Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Shameful Double Standards on Israel

by SHELDON RICHMAN

The right-wing seemingly never misses a chance to go after Barack Obama for his collectivism and dislike of America. Yet when Obama embraced blood-and-soil tribalism openly and implied that America was not the “land of the free” for everyone, the right-wing apparently had nothing to say.

Why? The subject was Israel, and the right-wing shares Obama’s tribalist premises on that subject.

In his speech in Jerusalem on March 21, Obama said:

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations.  It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.  Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland.  That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.

The first half of the paragraph is full of fable and fabrication, though he’s right about suffering, prejudice, pogroms, and genocide. To understand what’s wrong with those sentences, consult Shlomo Sand’s two excellent books The Invention of the Jewish People and The Invention of the Land of Israel (both available for Kindle). Invention is not unique to the “Jewish people.” Many peoples and nations are the product of what Sand calls “mythistory.”

What I want to focus on in Obama’s statement is this:

And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea–to be a free people in your homeland.

Obama is saying that Jews need to live apart in Israel or they can’t be truly free. Think about the implications. Something about Jews makes it impossible for them to be really at home anywhere—including in what the right-wing (and presumably Obama) tout as the freest nation in the history of the world. So Jews need an ethno-religiously exclusivist state. That view amounts to a wholesale rejection of the western liberal tradition, which was inclusive and universalist and in which all people have the same rights without being seen as members of a tribe. Isn’t it the official line that this is what made America great? So why is Obama rejecting it? And why is the right-wing conspicuously silent?

Of course the right-wing can’t raise any objection because it is staunchly in Israel’s corner. (Forgive me for writing as though the right-wing is monolithic. It is not. Suffice it to say there are honorable exceptions.) So the right-wing is stuck (like Obama) with a contraction: Jews aren’t fully free and at home in what they claim is the greatest and freest country on earth. This seems to be an insult both to Jews and the United States, but no one will say it. (And people wonder why Chuck Hagel once called the Israel Lobby “intimidating”—before being intimidated into withdrawing the charge.)

Obama and the right-wing would find their position untenable if they had a few facts. Throughout Jewish history, few Jews have had any desire or perceived obligation to move to Israel. (Most of those who went wished to die there in order to be near Jerusalem when the messiah comes and raises the dead.) When the Zionist movement was launched in the late 19th century, most American Jews rejected it firmly; for thing, they couldn’t imagine a freer place than America. They also realized that there is no Jewish People—no race, no ethnic group, no tribe—but only many culturally diverse people worldwide who embrace (in different ways) to Judaism. Worldwide, Zionism was a minority position among Jews until World War II, at which point for most Jews it became a humanitarian cause on behalf of the survivors of the Nazi Judeocide.

Understand that Zionism did not begin as a humanitarian cause. The Zionist pioneers (many of whom were secular intellectuals) aspired to remake (invent) the “Jewish People” by getting them away from cities and towns and turning them into tillers of the soil in their own exclusivist nation.  (Theodor Herzl might well have been the first self-hating Jew.) The early Zionists wanted—indeed, expected—all Jews everywhere to take up permanent residence in Palestine. By that standard, Zionism has been an failure. Few Jews want to move to Israel, and many in Israel are emigrating. When the Soviet Union let Jews leave, they overwhelmingly wanted to move to the United States, but the Israeli government conspired with the U.S. government to push them to Israel against their will. (See my “Let the Soviet Jews Come to America” [1991].)

Hence the old joke that Zionism amounts to one Jew raising money from a second Jew to send a third (poor) Jew to Israel.

As one rabbi put it recently,

When we say “Next year in Jerusalem’” [during the Passover Seder] we mean that all Jews should actually be in Israel and in Jerusalem (not just as tourists!). We mean Jerusalem as it is ideally meant to be – with the Temple, the Sanhedrin and a Jewish Monarch. We’re still waiting. Even we here in Jerusalem say “Next year in Jerusalem!” [Emphasis added.]

On the basis of Jews’ demonstrated preference, the rabbi will have a long wait.

Obama’s words are a reminder of the shameful double standard favorable to Israel that many people hold when it comes to the “Jewish state’s” crimes and offenses. As David Bromwich asks, can you imagine Obama’s saying: “Shiite Islam found extraordinary success in many parts of the world but its dream of national realization has attained its full expression in Iran.”

The right-wing wouldn’t have been so silent.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va. He can be reached through his blog, Free Association.

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
stclair
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]