There is a Jewish joke that goes: We could never have a completely Jewish supreme court. If we did, every time there was a 5-4 decision, the 4 dissenters would just leave to start their own supreme court.
This makes fun of the not uncommon occasion of groups disagreeing with their synagogue, and thus leaving to form their own. Indeed, Judaism is a religion, and culture, of constant argument and disagreement. As the saying goes: two rabbis, three opinions.
Rep. Joe Walsh does not quite get Judaism. The freshman representative, and Catholic, made his ignorance all too clear in his recent op-ed in the Daily Caller.
In his column, Walsh accused President Obama of being anti-Israel, and expressed confusion as to why American Jews were not outraged at Obama.
So, where is the outrage from the American Jewish community? Don’t they understand that the president is not pro-Israel? Aren’t they troubled by his history of pro-Palestinian writings, speeches, and actions? The short answer is that most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians and vague notions of “peace” instead of with Israel’s wellbeing and security. Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be and too many share his belief that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli occupation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One could certainly point out that there are convincing arguments about how peace is security for Israel. Or that Obama isn’t actually changing policy, and is in fact vetoing a vote in the UN for a Palestinian state.
But the issue that really gets my tallit in a knot is Rep. Walsh’s idea that American Jews should fall in line with his political views. But alas, the Jewish people are not Rep. Walsh’s puppet. We won’t dance for him. We are not a court Jew to do his bidding.
Now, Walsh may think that he has a special connection with Jews, as conservatives and Christians often think they do. But throwing around the term “Judeo-Christian” and hating on Muslims isn’t exactly the core of Judaism. It may be the core of the Likud party, but as Walsh pointed out, most American Jews are Democrats.
Furthermore, even within Israel, many political parties support a two state plan in line with Obama’s vision. It was only a few years ago when many conservatives split from the Likud party to found the Kadima party as a base of support for withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. There is also the dovish Labor party, the United Arab list, which supports a Palestinian state, the non-Zionist Hadash, the Green-ish New Movement – Meretz party, and the Israeli-Arab Balad party. While these may not be the most popular political parties in Israel, they still exist and do have representatives in the Knesset. Rep. Walsh should be asking why so many Israelis are “anti-Israel.”
Now, Rep. Walsh may think that he has a special understanding of Judaism, because he used to teach at the “Hebrew Theological Institute.” I do not know what the Hebrew Theological Institute is, and apparently neither does Google.
While there is the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, I cannot seem to find the existence of any Hebrew Theological Institute. Maybe it simply does not have a website. Or maybe Walsh’s own site got the name wrong. Or maybe he meant the Blitstein Institute, which is the women’s school at the Hebrew Theological College. But evidence of this Institute, much like evidence of Walsh’s understanding of modern Judaism, seems difficult to come by.
National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris sums up the whole situation rather succinctly:
I am positively astonished at Walsh’s offensive statements and deeply disturbed by his assertions. He knows precious little about anything he speaks about and he embarrasses himself in the extreme with his comments. Mr. Walsh owes the entire Jewish community an apology for his patently absurd and atrocious statements about our commitment to Israel.
In the end, the most distressing part of Walsh’s column may not be his comments on Jews, but his comments about America.
America is supposed to be the good guys. We are suppose to be the respected peacemakers of the world. We are supposed to lead by example as the Shining City on a Hill, a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. We certainly don’t always succeed, but we should always be working towards that ideal.
Walsh wants to throw away that ideal. He wants to climb down from the hill.