For various reasons, I am in a funk right now. Contributing to this funk is what I perceive to be problems for the United States, domestically and internationally. Also contributing to the malaise is my identification as a Jew and a supporter of Israel.
As far as problems related to the United States, I am not alone with feelings of agita. A week ago, the Rasmussen polling organization reported that 30 percent of likely U.S. voters think the country is heading in the right direction, while 63 percent think it is on the wrong track.
From elementary school to high school, I was taught to be proud of America; it was unique among nations, the “shining city upon the hill,” referenced by both Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. America was a melting pot of all that was good in the world. Its founding documents were unique and set the world on a different course. The reverse of the Great Seal of the United States contains the phrase Novus ordo seclorum, “New order of the ages.”
However, in recent decades, it has become increasing popular to concentrate on what divides us — diversity — as opposed to what unites us, and to cast America as history’s villain. Yes, there is room for improvement, but to me the degree of vilification is unwarranted. Related to this is the growing use of the concept of moral equivalence, which has been used to denigrate the concept of American exceptionalism, a concept which was drilled into me both by my parents and schooling; a concept in which I firmly believe, as I think do the majority of Americans.
Identity politics is playing an increasing role in America. I am conflicted by this. After all I am a proud Jewish American. I want to fight for the rights of Jews not only in America, but around the world, namely in Europe and particularly in Israel.
In his “I Have A Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Would that were true. I don’t like double standards and I see plenty of them, especially when applied to Jews.
President Obama constantly preaches tolerance for Muslims. What about Jews? According to the latest available FBI statistics, 57 percent of religious hate crimes in 2014 were perpetrated against Jews while only 14 percent were perpetrated against Muslims. The ratio of Jews to Muslims in the United States is approximately two-to-one, but the hate crime ratio is four-to-one. Where are administration statements in support of the Jewish American community?
Internationally, Israel is used as a proxy for “Jews.” There was a major schism between Israel and the United States over the Iranian nuclear deal. As a result of the deal, the United States will be releasing up to $250 billion to Iran, $150 billion in frozen funds and $100 billion in interest payments. While there was concern that Iran, the world’s largest sponsor of state terrorism, would use these funds to make good on its promise to eradicate Israel from the map, the administration constantly maintained that the deal promoted peace.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that some of the money Iran received in sanctions relief would go to groups considered terrorist, saying there was nothing the United States could do to prevent this.
Meanwhile, Israel’s 2015 anti-Semitism report stated more than 40 percent of European Union citizens hold anti-Semitic views and agree with the claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians and behaving like the Nazis. Presenting the report, Minister Naftali Bennett pointed to trends emerging in Europe as a result of the spread of radical Islam; the refugee and migrant crisis; the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement; and the rise of the extreme Right.
In a recent NJJN column, David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, described a new disturbing trend called intersectionality, in which opponents of sexism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression are mutually united against a “transcendent white, male, heterosexual power structure” which “keeps down marginalized groups.”
He pointed out “the BDS movement has successfully injected the anti-Israel cause into these intersecting forms of oppression and itself into the interlocking communities of people who hold by them.” Bernstein considers the growing acceptance of intersectionality on college campuses and elsewhere as “the most significant community relations challenge of our time.” In other words, our community relations are being undermined by a “community organizing” model straight out of Saul Alinsky.
Ever since I became involved in Jewish community relations, building alliances with other groups has been important. How has BDS become so influential in such a short time? Is it because, as Tom Lehrer pointed out in “National Brotherhood Week,” “everybody hates the Jews”?