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Ask Auntie Pinko

November 18, 2004
By Auntie Pinko

Dear Auntie Pinko,

As a Jewish man, I feel that the Democratic Party is becoming less concerned about the fate of Israel. Why are we growing more concerned about non-quintessential issues like taxing the rich? Is there a growing sense of anti-Semitism amongst the Democratic elite as there is in Europe? Why is it that we are going much the way of socialism?


Dear Bill

Please excuse the delay in getting back to you. Auntie is not Jewish, so your many questions necessitated some research among Jewish friends and acquaintances, and various documentary sources. And these researches certainly proved extremely interesting! Auntie was aware, of course, that there is a relatively broad spectrum of opinion among Americans who are Jewish, but I had not fully appreciated just how conflicting some of the views really were.

I found some who believe in a religiously orthodox Jewish nation-state, with the same borders as the ancient states of Israel, Judea and Samaria. Anything less in either territory or ideology is incomplete, unacceptable. Non-Jews, including Palestinian Arabs, should be expelled, and non-religious Jews should be required to conform to all the Levitical observances incorporated in such a nations civil code.

I found some who ridiculed the concept of a geographical "Israel" at all, since such a state can only be truly re-established by the coming of a Messiah. There was a lack of clarity regarding whether He would establish it by means of supernatural events, or more prosaic methods of political/philosophical leadership, but without overt Divine intervention, there could be no true "Israel" on Earth.

While both of these views appeared to represent relatively extreme minorities, their exponents seem passionate and vocal.

The larger middle ground shares a general belief in the right of the State of Israel to continued existence. But that belief seemed the only clear consensus point among Jewish Americans, whose various opinions ranged from demanding that America simply and unequivocally support all of the policies of the Israeli government, to a profound and growing uneasiness with those same Israeli policies, and a desire for the United States to apply strategic leverage to influence them in various directions. Clearly, anything America does in relation to Israel is going to piss off a substantial number of American Jews.

I have been part of the Democratic Party for a great many years, and have always regarded support for the existence of Israel as one of the bedrock principles of American liberalism. I do not believe this has substantially changed. All of the liberal Democrats Auntie knows staunchly support the continued existence of the State of Israel in some form. But an increasingly fractured consensus regarding the precise form of that State has necessarily taken a toll. I don't believe the Democratic Party can reasonably be assigned responsibility for the fracturing of that consensus and the subsequent debates about what precise shape America's policy goals regarding Israel should take.

As for the precise importance of this issue in comparison with others, applying reductio ad absurdum to the issue of fair tax policy in an effort to belittle its importance against the issue of American policy regarding Israel is counter-productive, at best, if your goal is to mobilize Democratic support for a particular view on Israel. While Israel is one of America's most important foreign policy concerns, and certainly merits more sustained and thoughtful discussion within the Party, tax policy is a critical domestic issue that also plays a key role in defining our Party's identity. While we must make thoughtful choices about where we choose to put our intellectual, social, and political resources, it is not a zero-sum game.

As for the issue of anti-Semitism, Auntie is not the only Democrat who is feeling alarm and disgust at the resurgence of such ignorant barbarism throughout the world. Allowing disagreement with the policies and actions of the Israeli government to manifest as vulgar and primitive prejudice against an entire faith/ethnic group is typical of the undisciplined and subjective emotionalism that has taken the place of reason in public discourse. However, with specific regard to your question about the Democratic Party "elite," I'm afraid I can't be too helpful, as I don't know any Democrats who might reasonably fit the definition of the word "elite." Most of my Democratic friends are ordinary run-of-the-mill voters who participate in the Party at a local level, if at all.

For what it is worth, the leadership of the Democratic Party (as well as other political and social groups) does seem to be willing to qualify the concept of unequivocal, uncritical support for all of the policies of the Israeli government. If that is what you are referring to as "anti-Semitism," then perhaps it could be considered a "growing sense."

And finally, with regard to the issue of Socialism, you say that like it's a bad thing. Auntie Pinko can only conclude that you have never actually studied the core principles of Socialist philosophy. Perhaps, too, you have not had the chance to observe its overwhelmingly civilized, decent, and livable democratic applications in places like Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and other nations that have incorporated Socialist elements into their political infrastructure. I might also point out that some of Europe's most Socialist states today are those who did the most to protect their Jewish populations during the Nazi occupation. Check it out, Bill, and thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!

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