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Thursday, September 18th, 2008
12:41a - Long Post about Obama, Judaism, and Israel
A couple of weeks ago, Kirsten asked me how I can support Obama and still consider myself Jewish and an Israeli.

I didn’t answer at the time, not because I didn’t have an answer, but because I was too apoplectic with rage to give it. This is the first time I’ve been calm enough to answer the question.

First of all, I’m Jewish and proud of it. Most people don’t understand what being Jewish means. Hell, most Jews don’t understand what being Jewish means, especially in the U.S. Being Jewish isn’t about celebrating Hanukah and Pesach. It isn’t about going to synagogue and wearing a little hat. It’s about 6,000 years of history and heritage. It’s about being the Chosen People. Not Chosen like a favorite child, awarded special privileges. The Jews were Chosen to suffer. We were Chosen to be persecuted, spat on, exiled, enslaved, and murdered.

Why? To be a light unto the nations. To know what it is like to be persecuted, so that we can stand together with everyone who’s persecuted, everyone who’s weak, everyone who suffers. We say it during every Seder: “Because I was a slave in Egypt.” Not “they.” Not “my ancestors.” I.

It doesn’t matter that I have serious doubts whether the first 4,000 years of that history actually happened. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe the being that supposedly chose us exists. I have been Chosen. I have a personal duty to be a light unto nations, because I was a slave in Egypt, because I wept by the waters of Babylon, because I was tortured by the Inquisition, because I died in the gas chambers.

Because he was a slave in Egypt, my father hitchhiked nearly 2,000 miles to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his African-American brothers in bondage and watch Martin Luther King tell the world about his dream. Because she was a slave in Egypt, my mother risked (and suffered) repeated imprisonment for protesting apartheid in South Africa. Because I was a slave in Egypt, I stand today with the generation of blacks whose fathers have all been imprisoned, with the women who are paid less for the same work, and most of all with the gay couples that aren’t allowed to marry.

If you do not understand that, you have absolutely no right to tell me how Jews should vote.

But we’re in idealism country now. Let’s talk about practical matters. Let’s talk about what’s going to happen to Jews in a country run by people like Palin.

Palin is a right-wing Christian. That’s no secret. She believes America is a Christian nation, and she believes America should be a Christian nation. Her selection as the running mate for the oldest Presidential candidate in history – not to mention the selection of Bush as the Republican candidate in the 2000 primaries – says something about how powerful right-wing Christians have become in the Republican party. We can fully expect that, the more power the Republicans have, the more of a Christian country the U.S. will become. What does that mean for Jews? Total disaster.

Spain and Britain exiled us. Poland, Russia, the Ukraine – all of Eastern Europe – stuck us in ghettoes and then drove us from our towns, burned our homes, and slaughtered our children. Spain, Portugal, and Italy forced us to convert and then tortured us. France? Well, everyone knows what it’s always been like to be Jewish in France. And I don’t think I even have to mention Germany.

Sooner or later, every Christian country tries to get rid of its Jews.

Sooner or later, every Christian country tries to get rid of its Jews.

This is not a problem with Christians. It’s not a problem with Christianity. It’s a problem with Christian countries. The absolute worst thing that could happen to American Jews would be for America to become a Christian nation.

If you want to guarantee, beyond any doubt, that American Jews will suffer a pogrom, that American Jews will be put in ghettoes and concentration camps, then vote for the right-wing Christians. It doesn’t matter whether any of them want to persecute the Jews. If they succeed in making America a Christian nation, it will happen. It’s simply something that Christian nations do. Maybe it’ll be a week before they start, maybe it’ll be a generation, but it will happen.

And while you’re thinking about that, think about this: not even Iran has ever tried to get rid of its Jews. There have been Jews living in Iran for a good 2500 years, and nobody – not the Persian emperors, not the Muslim caliphs, not the Shahs, not even the Ayatollah, has ever tried to get rid of them.

Sooner or later, every Christian country tries to get rid of its Jews.

Now let’s talk about Israel. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Palestinian terror attacks are entirely unprovoked. What does Israel’s conservative government, backed by America’s unholy coalition of right-wing Christians and conservative Jews, do about it? They build a wall around the Palestinian territories. They block trade and limit the ability of Palestinians to get jobs in Israel. The result? As long as the Israeli government keeps this up, Palestine has no hope of rising out of poverty. Your typical Palestinian has no way to make sure his children stay fed – except one. If he becomes a suicide bomber, the terrorist organizations will take care of his family until the children are grown. Most Palestinians don’t make that choice. They’re not willing to do something that evil, even if it means their children will be safe. But some of them are willing to kill if it will guarantee their children’s futures. So they bomb innocent Israelis, so the Israeli government continues to keep Palestine in the third world. Meanwhile, they plant radical settlers – most of them American Jews – all along the West Bank and Gaza, where they throw rocks at Palestinian children and shout an endless stream of hate.

Israel and Palestine are both trapped in an endless cycle. The real enemies of Israel – and Palestine, for that matter – are the people perpetuating that cycle. Who is that? The Palestinian terrorist organizations, definitely and without a doubt. But the Israeli government and military are doing their part to keep it going, too. The settlers are nearly as big a cause as the Palestinian terrorists. American neo-cons, conservative Jews, and right-wing Christians are helping fuel the flames, too.

So, if I want to vote in a way that helps Israel, who should I vote for? Obviously, it’s someone who will oppose the terrorists AND the Israeli government AND the settlers AND the neo-cons AND the conservative Jews AND the right-wing Christians. McCain and Palin are going to oppose the terrorists, but they’re going to support everyone else on that list. Obama is definitely going to oppose the terrorists, the neo-cons, the conservative Jews, and the right-wing Christians. There’s a decent chance he’ll oppose the settlers, and (let’s be realistic) he might oppose the Israeli government in some small ways, if the political climate allows it. The better choice for Israel is obvious.

The better choice for America and the world is obvious, too, but that’s a whole different argument, and this has gotten long enough.

Good night everyone, and remember: We are never not obligated to be superheroes.

(26 comments |comment on this)

6:14p - I am like unto an avenging storm
I sweep down upon the project, destroying unnecessary capitalizations with my righteous wrath, leaving a trail of serial commas in my wake.

(4 comments |comment on this)


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