WASHINGTON - It's nothing new, but the approaching elections are bringing into sharper focus the fact that the United States is two opposite, contradictory and mutually hostile sides of the same experience. The first Afro-American leader in the history of the nation is sitting in the White House and introducing, together with his wife, a revolutionary policy of which the government health insurance law is only the beginning, but the forces operating against him are dark and powerful.
In the state of Pennsylvania an amendment to the abortion law could soon be enacted, which would require gynecologists to perform a vaginal ultrasound on every woman who requests an abortion. The woman, for her part, would be forced to look at the image of the fetus, hear its heartbeat and listen to a detailed explanation of its condition.
The proposal, initiated by Republican State Rep. Kathy Rapp who is running for reelection, has been called "state-sanctioned rape," but Republican congressmen are competing among themselves to have it adopted.
That is only the tip of the iceberg of the religious-conservative insanity that is erupting like a volcano on the American right. From the start, the Republicans have made unfounded accusations against President Barack Obama - he's a Muslim, he's not a U.S. citizen, he is raising taxes (a day after he had lowered taxes for the middle class ) and hates the Church and religion. They claim he is leading the government into blatant intrusion in the life of the individual (but they don't consider a vaginal ultrasound to be an intrusion into a person's life ).
Who said the government has to take care of the weak? Republican candidate Rick Santorum asked Obama this week. After all, that task is reserved for only one entity - God! There is no question that God has a central role in these elections. And so does the devil. In 2008 Santorum (in whose Catholic opinion even Protestants are not sufficiently Christian ) maintained that the devil had infiltrated the U.S. administration and was destroying the country.
U.S. Democrats are now experiencing a profound fear that the important principle mandating separation of religion and state in the United States is being eroded with horrifying speed. And how unsurprising that this Democratic public includes many Jews - far more than what seems to be the case when Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaps loud applause at an AIPAC convention. These Jews are now doubly fearful - because of the messianic insanity now spreading in American politics, and because of its Israeli version and, most of all, because of the link between the two.
A huge community of secular, traditional, Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Jews is witnessing two political systems that have broken the rules and are working with what looks to them like a worrying lack of restraint. They believe that the connection between the evangelical extremists and the settler extremists, which is being forged over the heads of the American public (and behind the backs of the Israeli public ), has long since passed the bounds of legitimacy - in the huge budgets being invested in it and the brainwashing that is following in its wake.
The way in which Netanyahu is speaking directly to the American right - in what is proving to be a cynical bypassing of the fragile dialogue between Jerusalem and Washington - is arousing frustration here. Human rights organizations, liberal communities, academics and public figures are all expressing dissatisfaction and despair in light of the Haredi-religious-ultra-nationalist extremism in Israel, and the strengthening of the connection between it and ultra-nationalist, white Christianity and extreme right-wing and extreme ultra-Orthodox Jewry in the United States. Only recently have many of them discovered that the same Sheldon Adelson who is pouring a fortune into Newt Gingrich's campaign for the GOP primaries is also the publisher of the Israel Hayom freebie newspaper that supports Netanyahu. When they found out they raised not one but both eyebrows.
In that case, they are saying, maybe the time has come for Israelis on the left and in the center - who for years have told that same silent and loyal public not to interfere - to join hands with millions of American Jews who are afraid, like them, for the future and fate of Israel. Truly, the time has come to demonstrate to the Israeli government the power of a public that can not only donate generously, but can also demand a change in policy, a reining in of extremism and renewed thinking about the nature and identity of the Jewish state.
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