The Great American-Jewish Cultural Divide
If anything could be said about America in the week following the election, it is that we are a deeply divided nation. Many streets in our cities have been filled with demonstrators holding signs such as “He’s Not My President”.
However, as with so much, the Jewish community in America is this, but in much sharper contrast. There are rabbis in the United States who have instructed their communities to “sit shiva because they are mourning for the loss of America”. (Shiva is the seven-day period after losing a close relative where one is not permitted to leave the house).
Many Jews have taken the entire Torah and distilled it down to the words, “Tikun Olam”, (repairing the world), and they feel that the most Jewish thing they could do is serving lunch to people in a homeless shelter on Christmas, or building at Habitat for Humanity.
Needless to say, among these American Jews, compassion for the plight of the Palestinians has superseded any identification with the struggles of the Jewish state to survive, and to protect their civilian population from a people where every opportunity has been taken, directly from the head of the Palestinian Authority on down, for the last 23 years, to demonize Jews and incite them towards terrorism.
I have a friend who survived Hitler Youth training, and he told me that the constant and steady incitement that the Palestinian children receive towards Jews is even worse than what he was exposed to.
Within Judaism, emphasis has always been placed on compassion. In the Hagaddah, the book we read on Passover, we are instructed that we should all feel as though we had been slaves in Egypt. Many of my coreligionists have, at this point, inserted into the Hagaddah something to say for the plight of the Palestinians.
A few years ago, at San Francisco State University, the rabbi wrapped herself in the Palestinian flag while dancing with the Torah.
Recently Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, one of the high priests of the liberal temple, was interviewed on Bill Maher’s show, called the election of Donald Trump, “a moral 9/11.”, And then, inferred that the election is worse, “Because we did this to ourselves.”
This is because for far too many American Jews, as has long been observed by Dennis Prager, myself and others, liberalism has become their religion. Many of my friends feel that a woman’s right to choose is actually part of the ten commandments. And they viewed this issue, and this issue alone as the most important issue of the election.
It is very difficult to argue with these people. This has become a raw, emotional issue for so many of my closest friends and relatives.
When I try to discuss other issues with them, such as Obama’s foreign policy and how it has negatively impacted on regional stability throughout the Middle East, and particularly on the survival of Israel, their eyes glaze over with boredom.
The Jewish community, and unfortunately, even much of the modern Orthodox community of which I am a part, has distanced itself much too dramatically from Israel. Here we are, so far away from the automobile rammings, knifings, shootings and bus bombings that Israel has had to endure, nestled in our cushy suburban communities, placing judgment on the Israelis because a partner hasn’t emerged among the Palestinians who either has the will or the ability to actually make peace, and a peace that will endure for generations.
Something mushy happened to the brains of many American Jews on September 23, 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House Lawn. If liberalism is their theology, this moment was their revelation at Sinai. And for most of the ensuing two decades since then, they have cherry-picked which information they will hear about the Palestinian -- Israeli conflict in order to justify their knee-jerk compassion for the Palestinian cause
However, for those of us who are deeply committed to the survival of Israel, it was difficult not to breathe a sigh of relief about how the elections turned out.
President Obama and his administration signaled his feelings about Israel and the Muslim world almost immediately upon assuming office, when on June 3, 2009, he made his first trip abroad to Cairo, and invited members of the Muslim Brotherhood to sit in the front row while Hosni Mubarak was still in power.
And when Mubarak was overthrown and Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected to into office, President Obama was quick to believe that one election is all it takes to make a democracy, to call him and assure him of America’s continued support. However, when millions of Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow the Morsi government and replace it with that more moderate government of General Abdel al-Sisi, it took months for Obama to signal his support.
President Obama’s administration totally ignored what was supposed to have been an ironclad commitment between Prime Minister Sharon and President George W. Bush before the Gaza withdrawal. This was specifically laid out in a letter on April 14,2004 that stated:
“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
This ironclad commitment was immediately erased as soon as the Obama administration assumed office. Somehow the American commitment of a former U.S. president slipped the mind of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she excoriated the Israeli prime minister for a full 45 minutes in March of 2010, for granting building permits in a suburb of Jerusalem.
During the Gaza War of 2014, when missiles were raining down on Tel Aviv from Gaza, suddenly President Obama decided to hold up the delivery of Hellfire missiles.
And then, in October of 2014, as reported in the Atlantic, a high-ranking official in the Obama White House said, “The thing about Bibi is, he is a chicken____”.
The lists of insults, invectives, and hurts goes on and on, despite the hundreds of times someone from the Obama administration would talk about “the ironclad commitment between t United States and Israel”. In fact, whenever I heard a White House or State Department official start a sentence like that, I would psychologically prepare myself for the next blow to Israel’s security or the damage that was about to be done to Israel’s perception in the United States or the world.
Eight years of living under the Obama administration has brought with us a rudderless world, where America has withdrawn from its rightful position as the world’s moral compass, leaving the Middle East in a devastating state of chaos.
By far, however, the greatest damage to Israel, America and the world has come through the Iranian nuclear deal, which has empowered and enriched Iran with $150 billion in unfrozen assets, and $17 billion in ransom payments. We have emboldened the Islamic Republic with an internationally recognized pathway for a nuclear bomb, and the administration has acted as the Iranian counsel for the defense every time it violates the deal.
This puts both America and Israel under direct existential threat, but of course Israel which is the low hanging fruit, under clear and present danger.
But at the General Assembly of Federations which I attended last week, President Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community, Chanan Weissman, spoke about what a great friend the president has been, because after, “He had the first seder in the White House and he isn’t even Jewish.”
So, for all of my liberal friends and relatives who are tearing their cloth and are in deep mourning because the election did not go their way, I ask you to please, look at the big picture.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, ENET, an unabashedly pro-Israel think tank and policy institute in Washington, DC