Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bibi’s Bloody Hands | Politics as Usual

Artwork by Carlos Latuff
(Gallery Here)

Most American Jews vote Democratic and/or lean to the political left. This is a fact, and it’s a fact that I’m very proud of. The Jewish Virtual Library offers a set of statistics dating back to the 1910’s, showing American Jewry’s long-standing progressive voting record. With exception to one election in 1920, American Jews have always voted for the Democratic candidate by a majority, often by a landslide. You might be asking yourself “What happened in 1920?” Well, this was the year that Eugene V. Debs, candidate of the Socialist Party of America, led an impressive though ultimately unsuccessful bid for the presidency. Statistically, Warren G. Harding of the Republican party earned the most votes from American Jews. Harding earned 43% of the vote. Debs won 38% of the vote. Debs ran his campaign from prison; I kid you not! Combining the Democratic and Socialist votes versus the Republican votes displays a win for the Left nonetheless; 57% for Democrat/Socialist vs. 43% for Republican. Jews have often been dubbed “the other Black vote” – and for good reason. The bottom line is that Jews lean to the left on the political spectrum.

Historically, there have always been right-leaning, elitist Jews who have harassed progressive Jews and persecuted independent thinkers. Jesus comes to mind. So does Maimonides, a rabbi and renowned philosopher whose books were even burned by Jewish traditionalists in his time. The Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman were also shunned by established Jewry in their days. And the legacy goes on to this very day. Left-leaning intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Rabbi Michael Lerner have all been called “self-hating Jews” by the right-leaning, Zionist establishment. The similarities between the terms “self-hating Jew” and “Uncle Tom” have been widely discussed, but I’ve thought of another comparison. Being called a “self-hating Jew” is akin to being against the war in Iraq and being called “anti-patriotic” for “not supporting the troops”. It’s a clever bumper-sticker-ready trick that the right-wing plays, often to great success. It’s a shame because nothing could be further from the truth. Wanting to bring the troops back home (more so, wanting to have never sent them in harm’s way in the first place) is as pro-troops of a stance as possible.

But the terms “self-hating Jew” and “Uncle Tom” go their separate ways because of one major entity: the existence of Israel. In this country, you’re either pro-Black or you’re not. But within the Jewish community, there’s an added layer of stigma that gets tossed around. Are you pro-Jewish? Are you pro-Israel? Are you pro-Zionism? Simple at face value, these are actually incredibly loaded questions. And you’d be surprised to know the number of Jews who don’t answer these three questions in the affirmative. I am one of them. Personally speaking, I’m as pro-Israel as I am pro-Palestine. I am opposed to Zionism because it is a fundamentally racist clause and I can’t be a hypocrite who opposes apartheid in South Africa but approves of the hell that Arabs and Palestinians have to pay. Chomsky agrees. Finkelstein agrees. Lerner agrees. In essence, if you support the human rights of Jews less than or equal to the human rights of Arabs and Palestinians, you are automatically labeled a self-hating Jew by the Zionist wing of Jewry (and Evangelical Christians – but that’s another story for another day).

Yitzhak Rabin is the only Prime Minister of Israel who was assassinated. He was also the closest to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. He was assassinated by an Israeli right-wing fanatic. And Benjamin Netanyahu, in my supposition, has Rabin’s blood on his hands.

Charles D. Smith’s Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents delineates the conflict between the Labor and Likud parties in Israel. Over halfway through the book, Smith details the building animosity by Israel’s right-wing against Rabin’s pro-peace stance. Anti-Rabin rallies were held, in which Rabin, then the Prime Minister of Israel, was characterized as a Nazi with an SS uniform, beneath the image of the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. CNN still has a website up, which features an image of this despicable rally poster.

Netanyahu was also quoted as saying that Rabin’s government was “removed from Jewish tradition… and Jewish values”. Doesn’t that kind of sound like he’s calling him a “self-hating Jew”? To make matters worse, Netanyahu attended this anti-Rabin rally, and addressed the rabid group of protesters, unmistakably provoking the violent rage that ultimately took Rabin’s life. Now, who’s the self-hating Jew? The Jew who attempts to make peace with Palestinians, or the Jew who incites a (literally) murderous riot against a fellow Jew?

Now Benjamin Netanyahu is calling both Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, President Obama’s respective Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor, a pair of “self-hating Jews”. The saga continues. Look, there are times when the term “self-hating Jew” is totally applicable. Daniel Burros, a Jew who eventually joined the American Nazi Party (and became the inspiration for the 2001 film The Believer) was a self-hating Jew. But Rahm Emanuel served in the Israeli Army, for crying out loud! How is he a “self-hating Jew”!?

For too long, the Zionist wing of Jewry has pulled more “self-hating Jew” taunts from the deck than a house of cards. Here’s to hoping it’ll come crashing down on them soon enough…