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Posted in: Anti-Semitism, Israel

Published on Apr 30, 2015 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Israel National News

Conversations with Liberals


I don't know what to do about liberal American Jews. Unlike some conservatives, I happen to agree with them on certain issues but these days, that barely matters. The only thing that matters is whether one is for or against President Obama. If one dares say—out loud and in public--that Obama is, maybe, not so good for Israel—the Democratic Party flags are promptly whipped out and anyone who refuses to swear on the flag of the Democratic Party is promptly and rudely attacked.

I have recently and unexpectedly been in conversation with a number of such Jewish liberals both privately and publicly.

Here's one example. At a lecture I gave I was assailed with this comment: "You just said that Israelis believe that Obama is the worst President Israel ever had. But that is a lie. We read and we know that he is the best President Israel ever had! Were it not for him, there would be no Iron Dome. What about that?"

Said I: "Jews loved FDR. They could never be persuaded otherwise. Now, much later on, we have come to understand that he enabled anti-Semites to run his foreign policy and thus, helped damn the Jews of Europe to death during the Shoah. Perhaps only historical perspective can ultimately tell us how 'good' an American President is for the Jews or for Israel."

This was my peace offering, I was giving this woman a graceful way out. It did not work.

"Obama has nothing to do with FDR. If the American Jewish Committee says that Obama is the best-ever that's good enough for me."

I am not certain if the AJ Committee said this or not. This critic-in-chief is smug, sure, defiant, unflappable. Her point of view is entirely emotional and she is defending her emotional territory with all her might. I try again.

"It is important to consult organizations and media that are both left and right, that disagree with each other about facts as well as about how to interpret them. It is also important to consult Israeli as well as Jewish-American sources."

I now stop because I am used to consulting many sources and weighing and balancing an issue; I am even an intellectual. My liberal is merely a civilian. The divide is too great. She has no idea of what it means to form an expert opinion. Like so many on all sides of this debate, she follows her gut, her peer group, her ideology and is not humble about it.

At a private gathering, the subject of Israel also came up. I talked about the rise of anti-Semitism and Israel's survival at a time of global Jihad. A womanat my table who turned out to be a major Democratic Party fundraiser took my breath away. She said: "Netanyahu is the reason I oppose Israel. He has had mistresses. He cannot be trusted."

Said I: "Wait a minute. You are someone who strongly supported President Clinton, a man who certainly had more than just mistresses—and yet your main opposition to Israel is the possibility, based on a rumor, that the current PM allegedly has mistresses? Excuse me, the issue I raised is that of Israel's survival—and your response is to critique the private morals of a Prime Minister?"

I do not want to fight with this woman; not at all. We are at a family simcha. What does a truth-teller do in such a social circumstance? The sages tell us that peace, justice, and truth are not possible on earth. One tells the truth—and peace flees, etc. Thus, I said nothing which for me is the same as lying in order to keep "shalom bayis."

Here's the problem. It is increasingly difficult for the better informed to communicate with the uninformed; for those who respect tradition to be understood by those who oppose it; for conservatives to talk to liberals and leftists.

There I was, both publicly and privately surrounded, essentially, by civilians, non-intellectuals, the kind of Jews who need to feel safe, be popular, be on the "winning" side, who cannot bear the glory or the burden of supporting a religion, a state, and an ideology (Zionism) that has come under such profound siege.

And then another woman came over to me after my lecture, almost wringing her hands. "There is such a divide, people do not hear each other, don't you think we should listen—to the other side, to the Palestinians? If we cannot talk to each other how can we make peace?"

And now I used my full voice.

"We cannot just talk to Hitler. Hamas is now Hitler. We cannot reform Nazi Germany or pro-Nazi Japan until after we have vanquished their leadership and armies militarily. We cannot continue to believe that all people are really like us: essentially good, reasonable, patient, pacific. Radically evil people exist who are perpetrating radically evil acts. We must stop them. There is no time to "understand" them in the hope that such understanding will lead to peaceful resolutions."

But I left her in anguish and a smart person like me cannot afford to do that.


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