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Ron Radosh

Michelle Goldberg’s Jewish Problem, and Ours

July 29th, 2011 - 10:04 am

Michelle Goldberg, a writer for The Forward, The Daily Beast, Tablet Magazine and other publications, has emerged as one of the most significant examples of the warped leftist culture that seems to engulf some American Jewish writers and journalists. She has a Jewish problem, one that she repeats in different ways in article after article — namely, that to survive and prosper, American Jews must be true to the Left, move away from support to Israel, and above all, show their fealty to political correctness.

Writing at The Daily Beast, Goldberg penned what is perhaps her single worst and most egregious column. Purporting to be her reflections on what made Anders Breivik of Norway engage in his act of terror, Goldberg attributes his actions to none other than his supposed belief in Zionism! She makes the mistake of taking his incoherent ramblings based on a mix and match of the words of those on the Left, Right and Center, and singles out some of what he says as proof for her allegations. She does not understand, as the historian Michael Ledeen writes, that in fact Breivik,

is the sort of fascist who believes in the myth of a Golden Age that must be restored, and vaingloriously sees himself a member of the elite chosen by history to defend the mythical West.

Instead, Goldberg insists that he is a Zionist, pro-Israel to the core. “In European politics,” she writes, “fascism and an aggressive sort of Zionism increasingly go together.” This is not surprising, since Goldberg also believes that in many ways, the current Netanyahu government is itself increasingly fascist, hence the appeal to people like Breivik.

The new alliance between Israel and Europe’s neo-Nazis, she says, takes place because both the Western fascists and the Israelis are both Islamophobic, believing for some strange reason that radical Islam poses a threat to Western values of democracy and freedom (which of course, the fascists do not share, something she ignores.) “Muslims,” Goldberg claims,

have come to occupy the place Jews once held in the reactionary European imagination; they’re seen as agents of an apocalyptic conspiracy that threatens Europe’s very survival.

Is the fear at all rational? As I noted yesterday, Goldberg ignores the kind of evidence writers like Bruce Bawer have immaculately produced, showing that indeed, the threat is nothing like the fictional threat Jews held in the imagination of Hitlerites in the 1920s and ’30s.

At this point, Goldberg offers the single most perverse paragraph of all. She writes:

The specter of the coming caliphate has crowded out the old myth of the scheming elders of Zion. Naturally, the self-described agents of the counter-jihad see the enemy of their enemy as an ally. It’s the inverse of the anti-Semitic alliance between Hitler and Haj Amin el-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem.

 There was, of course, no grand conspiracy as developed in the forged Protocols of The Elders of Zion, while, the wish for a restored caliphate has, as numerous scholars have shown, been a very real dream that motivates many Islamofascists. Moreover, she trivializes the meaning and import of the alliance that existed between the Nazis and the titular Palestinian movement chieftain, Haj Amin el-Husseini. As Jeffrey Herf has shown in his recent remarkable book about the Mufti and the Nazis, the ideology of the Palestinian movement was forged in alliance with Hitlerism, as the Mufti developed a blend of Koranic theology with fascism to motivate a Palestinian nationalist movement devoted to destroying the Jews.

Indeed, that ideology thrives today in Husseini’s descendants, who continue to adhere to the tradition and the Islamic and Nazi ideas he developed in the war years. It includes demonization of Jews, denial of the Holocaust, hatred of any Jewish state in supposedly Arab land, and a desire to cleanse the world of Jews based on both reiteration of classic German anti-Semitism combined with Islamic theology. While this strain of anti-Semitism lives on and is extremely dangerous and even ignored, Goldberg warns instead of what she calls an actual alliance between fascists and Zionists.

As she argues: “But alliances are necessarily two-way. If the European far right is increasingly cozy with Israel, it’s in part because Israel itself has lurched to the right and now shows increasing tolerance for fascism.” Here is a country with gay rights, Arabs in the Knesset, a thriving democratic debate, scores of small factions of all kind, confronted with an Islamic theocracy-Hamas-threatening to destroy it from its very borders. And yet, Goldberg points not to the very real threat posed by radical Islam to Israel, but to the invitation to Israel of the Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders.

She even quotes an editorial in the Jerusalem Post which she calls “shocking,” because its editors made the obviously sound judgment that “while there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.” Evidently Goldberg cannot read clearly, since the editorial says the view is valid, and is not one limited to extremists of the far Right.

Goldberg might well have looked at the column appearing in the leftist Israeli daily Haaretz by Alexander Yakobson. As he points out, Russian Jews who migrated to Israel are now playing a retrogressive role in Israeli society, one that stems from the baggage of their life in the Soviet years. Hence, they are trying to prohibit freedom of expression. Nevertheless, Yakobson points out,

For decades now, we’ve been hearing ad nauseam that democracy is in danger and fascism is at the door. And throughout this time, there were more than a few negative, worrying omens and developments that justified those warnings. But there is no doubt that Israel today is a much freer and more democratic state than it was in the 1970s, when the fad of foreseeing the imminent end of Israeli democracy first appeared.

Again, Goldberg obviously has little acquaintance with what fascism is. Like others on the Left, she tosses the term out to use in opposition to Israeli policy of which she disapproves.

In her second column yesterday, this one at Tablet, Goldberg reassures leftist Jews that they have no cause to worry; Jews will never desert the Democratic Party and vote Republican. She is probably right about that. As Dennis Prager wrote in a column arguing why they should do just that, since, in all things that Jews should be concerned about as Jews—such as the ritual religious observance of male circumcision, there is a “threat to Jews posed by the Left.” As Prager writes:

Of course, not everyone who is on the left- and certainly not the traditional liberal- is an enemy of Jews. But aside from Islamists, virtually all the enemies of the Jews are on the left.

Indeed, the campaign to delegitimize Israel, one in which Goldberg is involved although she probably does not realize it, comes entirely from the ranks of the Left. The news media, the universities and the magazines “drum into the minds of their students, readers, listeners and viewers that Israel is one of the worse societies on earth.” And this anti-Israel propaganda is what Goldberg carries on, in the name of sanity. As Prager writes:

Yet, most American Jews still walk around thinking that Christians and conservatives are their enemies when, in fact, they are the best friends Jews have in the world today. From the present conservative Canadian government, which is probably the most vocal pro-Israel country at present, to every major conservative talk-show host in America (including the fiercely pro-Jewish and pro-Israel Glenn Beck, who has been libeled as an anti-Semite), to the leader of Holland’s Party for Freedom and member of the Dutch parliament, Geert Wilders (one of the most eloquent pro-Israel voices in Europe today), to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page — the Right is where the Jews’ friends are.

Of course, to Goldberg Beck is an anti-Semite and fascist, as of course, is Geert Wilders. To prove his point, in her Tablet article, Goldberg seeks to deny that as various polls show- not just conservative ones- enough of a Jewish constituency is drifting away from Obama that although most Jews will probably vote for him in 2012, in key areas like Florida, enough Jews have outspokenly noted their grave disappointment about Obama’s Middle Eastern policy. In key contested areas in which a large Jewish constituency votes, even a small number of Jewish defectors from the Democratic ticket could result in a Republican presidential candidate winning the state in question.

And, a few days ago, former Mayor Ed Koch of New York City endorsed the Republican candidate for election to the Congressional seat formerly held by Anthony Weiner. Koch argues on the grounds that Obama and the Democrats must be taught a lesson by Jews, who should put into the House a pro-Israeli Republican rather than a Democrat who stands by Obama’s anti-Israeli policies.

Goldberg instead uses the shibboleth that Evangelicals only support Israel because they want to convert Jews to Christianity before the end times, and liberal Jews “don’t trust people who want to turn their country into a Christian nation, even if these people swear to protect the Jewish state.” Goldberg seems unawares that not all evangelicals are motivated by the desire to convert Jews. Reverend Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, for example, makes it quite clear that their dedication to Israel is not motivated by the dream of conversion.

What if  the ban on circumcision introduced as legislation in San Francisco had passed? (Yesterday the Appeals Court removed it from the ballot) Would turning Jews into criminals because they had their children circumcised get Goldberg  to accept the very real  threat to Jews that comes from the precincts of the Left?

When, she asks, did Jews ever vote in a significant amount for a Republican? She answers that the largest percentage of Jews did so in 1920, when Warren G. Harding won the presidential race in a landslide. But even then, she writes, while 42 percent of American Jews voted for Harding, a significant 38 percent voted for the Socialist Party candidate, Eugene V. Debs.

That figure tells us something significant about Jews and the Left, although she does not realize it. Goldberg does not break down which Jews in which states voted for Harding. I suspect that it was already settled German Jews from earlier periods of immigration who were voting Republican. Most likely recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia, living in the Jewish ghetto in the Lower East Side of New York, most of them readers of the Yiddish socialist daily The Forward, are the ones who voted for Debs. They came to America finding only poverty and lack of work outside of the sweatshops in the garment trade, and they came to the new country with their anarchist and socialist ideologies intact.  Now, their ancestors are generations removed—either in the middle or upper middle class, or among the very rich. Yet, the legacy of those first years of their grandparents’ life in America motivates their vote, no matter what their own situation.

Goldberg continues to complain about the support of Israel by Christian Evangelicals. She is worried that their desire is to destroy Judaism and gain converts to Christianity, and hence she believes what most American Jews worry about over everything else is Evangelical support for Israel. She writes:

That fact is, many American Jews might consider voting for “someone else,” but only a fraction would consider voting for the type of person that the GOP is likely to nominate. American Jews have shown, again and again, that they care more about social justice and a defense of American pluralism than a zealous defense of Israeli maximalism. They might get anxious about liberal criticism of Israel, but this anxiety tends to pale beside their abhorrence of the Christian right.

One problem is Goldberg’s concept of “maximalism.” Anyone who heard Reverend Hagee at AIPAC’s convention a few years ago found that he received a huge ovation from the entire audience, many of them undoubtedly liberals and Democrats. They did not find his reasons for support of Israel maximalist; nor did they seem upset that they had CUFI actively lobbying Congress in support of Israel. Indeed, the AIPAC delegates seem pleased that more Christians were coming to Israel’s defense.

Of course, I suspect that Goldberg considers Obama’s views on Israel as pro-Israel, and subscribes herself to the phony J-Street mantra of being pro-Israel and pro-peace. And as one would expect, her proof of the Jewish vote staying with Obama is the emergence of Michele Bachmann, whom at this point, is more than unlikely to be the Republican nominee for President. Hence, she hopes for a Romney-Bachmann ticket, which as she knows, would make it certain that urban secular Jewish voters would not vote the Republican ticket.

As long as liberal American Jews read and take the advice of someone like Michelle Goldberg, who shows that her dislike for conservatives motivates her far more than any fear that Islamic radicalism and the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb gives very real cause for concern to Jews all over the world, those Jews should not be surprised when a candidate they vote for, like Barack Obama, moves to “throw Israel under the bus.” The only way that situation will change is if American Jews take the advice of the old 1940s Zionist leader Abba Hillel Silver, who argued that Jews should be independent, not tied to one political party, and if a Republican candidate is better, they should vote for that person.

Until American Jews show that kind of wisdom, they deserve getting bad advice from the Michelle Goldbergs in the media.

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