July 5, 2009
'Them Jews' of Obama: From Kvell to Kvetch
"Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me."
That's the complaint of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the anti-Semitic, radical minister who was Barack Obama's spiritual mentor for two decades. In other words, a nefarious group of people around Obama are forcing the president to behave contrary to his interests and instincts. Such are the Sauron-like powers ascribed to Obama advisors who, having eaten of the fruit of the matzo, now control the president and vast swaths of the nation.
"Them Jews" around Obama have been the object of much attention, especially eliciting the adoration of secular Jewish liberals who comprise roughly half of the American Jewish community of five million. One observer from the Jewish counterpart to Reuters was moved to kvell (Yiddish for "to feel delighted and proud to the point of tears") during the presidential campaign "am I the only one noticing that Obama and Biden are not so much assembling staff, as gathering a minyan?" A minyan is a quorum required for Jewish public worship.
But pride has turned to alarm as even some liberal American Jews are getting it: the Obama administration, including "them Jews," is uniquely hostile to Israel. For the first time since its founding, Israel is viewed by a U.S. president as the impediment to peace in the Middle East. And "them Jews" around him are working hard to make sure the anti-Israel views of the president are carried out in policy. Rahm Emanuel, for example, the president's Jewish chief of staff, has been reported by Richard Baehr to be behind the effort to force Israel to submit to Palestinian demands while the president cultivates Arab despots. And there is ample evidence that Obama, assisted by his minyan, will put more pressure on a Jewish state that is anathema to his radical allies.
As a result, the attitudes of American Jews are changing, however slowly. Kvell has turned to kvetch (the wonderful Yiddish word for whine or complain) as even the Jewish press, which spent the past year vying with Newsweek and mainstream television networks for a place at the Obama altar, realizes the truth of one of those rules around which God centered his scripture: "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." One prominent Jewish weekly did not need the Weather Channel or Winston Churchill to note the gathering storm at the six month mark of this radical administration, asking frankly "Will U.S. Jews Stand With Israel -- Or Obama?"
Reality beckons. "Them Jews", it turns out, are a collection of individuals afflicted by the overweening pride and ambition of much of inside-the-beltway Washington, but more so. And for whom Judaism is not a description of a special relationship with God, but a tool to leverage in the pursuit of power.
They share a single, irreligious characteristic: a self-centered worldview that focuses upon personal ambition, gain, and the applause of the media and cultural elite. "Them Jews" are not so much a sinister cabal as a motley assortment of garden-variety, leftist politicos. Forget spirituality and the splendid notion of "tzedakah", the Hebrew word that denotes the doctrine of adherence to moral principles that Jews introduced to civilization. Instead, we have a combination of John Dean and Sammy Glick (What Makes Sammy Run), leavened with the charm of Martha Stewart.
The distinguishing feature of "them Jews" is not their Judaism; rather, it is the successful pursuit of personal power. Power is what motivates David Axelrod, whose manipulative abilities were approvingly described by the New York Times as his "unique West Wing kind of way" (the Grey Lady and Hollywood, a liberal twofer); Rahm Emanuel, who the Times compared to "a different Emanuel" and the United Church of Christ hinted may be "a higher power" (classic liberal, not Jewish or Christian theology: Rahm as Jesus or, perhaps, part of the Trinity with the boss a Newsweek editor declared "sort of God" (and, perhaps, Michelle); and Dennis Ross, an adaptable Middle East policy butterfly flitting from administration to administration, whose latest tome on the Middle East does not recognize anti-Semitism, preferring instead to use the expression "ideological animus," and referring to the predilection of Arab despots to slaughter Jews as "very troubling" (rather Obama-esque).
Obama's Jews are nothing if not flexible. That's what happens when your moral compass is set to True Obama. You want them to be for Israel? Dennis Ross assured Florida Jews during the campaign that "preventing Iran from going nuclear is a very high priority" for an Obama White House, that the candidate's love of Israel was a "commitment of the head and heart." After the election, however, Ross was a key player in developing a policy that culminated with the announcement of Obama, as head of "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world," that he would not oppose Iran's development of nuclear energy.
Rahm Emmanuel worked his Jewish connections with the kind of single-minded intensity that the Democrat left showed in attacking them. He assured the largest pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that "the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever." The passing of forever was marked by the New York Post six months later in "Israel Betrayed: President Obama Is Treating Our Friend Like A Fiend, And Turning Public Opinion Against An Ally". End of story.
David Axelrod cemented his Jewish credentials by engineering an image of himself as a friend of the underdog. He arranged adoring profiles such as this one by the reliably left Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, which noted that Axelrod "was smitten by John F. Kennedy, then saw his hero reborn" in Obama.
But the real Axelrod was simply another cynic -- albeit a talented one -- on the political scene. He had no apparent moral qualms, for example, about helping Michelle Obama steer poor patients away from her employer, the University of Chicago Medical Center, which then cornered the market on high-margin private insurance patients. In what has become a classic Axelrod approach, he used a public relations campaign to misrepresent the program to the community, assuring them that inner city residents would have better care by avoiding the best hospital in Chicago. They didn't -- but so what? Axelrod won.
He used the same approach with American Jewish organizations. I'm a Jew, he assured them. The result, as one blogger -- self-described as a purveyor of Talmudic analysis and liberal opinions -- put it, was to empower "a (real) Jew" who can be trusted -- read my lips -- with the best interests of the Jewish community. The prestigious Jewish Daily Forward chronicled the joy: "At Jewish Inaugural Gala, Axelrod ‘Kvells'", while Axelrod reaffirmed "Obama's willingness to work closely with Israel upon taking office."
The election won, however, he did to the American Jewish community and Israel what he did to Chicago inner city residents: turned around and pressured Israel to submit to the demands of Iran, Hamas and other terrorists and thugs in the Middle East. Obama declared Israel to be the chief obstacle to peace and Axelrod, true to form, used his public relations prowess to pressure dissenters in the Jewish community. It was evident, as one Israeli newspaper noted, that Axelrod was behind the clash between the administration and Israel.
So what have we learned? If you are Israel, last names do not matter. Classic American Jewish street creds do not matter. Morality, a dedication to Judeo-Christian traditions, does matter -- in other words, "do what is right and good in the Lord's sight," as Moses (a hopeless moralist who would have never made it into the Obama inner circle) put it. And strength matters. Israel must stay strong and resist an administration that embraces totalitarian thugs and murderers (who are, as Dennis Ross might put it, "humanitarian-challenged").
And there is now another Yiddish word for what Israel and its supporters might expect from "them Jews" of Obama: bupkis (rough translation: "goat droppings" -- go figure!).
Stuart H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is a former newspaper and retail executive. He is on the faculty at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.