Saturday, November 26, 2016

Jews and our "Special" Obligation

Michael Lumish

{Also published at the Elder of ZiyonJews Down Under, and The Jewish Press.}

A recent opinion piece for the Washington Post by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community, and Daniel Sokatch of the allegedly pro-Israel New Israel Fund, is entitled, "Why Jews have a special obligation to resist Trump."

Jacobs and Sokatch claim that:
Donald Trump’s winning platform includes pledges to ban Muslims from entering our country, to forcibly deport millions of people, to remove legal protections from vulnerable minorities and to reinstate the use of torture. The president-elect has threatened massive attacks on human rights and constitutional freedoms. Just last week, he appointed to the highest advisory position in the White House Stephen K. Bannon, a former publisher of Breitbart News, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the “media arm” of the white supremacist alt-right movement.
The idea behind the article is that because Trump is essentially a Nazi, Jews have a particular obligation to join with other "threatened" minorities in political opposition.

I always find it interesting, though, when people tell Jews that we have "special" obligations.

It reminds me a bit of when they say that Jewish people have failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust - a "special" obligation if ever there was one - with the implication that Jews are not nearly as ethical as we need to be in order to prove our moral worthiness. It is one of those obligations that we can never seem to master in the eyes of others, including many other Jews.

The false and exaggerated claims toward Trump, however, are not intended to create insight, but to spread fear of the individual and loathing toward Americans who voted for him. The absolute terms within which they are presented also leave no wriggle-room for actual discussion of the issues raised by the authors.

Is it really Trump's policy to simply "ban Muslims from entering our country"? No, of course it is not. This is a lie. But making such a claim, with its implication of implacable racism, serves to shut down the much needed national discussion around immigration policy.

In this way, Jacobs and Sokatch frame the argument in much the manner that the hard-left always frames virtually any argument; one is either in agreement with them or exiled as a deplorable monster. In either case, there is no discussion to be had, nor disagreement allowed.

Jacobs and Sokatch would have us believe that Jews are extra-special and that as the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors - not to mention the inheritors of Talmudic scholarship and ethics - we have a distinct moral obligation not incumbent upon others. We are, thus, never allowed to be just normal Israelis or Brits or Aussies or Americans. Instead we are told by our ethical superiors, sometimes Jewish and sometimes not, that we have special obligations and if we fail to carry out those obligations then we are something other than kosher.

Now, at the dawn of the Days of Trump, some on the battered left are doubling-down on the kind of relentless moral narcissism that helped bring us Trump in the first place. Throughout the Obama administration, and the reign of the baby-boomers since Bill Clinton, the progressive-left relentlessly pounded issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia into the atomic protoplasm of every living creature from Bridgeport, Connecticut to San Francisco, California. We even had poor Hank Hill, of King of the Hill fame, prior to Obama, wondering if his dog was racist.

Nonetheless, Jacobs and Sokatch warn American Jews that, "Trying to conduct business as usual with the Trump administration could prevent us from joining with other threatened groups to protect our neighbors."

Jacobs and Sokatch represent one small Jewish example of the mass hysteria whipped like a meringue into the general population over the last six months. The ceaseless and ever-increasing rhetorical churning of alleged racism, sexism, and homophobia that set the rhythm for the Obama administration turned into a crescendo as we got closer and closer to November 8. By November 9, instead of peaking and then sliding into its natural level, Trump Hatred became a discordant howling that continues until this very moment.

Jacobs and Sokatch, in service to this cult of victimhood, combine the spreading of raw fear with a cloying form of religious outreach that seeks to exploit the famous Jewish sense of guilt.

They write:
Even if Jews were not personally threatened as Jews, it would still be imperative for us to call upon all of the communal strength we have and all of the institutions we have fought to create to oppose threats to other people. This is an obligation that comes from our tradition. In the Torah, one of God’s first commands to the Jewish people after our liberation from slavery is to protect those who are most vulnerable, as we, too, know the experience of being strangers.
I have no reason to doubt Jacobs and Sokatch's sincerity or intentions.

Like many millions of Americans they have succumbed to the constant media yammerings of how regular working-class white Americans are creatures ruled by hatred and fear of the Other. Despite the fact that the United States is actually one of the very least racist or sexist countries on the entire planet many in the Democratic Party insist that we are among the worst.

In the final months heading into the election the progressive-left, the Democratic Party, and the traditional media conjured an apparition from hell which they called the "alt-right." In truth, it was there all along, but with little national or cultural significance until Hillary and the anti-Trumpeteers saw some use for them as a club with which to smack around the Deplorable Cheetoh.

The alt-right, a creature that virtually no one had even heard of prior to this election, seems to have taken over the country almost entirely out of the blue. The manner in which it went from being on the utmost political fringe to front-and-center within a matter of weeks is an amazing testament to the power of group-think, public relations psychology, and the political manipulation of normal human fears for electoral purposes. If the progressive-left didn't have any actual Klansmen or Nazis to shadow-box with then, by God, they'd conjure it up themselves, which is precisely what they did.

As it happens, however, Steve Bannon and Breitbart News, whatever else we may make of them, are friendly toward Jews, friendly toward Gay people, and Breitbart senior editor - and "dangerous faggot" - Milo Yiannopoulos, happens to be both.

I am sorry, but pro-Jewish and pro-Gay does not for white supremacism make.

That the so-called "alt-right" contains some racists is undoubtedly the case, as does - in no particular order - the Democratic Party, the Obama administration, the progressive-left, the EU, the UN, Black Lives Matter, western feminist leadership, and any media outlet that tells Jewish people where we may, or may not, be allowed to live within our own homeland.

Do Jacobs and Sokatch believe that we have a "special" obligation to resist them, too?

Somehow, I doubt it.


  1. It's trite to hear Jill Jacobs scold us about what 'you' can do to promote social justice in 'your' Jewish community. Why? Because anyone involved IN the so called Jewish community, the Reform and Conservative flavor of it knows, because they experience it every day, that the last place these movements are involved in, is the Jewish community they purport to be of. They are huge into Federation's assistance to non Jews. They are huge into 'interfaith' nonsense. They are huge into political rallies, transgender bathrooms, illegal immigrants from Latin America, the Democratic party, shows of solidarity at the local mosque every time someone in a hundred mile radius rolls their eyes at a woman in a burqa or sponsoring trips to Ramallah to lay flowers at the shrine of Arafat.

    But help the Jews? Help the Jews in their own community? Never. Not ever. If you lost your job, your house, have a serious illness, cant afford a burial you go to the Orthodox, the Chabad or a local Protestant church. The hand wringing liberal Jews have no time for you, no money, no assistance. Even synagogue membership with Reform and Conservative has become an exercise in humiliation where applicants ask for a discount and are told to bring in their tax returns to 'make sure' they're really poor enough. Sorry but Reform and Conservative wings don't have much moral credit when it comes to helping their own.

  2. "Why Jews have a special obligation to resist Trump."
    Because "resist" has a ring so much like "racist"? Am I right?
    Usually when someone takes office from the other side of the aisle, one "opposes" their "policies." Not in this case.


    1. Yes, "resistance" is always a good thing, despite the political malleability of the term. That's why - as I know that you know - so much of the Left is either explicitly, or tacitly, in sympathy with the never-ending Arab and Muslim war against the Jewish people in the Middle East, if not the Jews, more generally.

      And, I have to tell ya, I am mighty pissed off about this Arson Intifada, or whatever you want to call it.

      They're just begging to get cracked down on so that they can go whining to the international community.

      It's both exceedingly dangerous and entirely pathetic.

    2. The fact that the "left," is mourning/eulogizing the rat bastard murdering dictator Castro tells me more than I want to know about the idiots. "Progressive but flawed," is about as the extent of any condemnation of the monster.

    3. Mike,
      Yes, I'm betting a lot of people in Israel are thoroughly disgusted by now and I can't blame them. There was an article at Elder's on Gilad Atzmons making excuses for this display of arson to accuse the Zionists of horrendous crimes (deflection is a preferred method), and that the pine trees were a) not indigenous, which is a falsehood, and b) they were planted by zionists on the ruins of Palestinian villages as a coverup, which brings us to c) the "Palestinians" are indigenous, but the Jews have never had a connection to "Palestine." This is the bullshit being peddled these days. And of course there's the rest of the international press somehow blaming it all on Israel. You know, they're the ones who always started it. But don't worry, none of it has anything at all to do with the Western left's embrace of the "Palestinian" cause.

      "Progressive but flawed" sounds like projection. Yeah, a dictator with a grip on power for over 50 years just might be described as flawed, duh.

  3. These people should be confronted for using their Jewishness to practice the anti-Israel Progressive religion, for that is what they do.

    News is not the only place where there is fakery. It also is found in this strained narrative adopted by people that act as if they do not know the reality.

    Better they turn their attention to do good to truly closed societies where there are NO human rights. Places and cultures they defer to in virtual silence. Instead, they grab for low hanging fruit in open places to morally condemn and denigrate Israel and those who don't pretend not to know. What an embarrassment.

  4. You cannot keep bragging about being ignorant. The alt-right has been around for years and the ADL and SPLC have been writing about them for a long time. The difference between the alt-right and ant-semitism in other places is that anti-semitism is the raison d' etre of the alt-right. Here is a explanation of the alt-right for those who have been too busy focusing on other things

    1. Overblown fearmongering about the bogeyman is what the alt-right hysteria is about.

      Are the Clintons and SPLC somehow altruistic? It seems they are accepted whole cloth, yet those who keep crying wolf seem to know least what the alt-right actually is.

      Is there any one thing Bannon did that is antisemitic? How does one explain that Breitbart is so unabashedly pro-Israel?

      How many times does someone have to be wrong before it's okay not to listen anymore?

      Wake up and smell the coffee. Some individuals may be deplorable, but at least are not proven so easily duped and to think they are better and know more, when the opposite seems more accurate.

    2. Well, I wouldn't want to disappoint one of the friends of this blog.

      The truth, as you well know, is that the so-called "alt-right" was virtually non-existent in any meaningful political or cultural way until the progressive-left put a spotlight on it for the purpose of constructing hatred and fear in the general population.

      Good job.


      The Left should be proud of itself for promoting this thing - that they do not understand - and that will now generate plenty of interest among American political types. I had chanced upon Breitbart here and there, but I considered it too fringy for much consideration.

      It is people such as yourself that have led me to change my mind.

      You must be very proud.

      The truth is that you have no idea what this movement represents or you simply do not care about fairness in what you say concerning those you despise. Whatever you may say about these people, they describe themselves as nationalists, libertarians, and free speech advocates.

      What they are not are Nazis, Skin-heads, Klansmen, White Supremacists, or anything along such lines.

      What they oppose are open borders, mass immigration, and the rise of the Jihad.

      So, how would it be – if only for a change of pace - if the Left actually addressed the issues that these people raise, rather than simply and mindlessly and endlessly castigating them as racist?

      And, if you please, I have two questions:

      1 – Can you point me toward any heretofore known white supremacist organization in the US that was friendly toward Gay people and Jews?

      2 – Are you as concerned about left-wing anti-Semitism as you seem to be about the right-wing variety?

      If not, why not?

      If so, can you point to any comment that you have written which would demonstrate this?

    3. oldschool,
      That SPLC, the ADL, HRW, AI, are all organizations which had sterling reputations but have now been successfully infiltrated and taken over to some degree or other by some seedy people, who ride the past reputations of these groups. What the SPLC said about Breitbart in the article above is pure bullshit. And when I finally did link to the article by Jacobs and Sokatch I found hyperbole in the service of emotional blackmail. It's all just like a Noam Chomsky burlesque. Much of the left has really copied his techniques, which involve a good deal of just plain lying about things.

  5. Okay alt-right is the term they prefer to use for themselves. Let's use the term that best describes them, white supremacists. Are you familiar with that term? Are you aware that they have been around forever? The ADL and SPLC have not been taken over by extremists, they simply continue to report on the extremists. I understand that there are anti-semites on the left, the difference is that the nazis actually want to kill us. The pro-Palestinian crowd is, at least on some level, approachable. They like to consider themselves rational, a message about the fascism of the Palestinian leadership might get through. The nazis have no such pretense. Here's the thing, the Republican economic agenda cannot work, it has never worked, and will ultimately lead to far worse economic conditions. Who do you suppose will be blamed then? The Irish? The Swedes? Of course it will be the Jews. And Trump;s team has already signaled it with its closing ad, blaming Soros, Yellen and Blankfein. I follow politics fairly closely, I know Soros and Yellen, though most people don't, I've never heard of Blankfein. Who do you suppose lapped up those names? What do you think they are foreshadowing? And what happens to Israel when Trump decides to let Putin do what he wants? Do you really trust Israel's future with that Russian dictator? When things get very dark for us Jews, don't say I didn't warn you.

    1. You may follow politics closely, but that means nothing. Pretending like you possess superior knowledge is silly, especially when it is tainted by manipulation, so much so that you cannot even determine the tangible threat to Jews from the left.

      Some of us actually know who Blankfein is.

      Regarding the actual white supremacists:

      The National Socialist Party claims to be America's biggest active 'white civil rights group', although some experts estimate it has only about 400 members in 32 states.

      The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are 190 active KKK groups with between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members in the U.S.

      Get a grip. Try to understand that Soros and those that align are more responsible for making things dark for Jews than the alt-right, the Nazis, and KKK combined.

    2. " The ADL and SPLC have not been taken over by extremists, they simply continue to report on the extremists. "
      They actually decide who are the extremists and who are not, and it's getting to be quite PC. Many of these organizations have become quite politicized and others are going through this process.
      You might want to investigate Robert Bernstein's take down of the NGO he invented, HRW.
      Nazis are few and far between.
      Many on the "left" are quite happy to let groups they support manage the murder of Jews as a matter of "social justice." I don't know why you think killing Jews is impossible for the left. You obviously feel a sense of comfort and safety that I believe has been falling away rapidly.

      "a message about the fascism of the Palestinian leadership might get through."
      Dream on.

    3. "The pro-Palestinian crowd is, at least on some level, approachable".
      No they are not. No one is "pro-Palestinian", it's just a PC mask for antisemitism.
      Ever heard of any "pro-Tamil" or "pro-Karabagh" movements in the US? Me neither.

  6. Even if you stupidly claim that Jews somehow MUST be held to a higher standard, which is what Jill Jacobs claims, a higher standard to do WHAT, precisely? Hashtag furiously? Burn down a check cashing store? Punch an old white lady? Watch CNN so hard your eyes bleed? Demand that all votes in the history of people be recounted? Twice? Get an even bigger bullhorn to scream for the Islamic inspired ethnic cleansing of all Jews on every college campus?

    I'm unclear what this duty entails.

    1. Individual Jews can hold themselves to a higher standard. No one should be holding you or me to a higher standard conjured in his/her own imagination.

    2. My duties entail spaghetti and meatballs in the not too distant future.

      Oh, and as it happens, Yiannopoulos is coming to Berkeley in early Feb. A buddy of mine wants us to check it out and maybe we will.

      There is obviously something afoot here, politically, that people are desperately struggling to understand.

      I find it fascinating, actually, and it centers around this notion of "alt-right."

      When coming from the mouths of its opponents the label is simply a derogatory meaning white supremacist, but the real question is what do these people say about themselves?

      We do know, as Joseph and others have pointed out, that there are actual Nazis and Klansmen out there in this big country. Who could possibly deny it and why would anyone want to?

      The focus of my immediate question is around Bannon, tho.

      He's the guy in the White House.

      So, is he, or is he not, a white supremacist?

      Is Breitbart News a white supremacist venue?

      Is Milo a crypto-Nazi?

      I don't think so.

    3. Yeah, well Mike, ask him about genetic superiority and who has it.

    4. Mike feels he has a special obligation to tell it like it is. That makes certain people uncomfortable.

  7. One thing that's missing is prying off the name 'white supremacist' In relation to what? With all the liberals kvelling, almost weeping at the death of mass murdering racist homophobe Castro - what DOES that term white supremacist frame?

    1. I'm not sure that I quite get you, Trudy.

      What does it "frame"?

      Just how do you mean that?

  8. Pro-Israel AND antisemitic? This does not compute.