Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Nourishment for antisemitic tropes

Preferring or appearing to prefer a foreign nation state’s interests above one’s own is a recipe for persecution as Communist Party sympathizers learned during the witch hunts of the McCarthy era. In the emergencies of the Depression and the war against the Nazis when the Soviet Union was a key ally, the CP and its members could be seen as dubious or alien but more eccentric than dangerous.

Once times changed, however, and the Russkies became the threat against a backdrop of Armageddon, the party’s slavish obeisance to the line being handed down from on high in the Soviet Union became its Achilles’ heel, and the Rosenberg espionage trial was a not exactly surprising outcome. Opportunities always exist for a campaign against any group that can be painted as a domestic fifth column, and if you appear to express loyalty to a country other than the one you live in, you provide the demagogues with ammunition.

All of which makes the current posture of most of our political class towards the Middle East so reckless in terms of its impact on the well-being of American Jews. Now that the Israeli state openly uses its relatively small tail to wag the American dog, it is irresponsible for the incoming Republican lords and their Democratic colluders to place or appear to place that foreign state’s interests above those of the good old US of A.

Eric Cantor, the incoming House majority leader, recently announced that ‘the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration’. That is fairly standard boilerplate, but raised eyebrows for its timing, coming after Cantor met with Israeli PM Netan-yahoo and making him look like the Republicans would line up with a foreign state against the head of their own government.

Cantor is also pushing the bright idea of shielding future U.S. largesse to Israel by peeling it out of the category of ‘foreign aid’ so that the much-anticipated assault on government spending by his party can never affect this special foreign country. That is, while Cantor and Co. are arguing that we Americans cannot afford schools, hospitals, roads or investment for ourselves, taxpayers will still bear the burden of providing these nice things to people half a world away. Forever.

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), an agency of the European Union, once described a long-standing antisemitic stereotype—‘accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations’. Given this extremely dangerous history, why are our leaders playing with fire?

For now, things are all fine on the antisemitism front, and aside from a few random loonies, no one is advocating hostility toward Jews or spouting, in the EUMC’s words, ‘mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews’—unlike, say, the things you hear about Arabs, Muslims or Mexicans these days.

But that can change, and the role of countries here and there can and undoubtedly will shift and mutate as has occurred throughout human history. If, one day in the remote future, the interests of the Israeli state diverge from our own in palpable and concrete ways, can it possibly be good for the Jewish population of the U.S. that the unbalanced Christian majority has witnessed generations of special treatment of a country profoundly identified with a domestic religious minority?

One cannot be overly alarmed by the sight of U.S. politicians scrambling to shovel expensive favors to Israel. But our leaders’ vision of the future seems to be shortening by the day as if we were in an Einsteinian space capsule hurtling at near the speed of light away from our beleaguered planet. Facile pandering to the political demands of the moment can have nasty consequences, and someone should remind Cantor that in elevating the needs and wishes of an alien state above the allegedly perfidious occupant of the White House, he is sowing the seeds of an extremely toxic plant.

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