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Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, American Politics
Obsessing over Jews
By Alan Caruba
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
With the advent of the two most holy days of the Jewish lunar calendar, Rosh Hashanah, the "New Year", followed in ten days by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it's a good time to visit the subject of why Jews are universally the subject of hatred and fear.
A recent issue of The Economist had an article titled "Taming Leviathan" that purported to say the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) wielded such power politically in Washington that it lives "up to their critic's darkest fears."
Do these "darkest fears" merely reflect the growing anti-Semitism in Great Britain where the editorial offices of the magazine are located? Or are these the same dark fears that 300 million Arabs in 22 nations have of six million Israeli Jews because they have the temerity to want to live in a land their ancestors called home more than three millennia ago?
The world's obsession with this minority, reduced by six million in Europe in the last century's Nazi genocide, defies any rational explanation and is buried deep in the collective psyche of other religions.
AIPAC is impressive. Its 2007 annual policy conference brought 6,000 activists to Washington and was addressed by the most powerful people in Congress as well as the Vice President whose speech was titled, "The United States and Israel: United We Stand." Moreover, these days there are more Jewish members in Congress than ever before. There are 30 in the House of Representatives and 13 in the Senate. This suggests a level of trust that is significant.
A benign view of this suggests that Jews are so integrated in American society that their religion is an insignificant factor with regard to being elected. It was not always so. Prejudice has long been the bitter bread on which Jews have dined and explains why so many fled Europe and Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to make new lives in America.
Historically, Jews formed small, insular communities and, as often as not, this isolation was thrust upon them. There would always be those who would attack them for whatever reason they invented.
The result of that long history taught them an invaluable lesson. To protect their community it was necessary to find allies among those in the highest seats of power. As money-lenders, a profession that was initially forbidden to Christians, they acquired access and influence. As physicians they were widely sought after by caliphs and kings.
Over the centuries Jews developed a keen interest in the events of the world around them and through family and business interests had a good platform for communications on this topic. Jews gravitated toward professions that were devoted to order in a world filled with conflict. Steeped in the laws of the Old Testament, they were drawn to being lawyers. Concerned for health, they became physicians. Active in banking and commerce since ancient times, they became skilled in assessing degrees of risk.
They did not engage in conquest or banditry like the Vikings, the Mongols, Muslims, and other groups in former times. Instead, Judaism gave the world a very long list of men and women who transformed our understanding of it and ourselves. From Freudian psychology to Einstein's theory, in medicine, economics, and the arts, the benefits in just the last century have been extraordinary.
Most American Jews are politically liberal. Surveys reveal that 77% think the Iraq war was a mistake, compared with 52% of all Americans. Fully 87% of Jews voted for Democrats in 2006 and all but four of the Jews in Congress are Democrats. AIPAC was an early supporter of the invasion of Iraq, so AIPAC does not in fact reflect the dominant views of a majority of American Jews.
No other special interest group in Washington has ever experienced the annihilation of six million of its co-religionists in the last century, the deliberate genocide of Europe's Jewish population. For that reason alone, one can understand why AIPAC and other Jewish organizations would remain vigilant for the safety of Jews at home and throughout the world.
The suggestion, however, that AIPAC's influence is far greater than other comparable politically active organizations that prowl the corridors of Congress is more likely attributable to the perception of Jews as wielding great and unseen power in the world.
The placebo that all the problems of the Middle East would go away if there was no Israel is ridiculous. Americans should not forget the Palestinian's celebration of the 9/11 attacks that took place in the streets of Gaza on that day. The soldiers of Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah are Palestinians and yet Israel is home to many Arabs who enjoy full citizenship and some even serve in its Knesset.
Islam is and always has been at war with every other religion on Earth. Thus we are looking at what is likely to be a very long period of terrorism and warfare until the fanatical Islamic genii is put back in its bottle.
Jews occupy such a mythic position in the minds of non-Jews that it is easy to think of them as vastly more powerful and influential than they are.
In America and worldwide, Jews are small in numbers, frequently divided over the issues affecting them, still under siege in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere, and always in need of friends in high places.