And Israel?

“And Israel?” writes Paul Berman on Tablet — almost as an afterthought — toward the end of an essay lauding the primary election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Contrast this with an essay in The Times of Israel last week by Queens native and Democrat, Dan Brooks, in which he politely encourages Ocasio-Cortez to re-evaluate her views about Israel, which up until now have been grotesque, in sincere dialogue with the pro-Israel Jewish community. Brooks offered a fig leaf to someone who is an up-and-coming Democratic politician. Unlike Brooks, Berman could only gush about her “talent” and her “gift.”

One would expect more from the author of Terror and Liberalism, a post 9/11 classic about the threat of radical Islam to liberalism through the tactic of terror. To be fair, Berman also confronted Ocasio-Cortez about her unhinged remarks about Israel and encouraged her to read the Hamas charter as a means to correcting her misperception.

Berman has been one of the few public intellectuals able to balance his commitment to the left and the Jewish people, but by lauding Ocasio-Cortez, he did what too many on the Jewish left do when confronted with a choice between the left and the Jews; he chose the left. After all, the Jews must — and will — ultimately forgive him.

As The Times of Israel noted yesterday, Jewish Democrats are struggling with the “party’s mainstreaming of Israel criticism.” Being a Democrat and a Jew is hard enough without commending Ocasio-Cortez and her ability to “express anger.” Anger can be an expression of righteousness — that is, righteousness frustrated and unrealized. Righteousness, however, tied to patience, which was the way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived and taught, is the only way forward for the American people. Commending Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez’s anger because their anger will match Donald Trump’s anger is unlikely to move our country in a better direction even if Ocasio-Cortez’s anger is several parts “righteous indignation on behalf of the working class.”

Considering Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks about Israel, I don’t anticipate that one will find righteousness beneath her anger. Doubling down on her libels of Israel does not evidence a capacity for self-reflection. Nevertheless, Brooks — and most Jewish Democrats — are willing to give her a chance to find the righteousness that expresses itself in anger. Then, she has the opportunity to tie that righteousness to patience, rather than frustration; if so, she can lead rather than be adept at expressing anger. But that is for her to discover.

As for Mr. Berman and others who are tied to the left and the Jewish people, I encourage you not to settle so quickly. Surely the plight of the American working class is worthy of attention and advocacy; but why that concern is permitted to be united to defamation of the Jewish state will perpetually baffle, and disappoint.

About the Author
Matt Abelson is a Conservative Rabbi living in Somerville, MA.
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