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January 16, 2004 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-16

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OTHER VIEWS

Over The Edge

Philadelphia

n the 1948 movie adapted
from Howard Lindsay and
Russell Crouse's Pulitzer
Prize-winning play State of
the Union, a political consultant played
by Adolfe Menjou set a character played
by Katherine Hepburn straight about
American politics.
When asked what was the difference
was between the Democrats and his own
Republicans, Menjou succinctly
summed up the situation: "They're in,
and were out."
A lot about American politics has
changed since then, but that little bit of
wisdom remains intact.
There's no better indication of this
than the furor over MoveOn.org a high-
ly publicized Web site-activist group
dedicated to opposing the war in Iraq
and vilifying the current occupant of the

White House.
No scandal that can be remotely tied
to President George W. Bush and no bit
of news that can be construed as proof
that the war on terror is being lost — or
shouldn't be fought at all — are omitted
from the site.
But the name of the site reminds us
that one's attitude toward the need to
keep the fires of rabid partisan debate
well stoked depends on who's in office.
MoveOn was, after all, founded in
1998. Its purpose was to encourage
Americans to avoid thinking too much
about the scandals associated with Bush's
predecessor. MoveOn was eager for us to
forget about former President Bill
Clinton's flaws and to "move on" to

Jonathan S: Tobin is executive editor of

the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia. His
e-mail address is:

jtobin@jewishexponent.com

FREED from page 27

JN

1/16

_2004 -

28

of the actions of suicide bombers?
Would we even consider allowing a
Holocaust denier to be heard in one of
our Jewish institutions under the guise
of free speech?
Why then should a group whose
members hold views that are so far a
departure from the range of views in
our community, who do not support
the rights and values of a democratic,
secure and Jewish state, have a place at
the table? There are groups and indi-
viduals in our community that, out of
a love for Israel and a commitment to
her long-term security, advocate vocif-
erously for peace. It is crucial that we
hear their views as well as those from
the entire political spectrum — but

other topics.
But if they are hypocrites, so, too, are
Republicans, who talk about the bad
taste of the anti-Bush crowd, but were
willing to believe anything about
Clinton, no matter how outlandish.

It Isn't Beanbag

One thing Clinton and Bush have in
common is an ability to drive their
opponents out of their minds. As many
liberals have admitted, hate is not too
strong a word to describe their antipathy
to Bush — and it shows.
The same was true for the way conser-
vatives felt about Clinton.
Democracy isn't beanbag. Lambasting
incumbents is what people in free coun-
tries are entitled to do. Tough criticisms,
hard questions and heavy doses of satire
and sarcasm are entirely appropriate in
politics.
But as was the case during the hei ght
of the right's Clintonmania, the willing-
ness of some partisans to make unbeliev-
ably outrageous accusations about Bush
is troubling.
The latest instance involves the post-
ing on the MoveOn site of ads that
compared the president to Adolf Hider.
The two offensive pieces were entries
in a contest the group was holding to
determine which Bush-bashing diatribe
was the best. After they came in for
heavy criticism from such groups as the
Anti-Defamation League, the group was
at pains to point out that they hadn't
actually endorsed the ads and quickly
pulled them.
In the 1960s, the pop culture of the
day dumbed down the term "fascist".
from a term that had a specific meaning
rooted in historical fact to one that
could describe just about anything
objectionable. Now, for some on the far
left, anyone to the right of say; U.S. Sen.

only those for whom the underlying
assumption is that any solution must
include peace and security for the
State of Israel.
• The situation of the 'Israelis and
Palestinians is a complex one. Every
action taken by either side in the
Middle East has ramifications that
need to be carefully thought out and
negotiated. This reality was eloquently
explained by Dennis Ross in his
address at the Jewish Federation of
Washtenaw County's Main Event.
Perhaps if the protesters had taken the
time to listen and learn from someone
who has intimate, first-hand experi-
ence with, and has devoted his life to,
the peace process — instead of .
protesting the event — they might
have learned something about these

featured on MoveOn itself in
Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., is
the past with accusations of
considered fair game for com-
communism.
parisons to the Nazis. Rather
And there are those on the
than being considered beyond
lunatic
right who still think the
the pale, Hider analogies are
whole
country
is being run by
nowadays considered clever
what
they
call
a
"Zionist occu-
ripostes, especially among those
pation
government."
But the
who cannot control their dis-
difference
here
is
that
the peo-
JONATHAN
taste for Bush.
ple who know what the
S. TOBIN
So don't be deceived by the
acronym ZOG means aren't,
Special
disclaimers from MoveOn's
Commentary thank heaven, being courted by
defenders. In the group's world,
Bush.
the "Bush is a Nazi" routine isn't
Unfortunately,
some of those who
aberrant, it is mainstream thinking. It
think
Bush
had
advance
knowledge of
was not long ago that a major fonder of
the Sept. 11 attacks, or that the war to
the site, billionaire George Soros, told
liberate Iraq is merely a neocon plot for
the Washington Post that Bush reminded
world
hegemony or buy into neo-
him of the Nazis. And he is not alone.
Marxist
fantasies about the oil industry,
Part and parcel of this sort of non-
are
being
heard from more and more
sense is the constant drumbeat in
lately.
MoveOn circles about the neoconserva-
MoveOn is increasingly influential.
tive conspiracy to take over the country
Not only did the Democratic candidates
and the world. As the term neocon has
seek to win the Internet primary that the
become synonymous with Jew, its hard
group ran last summer, but MoveOn
not to get a sinking feeling of stepping
itself has helped raise a great deal of
into a morass of prejudice as you navi-
money for candidates in the 2002 con-
gate the Net with help from MoveOn
gressional elections.
links.
The cheapening of political discourse
Indeed, all one has to do is to go to
did
not begin with MoveOn or the
the group's Middle East resource links
right-wingers
who were prepared to
page vvvvw.moveon.org/peace/
believe
that
Bill
Clinton was a Commu-
middleeast.html to discover just how
nist
mole,
a
drug-dealer
or a murderer.
deep the well of hate for Jews and Israel
Yet
as
much
as
it
would
be comforting
is. There you can find links to a host of
to dismiss this sort of nastiness as a nec-
virulently anti-Zionist sites where vio-
essary evil in a free country, the rise of
lence against Israelis and calls for the
the Internet culture makes this practice a
destruction of Israel are commonplace.
little more frightening.
Last summer, the National Jewish
That's why it isn't enough to shrug
Democratic Council asked MoveOn to
our
shoulders and say "everyone does it."
call-
remove material posted on the site,
No
matter
how much we may dislike
ing it "biased, factually inaccurate and
some leaders, partisanship must have its
[that it] gives comfort to those who
limits. It is long past the time for
would say progressives are not pro-
responsible citizens — be they Republi-
Israel." It's still there.
can or Democrat, conservative or liberal
To be fair, the far-right has employed

to put the crazies in their. place. ❑
this sort of rhetorical overkill that is now

complexities. The signs insinuating
that if Israel simply unilaterally with-
draws from the territories, there will
be peace and security for all demon-
strate either naivete or a lack of inter-
est in true peace — for without secu-
rity for Israel, there will be no peace.
As an American, I am in favor of
this group's right to free speech. But
as a Jew who attempts to separate the
Sabbath from the activities, politics
and business of the week, I find them
offensive and misguided. I am con-
cerned about the plight of the
Palestinians and pray for peace with
them. But I am unswerving in my
support for the people of Israel.
Because of my desire to take con-
structive action, I have decided that
for each Shabbat or holiday this group

protests outside Beth Israel or any
other Jewish institution in Ann Arbor,
I will make donations to Magen
David Adorn (Israel's emergency med-
ical organization) and the Friends of
the Israel Defense Forces. By involv-
ing my entire family in this decision,
we turned negative feelings into posi-
tive energy because we know we are
helping those who are on the front
lines of fighting terror and its effects.
Many members of the Ann Arbor
Jewish community who are disturbed
by the affront to our synagogue and
its members have joined this effort.
If you feel as I do, please join me in
making a commitment to an organiza-
tion that reflects your hopes and
dreams for Israel and for a just and
lasting peace in the Middle East. ❑

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