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January 20, 2009

But was Bush good for the Jews?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/but_was_bush_good_for_the_jews_20090120/

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After calling President Bush—still, though barely—the worst American leader in history, former President Jimmy Carter probably won’t be exchanging pleasantries with Bush this morning.

Carter’s comment, or variations of it, have been repeated many times over, which Shmuel Rosner writes is too easy an attack and that folks are “misunderestimating history” on this one:

So with Bush, history offers not one test but two. The first one will be the test of reality: will world events prove that Bush’s analysis of problems and recipes for cures were apt and courageous? The second test: assuming he passes the first, will the evidence be able to overcome the popular prejudice, misunderstandings, shallowness, and partisanship that plagued the President’s two terms.

Despite his lack of popularity with the citizens of Israel, there are still a lot of people who think Bush has been a great friend to Israel and the Jewish people, as Glenn Greenwald recounts and disputes here. He pointed specifically to William Kristol’s column Monday in The New York Times:

In his column exploring all of the various successes and glories of the Bush years—Kristol struggled to choose, among all the numerous possibilities, which “has been Bush’s most impressive achievement”—Kristol recounted that at his synagogue service last weekend, his rabbi led “a prayer for the state of Israel,” which caused Kristol to turn inwards and solemnly contemplate:

“As we recited this on Saturday, I couldn’t help but reflect that a distressingly small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given much thought at all to the fact that President Bush is one of the greatest friends the state of Israel — and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a while. Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and received no political benefit from doing so.”

Here we have, yet again, the claim that American Jews should and do base their political assessments on what is best for Israel:  a claim that is allowed to be made when it comes from those (and there are many of them) who make this blatantly tribalistic appeal in order to manipulate support for their right-wing agenda, but is deemed offensive and even anti-semitic when the very same claim is advanced by those wishing to explain why U.S. policy is so one-sided in its blind support for Israeli actions.

Does support for Israel cover all sins in the minds of American Jews? Of course not. I would discuss this more, but President-elect Obama is about to become President Obama.

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