One night, not too long ago, American Jews went to sleep successful, prosperous, confident and popular as never before. The next morning they woke up defamed, reviled, hounded and persecuted like Diaspora Jews throughout the ages. With no prior warning and through no fault of their own, American Jews were transported from their 21st century Shangri-La to the kind of 19th century shtetl from which their forefathers ran away.
Unsuspecting American Jews were suddenly surrounded by howling mobs of Jew-baiters and Jew-haters shouting “Jew traitors” from every corner. They were being singled out, castigated, silenced, even suppressed. Their methods were questioned, their motives challenged, their loyalty impugned.
It was all coming from the top, of course. Like an evil Polish squire from the Middle Ages, President Obama only had to say the words “money” or “lobbyists” or “Iraq War” and his henchmen would get the drift. “The president’s dog whistles are heard by the president’s dogs,” as former George Bush speechwriter and current Atlantic magazine senior editor David Frum tweeted, conjuring historically-charged images of beasts set loose by brutish goyim on cowering Jews.
American Jews, it seems, had it far worse than the Jews of France, Britain or Germany, whose governments, at least, were fighting anti-Semites tooth and nail. So if you came from Mars and the first thing you saw were articles and editorials on the Iran deal in Jewish or non-Jewish conservative news outlets, you might be excused for assuming you’d landed in Venezuela, Argentina, Hungary or Turkey. These were some of the countries whose leaders and ruling parties have been accused in recent years of inciting against Jews and blaming them for their own shortcomings. Remember, before Obama became their designated dog-whistler, Tablet magazine had bestowed that honor on Turkish President Erdogan.
Insinuations of White House Jew-baiting had been floated from the moment Prime Minister Netanyahu and AIPAC declared war on the Iran nuclear deal, but they burst out in full force after Obama’s speech at American University last week and, exponentially, following Senator Chuck Schumer’s announcement of his intention to oppose the deal. And while some administration critics and Jewish officials may have been genuinely disturbed by some of the language that Obama and administration spokespersons were occasionally using, others were maliciously inflating this critique to explicit charges of anti-Semitism in order to serve one or more political purposes: shield Schumer from the wrath of his party and thus encourage others to follow in his path; taint Obama and the Democratic brand in general and thus prod Jews into voting Republican in 2016; and vilify Obama and thus vindicate those who had claimed from the outset that he disliked Jews and wished Israel harm.
Even if one ascribes only the loftiest of motives to Schumer, the Jewish senator from New York, his Democratic colleagues can legitimately claim that he has betrayed his party and his president at the very least. If a Republican lawmaker had had the integrity or courage to break ranks with his party’s rigidly-imposed Bolshevik negation of the Iran deal, you can rest assured that he or she would not only be called far worse than Schumer but tarred and feathered and excommunicated as well (never mind the cruel and unusual punishment that such defectors routinely undergo in Israel). But if anyone dares question Schumer’s loyalty, or utters the words traitor or betrayal, he is immediately branded an anti-Semite and thus forced to moderate his tone.
The same is true of the even crazier claim that when Obama and others speak of those who supported the Iraq war, they really mean Jews. After years spent deflecting the claim made by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer that Israel and its lobby had pushed America to war against Saddam Hussein, Obama’s critics are suddenly adopting the 2003 war to their bosom to the point of making it synonymous with American Jews: If they would have spoken earlier, Walt and Mearsheimer could have been spared the tags of anti-Semites that they have branded with.
For many of Obama’s neoconservative haters, it must feel like payback time: The incendiary sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright that had been placed on the table in the first scene before Obama’s election were now assuming center stage, Chekhov-style, as his tenure approached its finale. The belief that Barack HUSSEIN Obama was an anti-Semite at heart, a cross between Jimmy Carter and Louis Farrakhan, had been common fare at many a Jewish dinner table throughout the past seven years and was finally being corroborated. Would another president be castigated as an anti-Semite under similar circumstances? Perhaps. George Bush Sr. was certainly accused of stoking anti-Semitism when he portrayed himself as “one lonely guy against a thousand lobbyists” in 1991. But the accusation didn’t spread so deep and far and wide in Bush’s case, and, frankly, wasn’t as outrageously far-fetched either.
Perhaps this sudden outbreak of sky-is-falling gevaltism is also drawing inspiration from Jerusalem, where it has become de rigueur in recent years. Instead of the proudly cocky but rhetorically-challenged Zionist sabras who were once worshipped as the antithesis to timid, neurotic and kvetching Diaspora Jews, Israelis have themselves reverted to an oy-oy-oy mentality, to seeing anti-Semites under every rock, to believing that another Holocaust is just around the corner. In the era of Netanyahu and under his guidance, everything is an existential threat: Iran, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, terrorism, Mahmoud Abbas, BDS, NGO’s, leftists, “Israeli Arabs coming in droves to vote” and, now, Obama and the P5+1 as well.
Indeed, recent years had seen a certain reversal of roles between Israel and the greatest Jewish Diaspora community: As the first grew increasingly isolated, insular, nationalistic and pessimistic, the latter was gaining in prosperity, popularity, openness and optimism. But perhaps it was just a facade: Some American Jews certainly seem to secretly yearn to return to the ghetto no less than many of their Israeli brethren. After all, there has been very little pushback by mainstream Jewish groups to the odious charges that the President of the United States is stoking fear and hatred of Jews. Perhaps Jewish groups and their leaders are afraid to stand up to the right-wing rabble-rousers that surround them or to the Obama-hating donors that fund them. Perhaps they simply agree with the message.
One way or another, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. While ostensibly attacking Obama, they are undermining the American Jewish community and corroding its self-confidence. By making anti-Semitic mountains out of negligible if offensive molehills on the fringes of left-wing reactions to Schumer’s move, these peddlers of spurious anti-Semitic smut are challenging the perception that American Jews are part and parcel of American society. If the president and his administration and large parts of his party are Jew-baiters and Jew-haters, then American Jewish existence is far more precarious than anyone ever imagined. For many of the firebrands, especially among religious Jews, this is actually the desired conclusion.
All of which might provide an opening for Natan Sharansky, who recently withdrew his Jewish Agency from an Israel-Diaspora program that had been given to Naftali Bennett. The former Soviet dissident should forget his squabbles with Netanyahu and Bennett and think about finally repaying his debt to American Jews, who fought long and hard to secure his release along with millions of his fellow Jews. Sharansky can form an International Conference for American Jewry (ICAJ) that would defend American Jews against their anti-Semitic oppressors. It might not be too early to design a logo, perhaps with Obama as a Pharaoh, and to order thousands of placards that could be waved at mass protests throughout the world, with the time-tested slogan “Let My People Go.”
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