Saturday, June 5, 2010

In Time of Crisis, Who to Blame?

A month or so ago market strategist David Rosenberg declared that while the recession seems to be over, the economic depression is not.

If he's right, it's the 1930s all over again, and, as Roger Simon suggested today, for many people that means it's time to blame the Jews. Link here.

When I read those words, I did a double take myself. How could it happen that after so many years of work on eradicating racism anti-semitism could be making a comeback. At the least, the statement sounds like hyperbole.

But then again, what are we to make of these remarks by Helen Thomas, the longest serving member of the White House press corps. Speaking directly into an open video feed, Thomas expressed her opinion that the Jews should get out of Palestine, where they are an occupying power, and go back to Poland and Germany where they belong. Link here.

Egregious and outrageous Helen Thomas certainly was. She is since apologized. The real question, as Roger Simon states it, is what possibly could have made her think that it was alright to make such an anti-semitic statement? Wouldn't she be afraid that it would ruin a lifetime's reputation?

Could it be that what with the airways and television screens and press are filled with attacks on Israel, Thomas never got the message that even if it is alright to hate Israel, hating the Jewish state is not the same as hating Jews?

Sometimes it looks like Palestine has replaced global warming as the liberal cause du jour? And as the world rallies to the Palestinian cause, we should note that the Palestinians do not really make such fine distinctions between Israelis and Jews.

For his part Roger Simon suggests that Helen Thomas felt empowered to express anti-Semitic thoughts publicly because she is simply following the lead of our president.

In his words: "Consciously or not, our president-- with his increased and pompously self-righteous pressure on Israel-- has sent a message to the world. It's time to blame the Jews. And the world, in economic extremis, is all too eager to find someone to blame."

In time of economic trouble, governments always seek scapegoats. As I wrote previously they work long at hard at crafting a narrative that will place the blame somewhere other than on their persons and leadership. And we all know that Obama has wanted to blame terrorism on Israel and the financial crisis on Wall Street bankers, like the partners of Goldman Sachs. Link here.

One of the reasons that Obama is having a political problem with the catastrophe in the Gulf is that he has been having trouble fixing the blame. Instead he vacillates between feckless disinterest and yesterday's mindless and meaningless macho posturing.

Obama has created a political environment where it is perfectly fine to stand in front of him and trash the laws of an American state. And he has created an environment where no one thinks twice about walking into the White House and taking a cheap shot at George W. Bush.

Leadership involves creating an atmosphere where people feel compelled to demonstrate respect. On that score, Obama is surely misleading. He is setting the example that allows others to feel safe in attacking those he has singled out for blame.

And we should note that Obama's attacks on Israel have been working their way through the more intellectual segments of our media.

Peter Beinart is leading the charge, but this week he was joined by Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and a leading Jewish intellectual.

What does Wieseltier have to say about the flotilla incident? Quite simply, he presents the blame-Israel-first narrative, even declaring that Israel has lost the moral high ground to Hamas. Link here.

Admittedly, Wieseltier and other liberal Jewish intellectuals pay lip service to the horrors that Hamas has visited on the people of Gaza. On occasion they even mention that Hamas has declared itself to be at war with Israel and has maintained allegiance to a charter that calls for the destruction of Israel.

And yet, the notion that Hamas could ever occupy the moral high ground is a disgraceful and ignorant. Nothing about Hamas spells moral high ground, except in the minds of terrified and guilt-ridden intellectuals. Besides, no one has ever won a war by occupying the moral high ground.

This pious invocation of values in the middle of a war is most often a stepping stone to surrender. What would get you to the moral high ground quicker than laying down arms?

The worst part is that Wieseltier and his ilk are actively asserting the anti-Israeli line. They are undermining Israeli credibility, by blaming adopting the Hamas line that Israel is responsible for whatever problems the Palestinians may or may not be suffering.

Keep in mind that these intellectuals voted for the policies that are being played on in the Middle East. They voted for Obama and they should have known that his background did not exactly make him the most likely supporter of Jewish state. I venture that they despised George W. Bush, who was strongly pro-Israeli.

Faced with the choice of repudiating their support for Obama or advancing his narrative, they have chosen the latter. If they repudiate Obama, what would that say about their vaunted intelligence: that they were tricked or duped?

In all fairness, I must add that the Obama administration seems to be stepping back a bit from its harsh condemnation of Israel. Yesterday Vice President Biden came to Israel's defense, and Democratic Rep. Anthony Wiener has been strongly critical of Turkey's role in fomenting a crisis.

I fear, however, that this does not signal a shift in policy. It feels more like speaking with forked tongue, speaking out of both sides of your mouth, a lesson in political expediency. The Obama administration has lost considerable Jewish support and, most likely, significant Jewish campaign contributions.

Allowing Joe Biden and Anthony Wiener to take the Israeli side feels like a too little, too late, a sop to Jewish voters, while Obama himself again refuses to take the Israeli side.



1 comment:

Kevin said...

The economic depression can be found in anybody. We all live stressed out by the situation in our country and that affects our children no matter what. They even say that children suffering from ADD probably had parents who were in a difficult moment at a certain point in the past. They then need a lot of Add therapy to help them go through the rough experience that the family might have undergone.
Kevin