Those of you who follow my writings or Jon Haber's blog, Divest this!, know that we have been conversing about Israel, the western-left, and the Obama administration for a number of months.
I don't want to call it a debate so much as a conversation between people with somewhat differing views, but with mutual concerns. A list of each of our contributions can be found toward the top of the right side bar at Israel Thrives.
My fundamental argument is that the Obama administration validated political Islam through supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the parent organization of both Qaeda and Hamas and if not a parent organization of the Islamic State, certainly an ideological partner in praying for the extinction of Jewish sovereignty and self-defense.
While Jon agrees that I am not a political partisan, and we both understand that partisanship is not automatically a reprehensible thing, he also acknowledges that the Obama administration has been far too friendly to the enemies of the Jewish people.
In his recent piece entitled Partisanship, Haber writes:
But there is no disagreement that the current President’s choices: from cutting endless slack to Islamist foes of both Israel and the US to picking needless fights with the Israeli government, make it a perfectly reasonable choice for Jews who support Israel (which describes the majority of us) to refuse to vote for him.According to Haber, Obama gave "endless slack to Islamist foes."
At this point it becomes difficult to know where we actually disagree.
At the end of the day, that is my fundamental point. It is my thesis in a nutshell, although we would need to determine just where slack ended and support began?
Jon, however, takes issue with the fact that I have sometimes characterized progressive-left Jews as people with their heads buried in the sand.
I must admit that Jon is correct and that I have resorted to my favorite ostrich image more than once.
I did so particularly in my Failures of the Progressive-Left Zionism series.
In those writings, I criticized the Jewish Left for refusing to seriously denounce political Islam.
I criticized the Jewish Left for demonizing their fellow Jews who live where neither Mahmoud Abbas, nor Barack Obama, want them to live.
I criticized the Jewish Left for constantly playing political defense, which is always an invitation for aggressors and a general sign of insecurity within one's own beliefs.
I criticized the Jewish Left for tending to support their enemies over their friends out of a misguided and self-righteous political altruism.
These are not in-depth pieces, but merely pointers to problems. That is all.
And, in truth, there are other reasonable criticisms that I am not even bothering with for the moment on the assumption that liberal Jews, such as myself, are rethinking - just as we are all continually rethinking - as political sands shift.
My only real discomfort with Jon's analysis is that he chalks up Jewish American support for Barack Obama, despite Obama's alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, to the fact that American Jews preferred Obama over his opponent on a broad range of issues beyond the Arab-Israel conflict.
While this is clearly true, why be content to leave it at that?
Jews (like all Americans) were not casting a vote on each and every issue of importance to them, but were rather making a narrow choice between two individuals. And had the Republican candidate been more appealing in ways having nothing to do with Israel and the Middle East (as was Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984), who knows how the Jewish vote might have gone?
Even if I don’t expect to ever see a total party realignment of the Jewish public, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Jews voted for Obama for the same reasons the majority of Americans did: they liked him better than the other guy.
We know that the Obama administration supported the Muslim Brotherhood in a variety of ways, including material and financial support. We also know that the Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of both Hamas and al-Qaeda, if not the Islamic State, itself. The Brotherhood backed the Nazis during World War II and assisted many Nazis and friends of Nazis, such as Haj Mohammed Amin el-Husseini, in escaping the consequences of their behavior upon the conclusion of that war. In recent years Brotherhood leader, and ex-President of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, supported calls for the conquest of Jerusalem among throngs of his supporters, both before and after his "election" and still maintained Obama administration support.
I do not know about you, but as someone who voted for Obama the first time around, I was absolutely horrified.
There is no question that Jon is correct when he notes that the majority of American Jews simply liked Obama more than the other guy. I, too, like Obama - as a guy to have a beer with - more than that other guy. Furthermore, on many domestic issues I very much prefer the Democratic agenda over that of the Republican agenda.
But however much I support a woman's right to choose an abortion, or however much I like Obama's idea for federal support to community college students, none of that can possibly outweigh my concern for the fact that there are 6 million Jews in the Middle East surrounded by 400 million Arabs who generally do not want them there and are often prepared to use extreme violence to make their case.
This is what I cannot get past.
The chance of any Republican administration in the United States rolling back abortion rights are virtually nil, yet such concerns are supposed to trump our concern for our own families in Israel?
I do not think so.
It seems to me that diaspora Jewry, as a group, tends to be very good about looking out for the well-being of others. For example, no other group in American history, aside from the Black American community, stood up more for Civil Rights during the 1950s and the 1960s than did Jewish Americans... although, I am not certain that you would learn this from the recent film Selma, which I am very much looking forward to renting.
In the United States, the Jewish people were almost universally behind abolitionism and nineteenth-century American progressivism, with its workers' solidarity and early union activity. By inordinate percentages Jews favored women's rights to suffrage, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, Women's Rights, GBLT, environmentalism, and the rights of all ethnic minorities to equal treatment under the law.
We are among the most persecuted people within record human history and this is precisely why we tend to support movements for social justice.
There must come a point wherein a violent and ongoing threat to the Jewish community becomes a primary concern.
My question is this:
In what ways do Obama administration support for political Islam, via support for the Muslim Brotherhood, advance the interests of either the American people or the Jewish people?
Michael Lumish is a blogger at the Israel Thrives blog as well as a regular contributor/blogger at Times of Israel and Jews Down Under.