Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Right Wing, Jews, and Zionists:Slice One

NOTE: This was my original post on the subject, but I accidentally deleted it and am trying to reconstruct it from memory.

Now, if the news will settledown and give me some peace, I would like to write a series on a topic long churning in my head -- the curiously ambivilent relationship between the right wing, Israel and Jews.

Jews have long been a traditionally liberal constituency, but the right wing sees a winning forumula for gaining Jewish support -- unflagging support for Israel as an ally against the Muslim forces of jihad. So far, rather to their surprise, the tactic has not been successful in gaining much Jewish support. My essential argument is that this is because right wing pro-Zionists, while not in themselves anti-Semitic, follow in a longstanding right wing tradition of anti-Semitism. Their support for Israel or Jews is conditioned on Jew abandoning their liberal tradition and adopting a sort of nationalism much like the right wing's own -- a sort of nationalism many Jews find deeply distasteful.

I'll begin with the most benign example of this tendancy in the person of Sarah Palin. Or rather, to be fair to Palin, on my unsupported speculation about what she thinks. Sarah Palin is a great supporter of Israel and even wears the Star of David in a gesture of solidarity, but none of this has done much to win her Jewish support. Why not? David Frum attempts to explain the hostility in response to a column by Jennifer Rubin gives his opinion. Interestingly enough, he does not believe the source of the hostility is primarily Palin's attitude equating ignorance with virtue.*

More than any politician in memory, Palin seems to divide her fellow-Americans into first and second class citizens, real Americans and not-so-real Americans. To do her justice, she has never said anything to indicate that Jews fall into the second, less-real class. But Jews do have an intuition that when this sort of line drawing is done, we are likely to find ourselves on the wrong side.
Jonathan Chait puts it more directly -- he says that Rubin is playing into a longstanding anti-Semitic stereotype accusing Jews of being too intellectual and too cosmopolitan, lacking national loyalties. Indeed, this stereotype of the Jew as national alien lacking true patriotism dates back at least to the Nineteenth Century, when it replaced to older view of the Jew as religious alien. This tradition is why such talk raises Jewish hackles.

Without claiming to know what goes on in Sarah Palin's head, my guess would be that she doesn't know about this history. Indulging in further groundless speculation, I would guess that if someone raised it with her she would be outraged. How could anyone think such a thing? Of course she thinks Jews are Authentic Real Americans. At least Authentic Real Jews are. I would further guess that if anyone asked Palin the difference between an Authentic Real Jew and a liberal imitation Jew, she would express it in terms of Orthodox versus non-Orthodox or perhaps religious versus secular. My final guess would be that, if pressed on the subject, it would turn out that Palin does not know the first thing about Orthodox Judaism or the issues that matter to a religious Jew. The real distinction would turn out to be loyal Likudniks versus any Jew who has ever criticized Israel.

In that case, Frum can relax. Although he has moved far to the left on economic issues, he remains a neocon on foreign policy matters. That makes him an Authentic Real Jew, if not an Authentic Real American.**

*He does, however, offerthe perfect conservative smackdown for the whole anti-intellectual outlook that equates ignorance with virtue. "Igorance is bad. But we all start ignorant. Jews . . . expect their leaders to start early and work hard to remedy their ignorance by learning things."
**Frum can't possibly be an Authentic Real American because he is a Canadian. Besides, he is so blinded by loyalty to the country of his birth that he fails to see that its single payer healthcare system has turned Canada into a nightmare of oppression, if not a Communist dictatorship.

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