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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 /30 Mar-Cheshvan 5763

Sam Schulman

Sam Schulman
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Will Jewish votes for Dems speed the mainstreaming of anti-Semitic voices? |
There was an innocent time when Democrats and Republicans vied for Jewish votes. The Democrats always won the contest, and the more mean-spirited among Republicans used to be vexed - as was, reputedly, James Baker, in the era of Bush I, who was reported as wondering why his administration should do anything for Israel when "they won't vote for us anyway."

That time is long past. Nowadays, we have a President who does the right thing as he sees it - and he has a clearer and more disinterested vision of the rights and wrongs in the Middle East than any President since Truman. On the other hand, the Democrats take the Jewish vote for granted -- while to the standard of the Democratic Party flock a new generation of people who are not only indifferent to the Jewish support for their party --but they are, nearly openly, anti-Semitic in their posture towards Israel.

In this situation, Jews who vote for Democratic candidates are merely speeding the process whereby the Democratic Party becomes the natural home for anti-Semitic sentiment.

How did this happen?

There are three basic anti-Semitic streams within the Democratic Party. The first is the small but powerful group of good old-fashioned anti-Semites, whose distaste for Jews leads them into admiration for anti-American enemies of Israel. These include David Bonior, former representative Cynthia McKinney (whose defeat by a black opponent enraged most of her colleagues), and former Senator James Abourzek of South Dakota, Tom Daschle's old mentor. This group is unpleasant but not dangerous - though it is arguably more dangerous than the similar kinds of anti-Semites within the Republican Party. Their Republican counterparts - think of someone like George Ball - are less dangerous, because their distaste for Jews is old-fashioned second-rate WASP - a group that is on the wane. The Boniors and McKinneys are far more dangerous because their anti-Semitism is more populist, connected as it is to grassroots anti-Semitic communities within the Black community and the Arab-American population.

The second is the small but prominent group of self-proclaimed idealists - whose idealism involves a wish that the United States could be as deeply good as a nation as they themselves are as individuals. And with odd inevitability, this self-regard takes the form of a bitter dislike of Israel. The most prominent such figure is Jimmy Carter, whose statements on Israel since he left the presidency reek of intense personal dislike.

Carter's preening about democracy served to provide much of the initial legitimization of the Arafat regime that Oslo imposed on the long-suffering Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza.

But such people can change. Another member of this group has, happily, abandoned it out of sheer opportunism - and bless her for it. Before she ran for the U.S. Senate seat from New York, Hillary Clinton belonged - and her oscular familiarity with Madame Arafat came from long-time cosiness between American foundations and the death party within the Palestinian camp. One can say of such people that they don't so much hate Israel and her position within a dangerous world - as they love themselves. This group has no counterpart in the Republican Party - or rather, its counterpart is the now discredited group of diplomatic realists around George Bush, self-proclaimed patricians with no roots in the country.

Now, the war against terror has brought a new group surging into prominence within the Democratic Party - the left wing anti-war group. This group is motivated by hatred of Israel, hatred of America, and the inborn affection for bullying and pushing people around that is at the basis of all socialism. This group is, I think, the most likely to supply the next generation of Democratic philosophic leaders, and even now they are abetted by such desperate and shameful characters as Al Gore. More than any others, they will work to make anti-Semitism respectable among nice people - and even fashionable. The process is beginning now on elite college campuses with the "Divest from Israel" campaign.

It's typical of American Jewish misunderstanding of our enemies that institutions like the ADL have been so obsessed with crèches and campus crusades that they've paid no attention to what is going on at Harvard and Columbia. The divestment movement, which mendaciously but powerfully equates Israel with South Africa, has sprung up not at Liberty Baptist College but at the Ivy League. These institutions will be the seedbeds of the new, high-minded anti-Semitism - and its leaders of this campaign will soon be dominating the Democratic Party.

What about the party's Jews and philosemites? Remember one constant in Democratic Party politics: ingratitude. If the party is assured of the support of a particular group, it will feel free to move against the most basic beliefs of its supporters. Bill Clinton did this repeatedly - and it cost him nothing. The labor movement he repaid by pushing through NAFTA and other free trade policies. The black leadership he repaid by agreeing to welfare reform.

And for the Jews? They fared less well. Clinton thanked them by initiating the feckless Oslo peace process, and then forced successive Israeli governments to ignore PLO treaty violations. The result was an immediate rise in the level of terrorism in Israel, eventual outright war between Jews and Arab terrorists, and near-complete delegitimization of the Jewish state - as reflected in the sharply rising level of anti-Semitism in Europe (about which the ADL is so puzzled). Here, Clinton's achievements were applauded by the bien pensant Jewish leadership, and ordinary Jews paid the price. Clinton is still, astonishingly, welcome at affluent American synagogues.

In any case, the message is clear. If you are unfortunate enough to care for the Democratic Party, and are Jewish, your obligation is to make the party work for your vote. It won't respond to your concerns unless you desert it at the ballot box. If you choose, instead, to applaud in the fond hope that Tinkerbell will recover - the party leaders will get the message that they can do whatever they want to welcome the new enemies of our people.

Sam Schulman Archives

JWR contributor Sam Schulman is a New York writer whose work appears in New York Press, the Spectator (London), and elsewhere, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University.You may contact him by clicking here.


© 2000 by Sam Schulman