The discussion around who is on the right and who is on the left seems to be different in Israel than it is in the United States. Israelis use the term “left” to refer to anti-Zionist (in reality anti-Semitic) folks from around the world, whether in the US, UK, or the badly named Eurozone. But absolutes are not absolute. In the United States; folks like me (middle of the road Democrats who are pro-Israel, pro-defense, and fiscally conservative) believe that government has an obligation to use tax dollars to provide for the youngest, the sickest, and the oldest. I also believe government should stay out of our doctors’ offices and believe in marriage equality. But I am a Zionist who believes that Israel includes Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley. That plus my belief that the President and Secretary of State have bungled every foreign policy for which they have advocated sets me apart from other Democrats. These beliefs would align me with the “right” in the eyes of some Americans and Israelis. Oddly enough, the Israeli health care system that works a thousand times better than the mess that the Affordable Care Act has created would be considered a “leftist” policy by many Americans. You cannot tell the left from the right any more which tells us that labels should be removable instead of permanent.
But today, I am reminded of who the right wing really is in the United States. Prior to the more recent Democrat versus Republican standoffs, the right wing in the United States was well defined. Frazier Glenn Miller, the perpetrator of the Overland Park anti-Semitic attacks, is a firm member of the KKK/neo-Nazi movement which has been called the “far right”. It includes David Duke and other proponents of a white, Christian United States that would exclude any of us who do not fit those categories. They promote violence against Jews, African-Americans, and Latinos. Sometimes they act on this violence as Frazier Glenn Miller did this week in Kansas. This man was also involved with The Order, an organization connected to the 1984 murder of Alan Berg, a Denver radio personality. He took a lighter sentence for providing evidence against his co-conspirators who were convicted for the murder. I remember when Mr. Berg was killed; it was a time when The Order had a large membership promoting hate against Jews in several states.
When I hear people refer to John McCain or John Boehner as right wing radicals, I feel my blood pressure climb. These guys are middle of the road Republicans who are far removed from David Duke and Frazier Glenn Miller. When I hear some Israelis refer to Americans as either right or left, I think of the right wingers I am aware of who are neo-Nazi anti-Semites who have no love for Israel or Jews. Compared to them, yes, I am a leftist in the US to some because I support national health care (not “Obamacare” which is a train wreck), but to others I am a conservative right wing war mongerer because I am a pro-defense, pro-Second Amendment and surely a Zionist. My long time joke (not so funny today really) has been that every Jew in the United States needs two things: a passport and a gun.
Next year at this time, G-d willing, I will be living in Israel in Jerusalem with a teudat zehut (Israeli ID) fulfilling a dream deferred. When I hear about right and left in Israeli society, my mind will shift from what I have always known the real right wing to be in the United States: hate mongering extremists who see Jews as prey and as the enemy. I will have much to learn as a new Israeli. Some of the people I have met and who reached a hand out are those who are referred to as “obstacles to peace.” They are Jews living in Israel not obstacles to anything except in the minds of those who believe in limiting options in our homeland.
I get that labels are handy. We humans like categories; we like clarity in our thoughts. We want to know where someone stands on issues that we care about. We want definitions that are familiar.
We, as Jews, should not care so much about labeling who is right or who is left. Because when Frazier Glenn Miller pulled the trigger and killed three people he believed to be Jews in Kansas this week, there was no label identifying them. They were killed because of Jew hate and that means that in the eyes of our enemies, we are all one. No labels needed.