June 7, 2010
Helen Thomas and the Open Season on Israel
Helen Thomas’s stomach-turning comments about the Jews returning to Germany and Poland, where six million were gassed and cremated into piles of ash, are striking for their racism and insensitivity. Whether she said them out of senility or anti-Semitism are beside the point. Either way she has no business working for any respectable media organization or sitting as the senior White House correspondent directly in front of the President of the United States. When Don Imus made racially charged statements against a woman’s basketball team, candidate Obama demanded he be fired. It will be interesting to see how President Obama, who could not offer a single word of support for Israel since the flotilla affair, will react.
One can only imagine the uproar against Thomas had she said that all blacks should go home to Africa, or illegal immigrants to Tijuana. It seems that Jews are the only group that you can attack with impunity because they are the only ones unwise enough to tolerate it. Better yet, we’re the only group often so filled with so much self-loathing that we actually initiate many of the attacks.
Few of us are surprised that it is a coterie of Jewish advisors to President Obama who have joined him in condemnations of Israel over Jews building in Jerusalem. This week the New York Times published an article by Michael Chabon arguing that many Jews are ‘blockheads’ and notions of Jewish intelligence are highly overrated. He may be correct. But as I read this strange screed from one of America’s most celebrated Jewish novelists I wondered if, say, Maya Angelou would ever pen an article about how many black dumbbells there are. Attacks on one’s own seems to be an art form perfected specifically by Jews.
Helene Cooper wrote a column in the New York Times (funny that so many derogatory articles on Israel and Jews always appears in a Jewish-owned newspaper) asking whether Israel has become a strategic liability to the United State. She quoted many senior Jewish political advisers to the democratic party who advised that if Israel continues to embarrass the United States it might be time for the superpower to distance itself from the little Jewish irritant. The criticism made for interesting reading, implying as it did that while Israel is an embarrassment to the United States, its relationship with such great human rights exemplars as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey ought to be sources of downright pride.
Turkey merits special mention because not only does its media accuse the American military of harvesting organs from helpless Iraqis, which it cites as one of the reasons for the American invasion, but because Prime Minister Erdogan sees fit to call Israel barbarous, lecture Jews about not murdering, and refers to Hamas as freedom fighters. Curiously, at the same time he was spewing his venom toward the Jewish state this past week, the Pope was in Cyprus where he was being publicly begged by Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the leader of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, to stop the illegal Turkish occupation of Cyprus, now in its thirty-forth year, and protect Christians from growing attacks by Turks. Just prior to the Pope’s visit a Christian bishop had been stabbed to death outside his home in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun. The archbishop said that Turkey had “barbarously invaded” Cyprus and “continues to carry out its obscure plan, which includes the annexation of the lands now under military occupation and then conquest of the whole of Cyprus. They wish to make everything Greek and Christian disappear from occupied Cyprus.” Of course, Turkey won’t even acknowledge its genocide of the Armenians, a position that President Obama has shamefully supported in order not to offend Turkey’s belligerent leader.
Of course, Cooper’s article quotes the ubiquitous J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami whom journalists have come to appreciate because of his consistency and reliability in always saying something disparaging about Israel. In this case Ben-Ami is quoted as saying ‘he represents Jews who… are raising the issue of Israeli government actions as a strategic liability for the United States.’
I lived in England for 11 years and was sickened by the regular abandonment of Israel by some of the most high-profile Anglo-Jews whenever Israel’s actions became controversial. For those wondering why a floodgate of anti-Semitism has opened in Britain over the last few years, look no further than the fact that Israel’s greatest haters can often point to Jewish critics as being much more strident than them. And still it continues, with even high profile Jewish leaders like Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks remaining mum on Israel even while it was assailed by countless countries for enforcing a blockade against a terror organization that has fired 10,000 rockets against it.
Still, I never believed that American Jewry would emulate this cowardice. But President Obama’s public abandonment of Israel is directly traceable to the small price he pays among American Jews. On my radio show on WABC in New York many callers contend that President Obama is an anti-Semite. I condemn such character-assassination in the strongest possible terms. Obama has elevated Jews to some of the highest positions in the land, including his most recent nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan. Rather, the President inability to condemn Hamas and support Israel, which is a stain on his presidency, results from his considerable moral confusion and a misguided sense of right and wrong. Under Obama America has retreated substantially from President Bush’s policies of promoting democracy and human rights and has reverted to Kissingerian realpolitik, ready to make deals with tyrants so long as it promotes an artificial sense of peace.
But Obama can get away with it because American Jewry has become so silent and so weak. Whenever Israel undertakes controversial action, American Jews begin writing op-eds in The Atlantic and The New Yorker about how the once-moral nation has lost its way. Funny how those same writers do not condemn President Obama’s policy of Predator drone strikes against Taliban leaders that inevitably involve considerable civilian collateral casualties.
Sorry guys. Israel is going to remain controversial, as one might expect from any country under a constant existential assault from nearly all its neighbors. When threatened by Hitler Britain leveled whole German cities. The United States did the same to the Japanese. Israel has never even pondered such actions, even as thousands of its citizens have been blown to smithereens.
The Jews who were murdered in Germany and Poland cannot speak out in support of a Jewish state. The rest of us, however, have absolutely no excuse.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. His new book, ‘Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,’ has just been published by Basic books. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.