A 'conversation' about race in AmericaAs part of an interview in FrontPageMagazine, former Bush administration diplomat Elliott Abrams is asked whether he believes there's anti-Semitism in the Obama administration's lack of support for Israel.
I don't think anti-Semitism has anything to do with it at all, and some of the key people promoting Obama's policy are Jews. No, that isn't the explanation. I think it is partly ideology, once again: the old Leftist view that Israel is the source of the world's troubles and is an aggressive, militarized state. Support for Israel in the Democratic Party and among liberals and leftists is far lower than it is among Republicans and conservatives.Bishop E.W. Jackson, whose background is similar in many ways to Obama's, disagrees.
The Right is simply more pro-Israel than the Left. Obama also seems to believe that the Arab position regarding Israel is the result of bad conduct on Israel's part, and will change if that conduct (such as settlement activity) stops. But in truth the real problem isn't any particular conduct by Israel, it is the fact that most Arabs have yet to make peace with the idea that Israel exists, and has a right to exist forever, as a Jewish state in the middle of the Middle East.
The President also seems to think that distancing the US from Israel will gain us points with Muslims around the world. That's an ignoble position-- abandoning an ally in the hope that some other people will smile at us more. It will also not work.
A final part of it I attribute to the accident of who are some of the personalities involved. Rahm Emanuel seems to think he knows Israel very well, and that the way to treat that country and its democratically-elected government is the way he treats all opponents in politics: by attacking and attacking. I have little doubt he urged the President to pick a fight with Prime Minister Netanyahu early and publicly, which the President then did. And George Mitchell seems to be clinging to the view he expressed in the Mitchell report of 2001, that "settlement expansion" is an absolutely critical issue in moving toward peace in the Middle East.
The question is whether Obama, given his Muslim roots and experience in Farrakhan's Chicago, shares this antipathy for Israel and Jewish people. Is there any evidence that he does. First, the President was taught for twenty years by a virulent anti-Semite, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In the black community it is called "sitting under". You don't merely attend a church, you "sit under" a Pastor to be taught and mentored by him. Obama "sat under" Wright for a very long time. He was comfortable enough with Farrakhan – Wright's friend – to attend and help organize his "Million Man March". I was on C-Span the morning of the march arguing that we must never legitimize a racist and anti-Semite, no matter what "good" he claims to be doing. Yet a future President was in the crowd giving Farrakhan his enthusiastic support.I see this issue as asking whether the cart or the horse came first. Is the President is a radical leftist because he is an anti-Semite, or is he an anti-Semite because he is a radical leftist?
The classic left wing view is that Israel is the oppressive occupier, and the Palestinians are Israel's victims. Obama is clearly sympathetic to this view. In speaking to the "Muslim World," he did not address the widespread Islamic hatred of Jews. Instead he attacked Israel over the growth of West Bank settlements. Surely he knows that settlements are not the crux of the problem. The absolute refusal of the Palestinians to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is the insurmountable obstacle. That's where the pressure needs to be placed, but this President sees it differently. He also made the preposterous comparison of the Holocaust to Palestinian "dislocation".
Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities. He sees the world and Israel from a Muslim perspective. His construct of "The Muslim World" is unique in modern diplomacy. It is said that only The Muslim Brotherhood and other radical elements of the religion use that concept. It is a call to unify Muslims around the world. It is rather odd to hear an American President use it. In doing so he reveals more about his thinking than he intends. The dramatic policy reversal of joining the unrelentingly ant-Semitic, anti-Israel and pro-Islamic UN Human Rights Council is in keeping with the President's truest – albeit undeclared – sensibilities.
The cover picture of the January 31, 1969 issue of Time Magazine has been embedded in my mind ever since it came out. The feature story is here. In January 1969, Richard Nixon had just taken office as the President of the United States after narrowly defeating Hubert Humphrey. America's cities and college campuses had seen riots over race and the Vietnam War in 1968; the Democratic convention in Chicago that summer had been one massive riot.
THE Jew and the Negro would seem to have a great deal in common—in some ways more than America's other minorities. They share a tragic past, part of which is a history of persecution at the hands of a white Christian majority. As the traditional outsider, the Jew can feel a special sympathy for other outsiders. His skin is white, and if he wishes he can become assimilated as no black man can. But the Jew, too, has at times known a sense of separateness and racial difference that could be as marked as a dark skin. Thus, theoretically, the black and the Jew are spiritual allies—or should be.Barack Obama was 7 years old in 1969 (I was slightly older). He was the son of a (non-Jewish) white woman and a black man. His white mother and grandparents held views of black people that were much closer to the way many Jews saw them than to the way the larger white community saw black people. Could the black community's contempt for their white supporters have influenced Obama's perception of Jews?
But while there is much that binds these two peoples, there is also much that keeps them apart. On the scale of achievement in the U.S., the Jews rank as the most successful minority, the blacks as the least. Increasingly aware of this disparity, the U.S. Negro has come to view it with envy and hostility. Tragically, the alliance of black and Jew is beginning to dissolve.
Many blacks think that they must now reject all of their white friends—the Jew among them—in order to discover themselves. As a result, an ominous current of anti-Semitism has appeared to widen the breach between them and the Jew. While this ancient virus infects only a small fraction of the country's 22 million Negroes, the Jew knows from bitter experience that it can spread with distressing rapidity. At the same time, some latent anti-black feelings have come to the fore among Jews—symbolized by the half-casual, half-contemptuous Yiddish reference to the "schvartzes" (blacks).
New York City has become the center of black antiSemitism, although it exists in almost every urban center where large communities of Negroes and Jews intermingle. New York has more Jews (1.8 million) and more blacks (1.5 million) than any other city in the world. The predominantly Negro areas of Harlem and Brooklyn's Ocean Hill-Brownsville were once solidly Jewish; now the Jewish presence is signified by absentee storekeepers and landlords who, fairly or not, are regarded by the Negro as colonial exploiters. More often than not, the black child is taught—in a crumbling, inadequate public school—by a Jewish teacher. More often than not, the hated neighborhood welfare center, to the black a symbol of indifferent, domineering white bureaucracy, is staffed by Jewish social workers. "If you happen to be an uneducated, poorly trained Negro living in the ghetto," says Bayard Rustin, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, "you see only four kinds of white people—the policeman, the businessman, the teacher and the welfare worker. In many cities, three of those four are Jewish."
In an atmosphere of mutual antagonism, provocations have multiplied. Almost every week brings a new incident. Over radio station WBAI-FM, a Negro schoolteacher named Leslie Campbell recently read a poem dedicated to Albert Shanker, the Jewish president of the U.F.T. It began: "Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulke on your head. /You pale-faced Jew boy—I wish you were dead." The teachers' union has filed a formal protest with the Federal Communications Commission. [I specifically remembered the 'poem' and felt compelled to include it. CiJ]
As an aside, that's the kind of 'conversation about race' that should have been had last summer - not a self-righteous justification for sitting in Jeremiah Wright's church listening to anti-Semitic diatribes for 20 years. Racial tensions in America aren't the exclusive problem of white people.
Moreover, note this from the excerpt quoted above: "On the scale of achievement in the U.S., the Jews rank as the most successful minority, the blacks as the least. Increasingly aware of this disparity, the U.S. Negro has come to view it with envy and hostility." And consider this from later in the article:
More recently, civic tempers flared over the catalogue for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new photographic exhibit called "Harlem on My Mind" (TIME, Jan. 24). The introduction, written by a 16-year-old Negro schoolgirl, reads in part: "Behind every hurdle that the Afro-American has yet to jump stands the Jew who has already cleared it, Jewish shopkeepers are the only remaining 'survivors' in the expanding black ghettos. The lack of competition allows the already exploited black to be further exploited by Jews." Mayor Lindsay quickly denounced the catalogue as another example of racism, and the embarrassed museum hastened to add an insert disclaiming bias.*[That footnote reads "* The exhibit was also picketed by Negroes who charged that it depicted only "the white man's distorted, irrelevant and insulting" view of Harlem." CiJ]
Could that kind of thought have evolved into President Obama's belief about America's lack of exceptionalism? If no one competes, then no one stands out and no one is exceptional and those who cannot or will not compete are no worse off than those who can and do. Could that be why Barack Obama sees America as no better than Libya or Iran or Venezuela or Cuba?
It gets better. The reason Time called the confrontation 'tragic' was that Jews had been at the forefront of the civil rights movement just a few years before. I didn't even have to look at the article to tell you that - it stuck so strongly in my mind that I remember reading it 40 years ago.
Unquestionably, the anti-Semitic remarks now being spewed out by Negroes are different in mood and intent from the casual insults of the past. One reason for the changing quality of black bigotry is the changed relationship of the Negro to the ghetto. Another is the shift that has taken place within the civil rights movement, which now excludes the Jews who helped create it.And then there was Israel. Yes, 40 years ago, the black community was largely on the Arabs' side. And 40 years ago, it made as little sense as it does today.
Until a decade ago, the Negro could still regard the Jew as a fellow victim of white society. Now there is a widespread feeling that the oppressed has become the oppressor, and that the Jew has become part of the white Establishment. "The mood of the black ghetto is that the dominant WASP gave the Negro franchise to the Jewish community," says Daniel Watts, editor of the radical monthly Liberator. In light of their past brotherhood, the Negro is all the more outraged by what he feels is the betrayal by the Jew. "We expect more of him, and when it's not forthcoming that love turns to rage," says Watts. "The Jew has been a hypocrite. The liberal Jew has been in the forefront telling the South to integrate, while he lived in lily-white communities in the North. That hurts more than a Wallace, who is at least honest."
The Jew, argues Bayard Rustin, is the victim of the Negro's love-hate syndrome; the black man tends to vent his anger and frustration on those who have helped him most. The Jew has contributed far more to the cause of civil rights than the gentile. Partly, Jewish liberalism toward the Negro was a product of self-interest: if the Negro could be repressed, then so could Jews. But the Jewish willingness to help others also stems from the abiding generosity of the Hebrew religious tradition—though less well-off Jews sometimes feel far too threatened to share such altruistic sentiments. Jewish philanthropists were among the whites who helped Negro leaders establish the N.A.A.C.P. and the Urban League. The honor roll of CORE and S.N.C.C. martyrs includes the names of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, two Northern Jews who were assassinated by whites in Mississippi on June 21, 1964.
The civil rights movement welcomed white allies and could not have existed without them. What has now become the black revolution—separatist, militant and proud—has no use for the white man, especially the white man who is also a Jew. Belsen and Dachau are scars upon the Jewish memory; black nationalists deride them as evidence of Jewish submission. Says Psychologist Nathan Caplan of the University of Michigan : "The raw edge of the new anti-Semitism is not exploitation by Jewish merchants. Instead, it is almost an unwillingness to act pacifically like the Jews in Germany. Maybe they feel that the Jews set a bad example."
Another factor in the black extremists' anti-Semitism is their rather paradoxical support of the Arab nations in their struggle with Israel. Moslem traders were initially responsible for selling Africans into New World slavery but Arabs, though technically Caucasian, are often dark-skinned—therefore, soul brothers by adoption. Virtually every extremist leader has championed the Arab cause, even though Israel has contributed far more to the development of black Africa than all its Middle Eastern enemies put together. This paradox gains modest emphasis from the fact that a small minority of American Jews claim Ethiopian descent and that a much larger number of U.S. Negroes, perhaps as many as 350,000, claim and observe the Jewish faith. [If you're wondering why the Ethiopian Jews in Israel aren't mentioned, Ethiopian Jews didn't start coming to Israel until the 1980's. CiJ].To understand where Barack Obama came from and where the tensions between the Jewish and black communities came from, I urge you to read the whole thing.
Blacks criticize Israel in rhetorical terms that contain far more passion than logic. In The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, for example, Negro Author Harold Cruse condemns Israel as part of a world conspiracy against the black. "The emergence of Israel as a world-power-in-minuscule meant that the Jewish question in America was no longer purely a domestic minority problem," he writes. "A great proportion of American Jews began to function as an organic part of a distant nation-state."
Many blacks are not anti-Semites and many Jews are racially prejudiced against blacks. Neither of our communities is perfect. But as the Time article from 1969 shows, Barack Obama's obsession with Israel and his contempt for the American Jewish community and its institutions fits the classic anti-Semitic patterns of the black radicals of the late 1960's, and his presence in Jeremiah Wright's church, which goes back to when he had just finished school, all but confirms it. The radical left ideology came later as the intellectual justification for the core hatred that already existed.
I agree with Bishop Jackson. Obama is an anti-Semite first and a radical leftist second. I won't go into the (Jewish) 'personalities involved' cited by Elliott Abrams - this post is too long as it is - but you can get some of my thoughts on them here.