American Jews on the left were beside themselves last week. Israel's Jews did something that utterly infuriated these American Jews: Israel's Jews overwhelmingly voted for a man of the right (or for other right-of-center parties). And not just any right-winger, but the only leader in the Western world to publicly differ from their hero, President Barack Obama.
To understand their fury, one must first understand that no one is more certain of their moral superiority than the left. This is true the world over, and among Jews it is particularly so. For the leaders of the American Jewish religious left (Reform, Reconstructionist, and now Conservative Judaism) Jews who are politically or socially conservative are a disgrace to Judaism, which, for left-wing Jews, is essentially the same as leftism. Both religious and secular Jews on the left regard Jewish conservatives as moral traitors to the Jewish people.
But certitude of their moral superiority is not the only reason American Jews on the left went ballistic last week. There are deeper, psychological, reasons.
Left-wing Jews live, work and socialize with left-wing non-Jews, and they believe that they are — to their great regret — identified with the Jewish state in the eyes of fellow leftists. Now, when Israel has left-wing governments — as it did in its first few decades and periodically after that — being identified with Israel is not problematic. But with Israel's Jews repeatedly electing conservative governments, American Jews on the left believe that they must make it as clear as possible that they in no way support a right-wing Israel. Their moral self-esteem needs it and their left-wing credentials need it. Just look at how Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a lifelong Democratic activist and fervent liberal, has been ostracized from polite left-wing company solely because he is an outspoken defender of Israel.
As American Jews on the left see it, their moral credibility in the eyes of fellow leftists in the news media, Hollywood, and academia is threatened by Israel. They must therefore make it abundantly clear that a) they not only do not support the right-wing government of Israel; they do not even support Israel at this time; b) they regard Benjamin Netanyahu as a vile human being; and c) they are ashamed — simply ashamed — of Israel's Jews for having voted for a right-winger.
Thus, to cite only a few examples:
In Time Magazine, Joe Klein wrote:
The great majority of Israel's Jews are bigots:
[Netanyahu] "won because he ran as a bigot. ... The public ratification of Netanyahu's bigotry [confirmed this]."
Most Israeli Jews are as contemptible as history's anti-Semites:
"A great many Jews have come to regard Arabs as the rest of the world traditionally regarded Jews."
Israel's very founding was steeped in evil:
"[Read about] the massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland."
These Israeli Jews embarrass me. Don't consider me one of them:
"This [victory] is shameful and embarrassing."
In Israel's Haaretz last week, left-wing American Jewish writer Peter Beinart actually advocated that America punish Israel and join the international fight against Israel:
"[This means] backing Palestinian bids at the United Nations. It means labeling and boycotting settlement goods. It means joining and amplifying nonviolent Palestinian protest in the West Bank. ... It means pushing the Obama administration to present out its own peace plan, and to punish — yes, punish — the Israeli government for rejecting it. It means making sure that every time Benjamin Netanyahu and the members of his cabinet walk into a Jewish event outside Israel, they see Diaspora Jews protesting outside."
In The Washington Post, Harold Meyerson, another American Jewish left-wing columnist, joined the hysteria with these calumnies against Netanyahu (and the equally reviled Republicans):
"At the rate he was going, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have called for stripping Israeli Arabs of the right to vote altogether."
"Bibi [is] henceforth the Jewish George Wallace."
"Perhaps Likud and the Republicans can open an Institute for the Prevention of Dark-Skinned People Voting."
Of course, as Charles Krauthammer, an American Jewish conservative, wrote last week, "There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state — with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted — only to be rudely rejected.
"This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008 — three astonishingly concessionary peace offers within the past 15 years. Every one rejected."
But none of that matters to the left. The left lives in John Lennon's song "Imagine." Thus, the left imagines that if Israel completely withdrew from the West Bank and allowed a Palestinian state to be created now, it would be completely unlike Gaza and completely unlike Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Libya; it would be a peaceful Arab Muslim island in the midst of the cruel sea of Arab Muslim countries that surrounds it.
But what if they were wrong and rockets then rained down on Israel?
The Kleins and the Beinarts and the Meyersons wouldn't retract a word. As I wrote some 30 years ago: "Being on the left means never having to say you're sorry."
Anyway, only those bigoted Israelis would pay the price.