A Republican win in an historic Democratic congressional district in New York and an art exhibit canceled, after public outrage, at a children’s museum in Oakland, California, seem to be unrelated events.
But the relationship between these events would be apparent to anyone who took note of the claim of Svein Sevje, Norwegian ambassador to Israel, that the lives of Norwegian children slaughtered by a crazed fanatic were worth more than the lives of Jewish children slaughtered by Palestinians. Or anyone who observed that, this month, the government of Turkey conspicuously separated Israeli passengers arriving at the Istanbul airport, had them strip searched, held them incommunicado for ninety-minutes, and then released them without explanation.
For Jews, it is the 1930s all over again. We are living in the early days of the garden of beasts, although this time the appellation is not about one country, but about much of the world.
The various campaigns against Israel have long ago crossed the line from legitimate criticisms of a state’s policies to demonizing the Jewish people. The signs are everywhere, from the rhetoric of the good people at the local “peace and justice” brigade, to the flagrant anti-Semitism at our colleges and universities. These institutions have decency and sensitivity codes to protect every identity group, but find anti-Semitism the one hate speech protected by the First Amendment.
When the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a Bay Area group known for its virulent hostility toward Israel, sponsored an “art show” titled “A Child’s View from Gaza” at Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA), the museum agreed to accept the exhibit. I have no doubt that if a group of yahoos decided to have a children’s film festival showcasing films that looked terribly like the racist The Birth of a Nation, it would have taken the museum directors six frames to decide on the inappropriateness of the subject matter, especially for a museum whose mission is to make all children feel safe and comfortable.
Yet, initially, the museum had no trouble accepting the exhibit, allegedly the work of Gaza’s children, 8-11 years-old, that depicted Israeli soldiers committing grotesque acts of violence on “innocent” Palestinians. The exhibit was a crude propaganda display. It attributed to Israeli soldiers what Palestinian terrorists routinely do: target children. There was Ma’alot with 22 children dead out of 25, the attack on the nursery at Kibbutz Misgav Am with 2 children dead out of 3, the Dolphinarium bombing with 21 teens dead, and the long inventory of children and young people purposely targeted at discos, fast-food restaurants, and malls. Palestinian terrorists conduct willful campaigns of genocide by deliberately targeting children and places where young people are known to congregate. The Palestinian Authority celebrates these murderers as heroes, names public places after them, and holds them up as role models. The propaganda display at MOCHA turned reality on its head.
And much of the “art work” seemed far and away too advanced for the age group. People who have some expertise in these matters saw the art as the work of much older and more sophisticated hands.
Would Jewish children have felt safe and comfortable viewing this one-sided exhibit? Would the Jewish community have been then permitted to launch an exhibit titled “The Art of Jewish Victims of Terrorism,” depicting the consequences of death and destruction wrought by suicide bombings and rockets? And would that have made Arab children feel safe and comfortable?
The exhibit was canceled because of the strong efforts of the Jewish community’s official organizations. Left-leaning to a fault, incredibly cautious about anything remotely looking like censorship, the community groups finally recognized that a line leading straight into the depths of perdition had been crossed. The Jew haters were hijacking a children’s museum for their filth. Those who had far too long tolerated the anti-Semitism of the Berkeley Daily Planet, the hostile environment on the Berkeley campus, and the transformation of the local Hillel into a propaganda mill for the pro-Palestinian campus groups now saw something that even for them had gone too far.
It reminded me of a scene in Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. When the secret police came for a village’s children, the usually compliant villagers were suddenly transformed into a murderous mob turning on the police.
The hatred spewed by the exhibition’s supporters on the museum’s Facebook page proves that this exhibition was never about art.
At last, the official Jewish community, the epitome of caution and restraint, ever optimistic to the point of being foolish, was mobilized. Neither the activists nor the people who militated against the community’s frequent stupidity and inertia could have engendered this reaction, but the gaggle of Israel bashers and Jew haters caused the official community, finally, to take notice.
Meanwhile, in New York’s 9th congressional district, many Jewish voters finally confronted the Obama administration’s lengthy record of attacking Israel. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, asked Jewish voters to send President Obama a message, and with Robert Turner’s win, it is apparent that they did.
Only 64% of Jews who contributed to Obama’s 2008 campaign say they will contribute to his 2012 campaign. And while conservatives quip that if Obama nuked Tel Aviv, he’d lose only 8% of the Jewish vote, it is clear that a pattern of demanding everything from Israel and nothing from the Palestinians has finally caused even some of the most die-hard Jewish Democrats to reject Obama.
In his first address to the UN General Assembly, Obama drew parallels between living conditions in Gaza and rocket attacks on Israel, causing one to wonder if he thought that living conditions in D.C.’s Northeast neighborhood would justify a Qassam rocket attack on Pennsylvania Avenue. The diplomatic and rhetorical abuses of Israel by this administration are long in number and amply documented. Only those Jews who are true believers will refuse to acknowledge that the man who spent 20 years at the foot of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and saw Rashid Khalidi as an objective voice on the Middle East is now executing Middle East policies consonant with those experiences.
Jews are not single issue voters. What is pushing many Jews over the edge into the arms of the Republicans is the worldwide growth of anti-Semitism as inspired by leftists and Islamic fundamentalists. That is why the “selection process” in the Istanbul airport, callously and purposely reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camp procedure, is going to make a lot of Jews for whom Israel is irrelevant rethink that point of view.
I have an acquaintance who mouths almost every tired cliché created by George Soros’ J-Street. She belongs to a synagogue where the J-Street message is embraced. She mouths these talking points with a smug pseudo-sophistication as if they were the product of an erudite belief system, but she is incapable of understanding in any detail much of what she says. She never voted Republican. And even if the Almighty himself were placed on the ballot with an “R” before his name, she wouldn’t vote for him. She talks endlessly about Israel taking risks for peace, but would cringe with fear if she knew her grandchildren got on the Chicago L and went to the south side after dark. She raged against the invasion of Gaza and lamented each Palestinian casualty. I never once heard her show an ounce of compassion or concern for a Jewish victim of either a suicide attack or rocket launched from Gaza. They were beyond her realm of concern or the ability to get status affirmation from her liberal friends.
Israelis call these American Jews “unJews.” They will follow Obama like lemmings. They are more concerned with killing a fetus than saving the life of a living fellow Jew. They smugly refer to Evangelical Christians as “American Hezbollah.” They think Islamophobia is a greater problem than anti-Semitism. They are attentive to politics, but only to what reaffirms their liberal belief system. But one day their grandchildren might fly into an airport someplace in the Muslim world, be separated from everyone else, stripped naked, held incommunicado, and treated, as in Istanbul, like they don’t exist.
The Muslims and the virulent anti-Semites never cease to give me hope.