Thursday, October 2, 2008

Political Analysis during the Days of Repentance

The period between the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. Jews are expected to reflect on their conduct over the past year in order to meaningful ask God for forgiveness for any sins committed on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

This year, introspection about one's Judaism invaribly leads to an internal debate about reconciling support for a U.S. presidential candidate with support for the State of Israel. For most Jews, strong support for Israel is the proverbial third rail of American politics. We argue about how, not whether, to support the independence of the Jewish State. As more than 60 years have transpired since the War for Independence, and Israel is still in a state of war with its neighbors, frustrations have grown to a boiling point and questions about the depth of commitment to Israel when balanced against claims of Palestinian Arabs often lead to heated exchanges over which candidate can be trusted.

There is particular concern about Barack Hussein Obama. The combination of the Senator's skin color, middle name, and choice of clergy have provoked much alarm among some in the Jewish community who believe that he cannot be relied upon to stand up for Israel against the pressure from Middle East trading partners. One of my closest friends, an Israeli, is convinced that Jews supporting Obama today are like Germans who welcomed the National Socialist party in the early 1930's. He envisions the same disappointment with the outcome. Similarly, my blood brother in Los Angeles, an active member of A.I.P.A.C., who shares my birthday and has been my best friend for 53 of our 56 years, and whose parents are both Holocaust survivors, does not believe that America can risk electing Barack Obama to the presidency. He does not believe the Senator is a strong enough propenent of Israel's right to exist as an independent Jewish state.

I reject notions that Barack Obama is anti-Semitic or that he is a closet Muslim (which, btw, is fodder for an entire additional blog: so what if he is?). My uncertainty over the impact of his election on the future of Israel is primarily driven by a respect for the opinions of my two friends and a gnawing concern that they could be right. The specter of unwitting Jews encouraging early success of Nazis is a strong one.

Nonetheless, there is no choice in my mind. My support for Senator Obama is no secret. I proudly wear Obama lapel pins and pass out extras in casual encounters to anyone expressing appreciation for the public statement. America is losing its ability to be of meaningful help to anyone as a result of the disasterous policies pursued by Bush/Cheney. McCain/Palin offer nothing but the same, particularly the ability to govern by slogans (Country First, Pitbull with Lipstick) in order to mask the absence of workable solutions to the mess we are in.

It comes down to balancing my fear about the repercussions of modifying U.S. foreign policy to encourage communication with Israel's adversaries with my hope that modifying U.S. foreign policy to encourage communication is the only way we can reassert ourselves as a world leader. Diplomacy is an approach to be embraced, both generally and, with respect to Israel, specifically.

Accordingly, I trust that this country's history of support for Israel, the lessons of the Holocaust, the good judgment of advisors upon whom President Obama will rely and the willingness of an Obama administration to address the underlying issues that foment the tensions and passions so threatening to Israel, will, on balance, be sufficient to protect the interests of the Jewish Homeland.

There is still the gnawing concern. Jews sharing my position need to be vigilant and vocal in a new administration should proposals for unacceptable policies appear. However, even the gnawing concern was lessened when a friend from my Rotary Club, an Israeli, sent me this link. I am not naive enough to think that one video suffices to eliminate all my concerns. However, the opinions contained in the piece are from Israelis who have given the matter some thought and, as frontline soldiers in Israel's quest for peace, have more at stake than I do.

During this time for introspection, I pray that God gives us the wisdom to make the right choices for the future of our country and of our allies. And I fervently pray that enough of us understand the difference between praying for wisdom to make choices and being told what to do by the same Source.

1 comment:

Howard Wolf said...

I find it incredible in view of Mr. Obama's associations that he can be seen as anything but a crypto-anti-Semite.

If a person who wished to enter the elementary teaching profession spent 20 years in the company of child sexual abusers, the school district to which he applied would be insane to hire him. If that same person spent 20 years in the company of drug dealers, it would be perfectly reasonable to suspect his morality.

Louis Farrakhan was the most prominent social-political figure in his Chicago ward and he expects us to believe that he had no contact with him.PLEASE!

I'm sorry; his associations for all those years speak more loudly than the pseudo prayer placed in the Jerusalem Wall and the kepah on his head.