalem apartment construction approval.   To the many clowns who call it a “settlement,” the Western Wall must be also be a “settlement.”  Israel must tell the world the area is part of Jewish Israel, to butt out of its internal affairs, to get over it, and if they don’t like it, they can lump it.  And if they want concessions from Israel, they can come back and ask once the Arabs actually make some.  And that doesn’t mean some two-bit gulf state allowing a one-bit “interest section”.

For starters, it might mean a formal recognition by Israel’s enemies of its rights as a Jewish state, a genuine ending of Palestinian groups’ charters calling for the destruction of Israel, and a real end to PA and state-sponsored incitement.

Israel’s enemies think pre-conditions for talks are a good idea. How about these for pre-conditions?

With Some of the Friends We Have, We Barely Need Enemies

November 30, 2009

I have previously written columns entitled What is a “Supporter of Israel”? and Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations.  Sadly, they seem ever more relevant.  Two recent events highlight the confluence of my points — American Jewish organizations just not supporting Israel.  Of course, rank and file American Jews are hardly innocent of the charge of not supporting Israel — after all, to use an in-vogue word, they disproportionately voted for Obama, who has strong-armed Israel into making unprecedented concessions and compromising its sovereignty in return for nothing.

From San Francisco comes word that

The board of this city’s local Jewish federation overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to prohibit support of events and groups that defame Israel or partner with those who call for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

So we have a Jewish Federation all too happy to work with our worst enemies – and to use Jewish charitable contributions to do it.  The San Francisco Federation is not the only one so disposed; they are just the ones who have been called on it – but they have no shame and continue on their merry ways (and it wasn’t even a close decision for them).  See SF federation board rejects controversial proposal for all the gory details.

And from one of our greatest bastions of “higher learning,” Princeton University, we have what claims to be a pro-Israel group (not even a “J Street” type outfit), disinviting a pro-Israel speaker after they found out that she truly is pro-Israel.  From Egyptian activist’s invitation withdrawn – The Daily Princetonian,

A planned talk by Nonie Darwish was cancelled when both of the event’s sponsors, Tigers for Israel and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, withdrew their sponsorship.

As I previously wrote in What is a “Supporter of Israel”? ,

Many organizations that promote themselves as “supporters of Israel” or “Israel advocates” in fact operate more as largely neutral forums for Israel-related programs. They apparently feel compelled to provide a balance of speakers with some providing an obligatory bashing of Israel, to offset pro-Israel aspects of their programs. Apparently, for these groups, it is too politically incorrect to include only pro-Israel voices. (Or, in this case, even some truly pro-Israel voices?)

Anybody have any answers for this sad state of affairs?

Who Is More Pro-Israel, Your Rabbi Or Rush Limbaugh?

October 4, 2009

Most American Jews think they already know the answer to this question.  Whether it is the correct answer is another story.  For non-American readers who don’t know Rush Limbaugh, he is the leading U.S. talk radio show host, the avatar of the only predominantly conservative genre of American media.

The title of this column may be considered shorthand in two ways.  First, the pro-Israel bona fides are a question generally only  for non-Orthodox rabbis, who tend to have a left/liberal orientation in all things political.  And the question posed by the title may be applied to American conservative talk radio hosts in general, and not just Rush Limbaugh.

Here are a few criteria to judge who is the greater supporter of Israel:

  • Who supports forceful action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?  (The talk show hosts do.)  Who opposes it in the interests of “peace”?  Your rabbi?  (If you don’t believe Iran’s leaders in possession of nuclear weapons represent a fundamental threat to Israel, skip the rest of this article, and move on to the children’s section.)
  • Who supported and who opposed intervention in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power?  (The talk show hosts supported it.)  Apparently the lives of Israeli Jews did not weigh too heavily in the deliberations of the opponents of the intervention.  As some of us still recall, he was paying suicide bomber families $25,000 each for the killing of Jews.
  • Who favors acting against Islamofascist threats to the western world?  (The talk show hosts do.)  Who appeases them in the name of “peace” and “goodwill”?  (Your rabbi?)  Who meets with radical Muslims who support terrorism against Israelis,  and/or their apologists in the name of “interfaith dialogue”? (Your rabbi?)
  • From whom do you hear more criticism of Israel?  (Not often heard from these talk show hosts.)

We may expand the scope of the title’s question further, to consider who is more supportive of traditional Jewish values.  Values such as heterosexual marriage, the sanctity of life (remember the Talmudic “whoever saves a single life is as if he saved an entire world”?), and liberty and freedom.

In each of these instances, the views of the talk show hosts are fully consonant with traditional Judaic values.  That is not true of many non-Orthodox rabbis, whose values are more synchronized with those of left-wing political tenets and America’s Democrat/Obama party.

One area where some talk show hosts and rabbis may tie is that of tzedakah.   While we don’t know the competitors’ personal contributions, many hosts and rabbis both use their “pulpits” to promote contributions to good causes.  Limbaugh raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (and makes sizable personal contributions), and fellow host Sean Hannity raises funds for the Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides support to families of injured and fallen American servicemen and women.  (In stark contrast, public broadcasters such as National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service stations tend to use their airwaves to raise money only for themselves — on top of the taxpayer dollars they involuntarily expropriate from the public.)

I invite readers to participate in an informal poll by providing their answers to the question posed by the title by commenting below.  One caveat:  For your vote to qualify, your opinion must be based on a substantive first-hand acquaintance with the views of both parties.  I.e., you must have a rabbi that you have heard speak, and you must have personally heard at some length Limbaugh or another host; your opinion cannot be based on what others, especially figures in the media, have told you, said, or reported about the talk show host.  (Aside from the media’s political agenda that differs from the talk show hosts’, the talk shows are their competition.  Thus the media has a double vested interest –  ideological and commercial —  in denigrating them.)

The point here is to reflect on who are are Judaism’s real friends and who are not; who are real supporters of Israel, and who are not.  As time passes and the world changes, tradition and conventional wisdom often do not provide the right answers.

Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations

August 23, 2009
In fact, it is long past the time when most of the large, long-established mainstream American Jewish organizations outlived their usefulness.

You know the ones I am talking about – the ones with the constant fund-raising letters, sometimes enclosing trinkets (usually direct from China). The letters where they tell you how dire the situation is for Jews everywhere, and how crucial it is that you send them money so they can save the day. And save the day they can, they say, because they are in close contact with UN officials and foreign leaders, and because they have decades of experience.

What they don’t reconcile, however, is a critical contradiction:  if they are so good and effective and have been on the job for years, how things can be so bad? Of course, they can’t reconcile these incompatible facts.

Some of these organizations have a record of failure going back seventy years, when they suppressed information about the extent of the Holocaust and fought against saving Jews, or even establishing the State of Israel.

How could that possibly be? A good question. The most likely answer seems to be their leaders were more interested in maintaining good relationships within their power circles, notably with President Franklin Roosevelt, and were tinged with an excessively large dose of timidity and a fear of “making things worse.” (Readers interested in learning more about this incredible story can consult Heroes, Antiheroes and the Holocaust by David Morrison.)

Fast forward to today, and these Jewish organizations seem to be among the last to the table to recognize, much less address, the threat to us all from Islamic extremism. Perhaps is it a perceived need for atonement, that rather than face today’s enemies, they seem to prefer to wallow in memories and “lessons” of the Holocaust and the last-war threat from neo-Nazis?  A relevant side note is that these organizations’ invocations of the Holocaust are likely to omit any mention of the Arab complicity in it.  While not a Jewish organization per se, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s permanent exhibition is a case in point.

Here are two factors to evaluate how useful an organization is likely to be in promoting Jewish interests today:

  • Is it focused on fighting the prime and imminent threat to the western world as a whole, and to Jews in particular, of Islamofascism, or is it warning you about the relative non-threats of conservative Christians, sightings of neo-Nazis in Europe or a Jewish cemetery being desecrated with swastikas? Does the fact that Israelis in Sderot and elsewhere were recently bombarded every day for years from Gaza, and being killed and injured regularly, rate as much concern as the threat from the neo-Nazi bogeyman? Does the Jewish organization even let on that anti-semitism today is centered in the Muslim world, with a virulence every bit as horrific as the Nazis’?
  • Does the organization actually do anything useful, or does it plan more dialogue and meetings with intractable UN and foreign bureaucrats, who due to their own interests are not going be any more swayed by the organization’s pleadings this year than they were in any previous year?  Finding something truly useful to do is not that difficult – for example, the group could aid terror victims, Israeli soldiers, or others in need, or get word out defending Israel. And the organization could encourage the community to invest in Israel, to shop Israel, and to travel to Israel.

Unfortunately, you cannot rely on a good rating from major charity rating sites. They base their ratings on the groups’ compliance with their criteria, which notably do not include the intrinsic value of the groups’ underlying mission or activities. Indeed, some organizations linked to the promotion of terrorism have received the evaluators’ highest 4-star ratings, as they evidently pursue their missions effectively.

The sad truth of the matter seems to be that most of the old-line Jewish organizations (with the notable exception of the ZOA, the Zionist Organization of America) are so inculcated with their decades of affinity for traditional leftist Jewish causes that they are at least partly blind to today’s realities.

One recent example concerns the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. In March 2008, then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “The creation of a Palestinian state is not the required answer to Israel’s security needs” and that a future Palestinian state must comprise officials “who want not only to live in peace with Israel, but are also able to fight terror.”  I.e., establishing a Palestinian state then was not a good idea from the standpoint of Israel’s interests.

But the JCPA, a coalition of 14 major American Jewish groups and 125 local Jewish community relations councils, thought it knew better. With the exception of the abstention of its member Orthodox Union, the JCPA then voted unanimously for endorsing the establishment a Palestinian state [and without any conditions, such as demilitarization].

Fortunately, one can support Jewish interests without supporting these ineffective, or at worst, counterproductive, old-line Jewish organizations, as a new generation of groups has arisen, much more in tune with today’s real problems and needs. They are also much more effective in doing a lot with a lot less. One cannot help but be impressed by the work done by the relatively small and nimble new generation groups such as Stand With Us, CAMERA, One Family Fund, MEMRI, and Palestinian Media Watch.

Many long-established corporate titans are now gone, for good reason. There is no reason why the non-profit sector should be any different.