Rabid ReflectionsBy Joseph Sobran (12/09/1997)
WASHINGTON -- Writing in The Washington Times, Frank Gaffney Jr. of the Center for Security Policy makes a remarkable assertion. Several, actually. You have to wonder if Gaffney fully realizes what he's saying.
"In 1992, American Jews and others committed to the security of the state of Israel were among the most enthusiastic and generous supporters of the Clinton-Gore ticket -- and with good reason. The government of George Bush and Jim Baker was arguably the most anti-Israel U.S. administration since the founding of the Jewish state."
He adds that the 1992 election "afforded an opportunity through public repudiation at the polls to punish Bush for the harm he had inflicted on relations between the two countries." Along the way, Gaffney describes the columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak as "rabidly anti-Israel," though (or because) they praised Israel's Labor government.
To call Messrs. Bush, Baker, Evans and Novak "anti-Israel" is stretching the language cruelly. To call them "rabidly" so is simply irrational. But Gaffney is hardly alone in these semantic excesses.
What these four men were doing, in their different ways, was to assert what they perceived as American interests in dealing with Israel. To be "anti-Israel," in normal usage, would be to want to hurt Israel. To be "rabidly" anti-Israel would be to demand war, or something like it.
But for Gaffney, as for many others, any American who tries to put American interests ahead of Israeli interests is "anti-Israel." He even implies that American Jews generally put Israel's interests ahead of U.S. interests -- so much so that they would throw other considerations and principles aside and vote for the Clinton-Gore ticket for Israel's sake!
Far from disapproving, moreover, Gaffney implies that this is quite proper, and that American Jews were right to "punish" Bush in the 1992 election. In other words, there is nothing wrong with letting Israel's interests decide who will be America's president.
The picture Gaffney presents is unflattering, if not insulting, to Jews, even if he doesn't intend it that way. The negative stereotype of Jews depicts them as behaving precisely along the lines he describes.
All stereotypes have an element of fact. The harm they do comes not from believing that some members of a group fit the crude image -- some always do -- but from assuming that the whole group may be judged by the exaggerated type.
Unfortunately, politics deals with people in crude masses, and the exaggerated type is likely to be more zealous and better organized than the normal specimen. Politicians don't bother trying to appeal to people who think independently; there is no political party whose platform calls for recognizing moral ambiguity.
So in politics, "the Jews" are reduced to those Jews who form an active and effective mass. Hamlet may be more thoughtful than the rash and passionate Laertes, but Laertes leads a mob, while Hamlet broods in the undecided column. (Can it be coincidence that Hamlet is the only character in Shakespeare who refers to Israel?)
Many American Jews would indignantly object to the notion that they put Israel above the United States, and to the notion, implicit in Gaffney's whole essay, that the Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu represents Jewish interests. Many Jews, in fact, disapprove of Israel's treatment of non-Jews, and see no reason why they, as Americans, should be forced to subsidize it with their taxes.
But politicians who value survival can't afford to appeal to the finer side of human nature. For them, "the Jewish community" will always mean the Jews with the most shekels to spend on politics. In the language of politics, "community" (as in, to take another example, "gay and lesbian community") basically means "donors."
The logic of politics (we call it either "politics" or "democracy," depending on whether we like the results) requires one to embrace the negative stereotype of any important group and turn it into an image of virtue and victimhood. Group privileges become steps toward "equality" or "remedies for past discrimination."
And anyone who opposes special treatment for Ruritania (paid out of his taxes, of course) becomes "anti-Ruritanian." Perhaps rabidly so.