For the Left, Some Uncomfortable Matters

I won’t speculate on whether Mike Huckabee made his controversial comments a few weeks ago, about President Obama leading Jews to the ovens, in order to boost his uphill campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Clearly, Huckabee’s choice of words were out of line.

They suggested that Jews today in Israel and abroad are just as vulnerable as they were when Hitler came to power. Today’s Jews are ultimately being defended by the Israeli military, one of the world’s best fighting forces. The Nazis’ Jewish victims were completely abandoned by the rest of the world.

Furthermore, one could reasonably infer from Huckabee’s wording that Obama, like Hitler, is actively conspiring to kill Jews. Obviously, any attempt to liken Obama to Hitler is grotesque. Indeed, it’s ridiculous to liken Obama to any of the anti-Semitic tyrants who have persecuted the Jewish people throughout the centuries. It goes without saying that Obama has made no attempt to replicate the greatest crime in history, and he hasn’t tried to restrict the rights of the Jews over whom he governs. As a result, Jews in America continue to thrive.

Yet, Huckabee is not Trump-like. He is no buffoon. His ideas should not be summarily dismissed.

If you look at the entirety of his comments about Obama and Jews, it’s clear that he wasn’t suggesting the American President has any malicious intent toward Jews. What Huckabee actually said was that Obama was leading the Jews to the ovens because he was naively trusting the Iranians. Huckabee wanted to argue that, when it comes to Iran, such naivete could have disastrous consequences for Israel. He has rhetorically asked how many times the Iranians must say that they want to destroy Israel and kill its Jews before the Obama Administration and other Western democracies begin to take them seriously.

This is an entirely reasonable concern.

Even Israel’s excellent military cannot defend its inhabitants from all existential threats. In a 1998 essay, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote,

“Milan Kundera once defined a small nation as ‘one whose existence can be put into question at any moment, a small nation can disappear, and it knows it. Israel .. is a small country. That doesn’t mean that extinction is its fate. Only that it can be.”

Moreover, as Krauthammer pointed out, Israel is the only country in the world “whose neighbors publicly declare its very existence an affront to law, morality, and make its extinction an explicit national goal.”

Still further, while objecting to Huckabee’s specific words, Krauthammer argued that it was ridiculous to dismiss them out of hand. In a commentary on Fox News, Krauthammer asserted that Iran was “obsessed” with the Holocaust. He noted that Iran has sponsored cartoon contests ridiculing the Holocaust, while, on the other hand, Iran’s former president, Hafshani Rafsanjani — who is widely portrayed as a “moderate” —  describes Israel as a “one bomb state”. That means that it’s small population — most of which lives within a small area in the center of the country — can be wiped out with a single nuclear bomb. Iran has repeatedly stated its intention of wiping Israel off the map, but the bomb gives it the means to do so.

On the likening of Iran to Nazi Germany, the eminent Holocaust historian Jeffrey Herf wrote in an article; which appeared in the American Interest as well as in The Times of Israel :

One of the most remarkable aspects of the rise of the various permutations of radical Islam that evoke memories of Nazism is like the Nazis, the Islamists publicly declare their murderous intentions for all to hear. It is not necessary to risk life and limb in order to print English translations of Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement to his followers or accurate summaries of the Hamas Charter of 1988. [Iran is the principal political and material support of Hamas.] The documents are readily available on various websites.”

In effect. Herf backs Huckabee’s implied assertion that Iran’s rulers have a Nazi-like agenda.

But Herf went on in this same article to comment on the left’s tolerance for the anti-Jewish pronouncements that come out of Iran and other Muslim countries in the Middle East;

It is an irony that …it became for the most reactionary of ideas to find shelter under the protective umbrella of leftist anti-imperialism and more recently behind accusations of racism or advocacy of “Islamaphobia”. The result is a central irony of recent years, namely that, with important exceptions, it is the political center and right, more than liberals and leftists, who have led the criticism of Islamist ideology, a series of ideas that bears closer similarity to Nazism and fascism than to communism.”

Indeed, supporters of the recent Iranian nuclear agreement  have been reluctant to acknowledge the special threat Iran poses to Israel and Jews around the world..

Just a few days after the deal  was signed  Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit told PBS talk show host Charlie Rose that he was worried about the agreement because he feared that it would lead to Iran getting a nuclear weapon, which in turn would destroy the anti-proliferation system that the United States carefully constructed after World War II. In the interview, Shavit made no mention of  Iran’s often repeated threat  to destroy Israel. That omission was deliberate. For, in the interview, Shavit chastised Prime Minister Netanyahu for allegedly talking too much about Iran’s threat to Israel and not enough about how a nuclear Iran would threaten the rest of the world.

Similarly, in an editorial reacting to Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress earlier this year, the Forward wrote:

He made [the nuclear issue] all about Israel, reinforcing the idea that stopping Iran is really about saving Jews. In his litany of Iran’s transgressions — they are many and they are real — Netanyahu did show how the Islamic regime oppresses at home and makes deadly mischief abroad. But by framing this contest as a replay of the Purim story read in synagogues this evening, where a hateful public figure is thwarted in his attempt to kill all the Jews, Netanyahu probably connected with Israelis, and some Jews and evangelical Christians.But he didn’t talk to a broader America weary of yet another Middle East War and skeptical of military intervention in that messy region. He didn’t show Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China why a better deal or a military option is better for them. They are the ones at the negotiating table not Israel.


That is what has been so baffling about Netanyahu’s approach to Iran all along, laid bare in his speech to Congress. If he is correct that a nuclear Iran is the greatest existential threat to Israel and the region … then why alienate the very powers that could stop it?

On one level, this criticism is simply odd. Benjamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel., a country targeted by Iran’s mullahs for annihilation. Surely, it is the special threat that Iran poses to Israel which gives an Israeli political leader the moral standing to speak out on the Iranian nuclear issues in the first place. Moreover, doesn’t the leader of any country have the right — indeed, even the responsibility — to appeal for assistance from the international community when the people that he represents are confronted by a power that might have genocidal intentions?

On a more profound level, however, the Forward’s criticism is ugly. Why should it be so “alienating” to acknowledge that the Iranian regime has a particularly virulent animus towards Jews that makes Israel a more probable target of a nuclear Iran than any other country? For arguments’ sake only, imagine a science fiction scenario in which one could guarantee with absolute certainly that only Israeli Jews could be hit and injured or killed with Iran’s weapons. The Forward editorial seems to suggest that, under such circumstances, the rest of the world is entitled to ignore the victims’ plight because, after all, they are only Jews.

Who would dare dismiss the peril faced by another members of a single religious, ethnic or racial group just because the rest of humanity was not forced to confront the same peril? For years people, mainly on the left, have castigated the international community — quite rightly I think — for not doing enough to prevent mass slaughter in places like Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Now the threat that Iran poses to Israel isn’t anywhere as imminent as the threat was in these other cases. However, the threat will become more immediate if Iran ever gets a nuclear arsenal. Good leftists like Shavit and the authors of Forward editorials clearly imply that even under more dire circumstances the rest of the world is entitled to ignore a plea from an Israeli Prime Minister for assistance in protecting his countrymen. Or, to put this more bluntly, according to  the current Jewish leftist orthodoxy, large numbers of Jews being slaughtered isn’t anything to get excited about, unless non-Jews are also getting killed.There’s more than a little self-hatred in this notion.

On Commentary magazine’s blog, Jonathan Tobin recently claimed that the agreement with Iran was not about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Rather, the deal was a manifestation of the Obama’s long-standing desire to  engage its current rulers.

Similarly  in a recent Wall Street Journal podcast, journalist Bret Stephens and Sohrab Ahamri argue that the Iranian deal has never been about nuclear weapons and the goal has been about re-aligning American alliances in the Middle East toward Iran and away from traditional allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Sunni Arab states in the Gulf.

Progressives claim that they are in the vanguard in struggling against racism and bigotry. Therefore, one might expect that they would be troubled the prospect of a stridently anti-Semitic Iran becoming an American ally and being welcomed into the international community. with open arms. But they have shown no sign of angst. While leftists continuously shake disapproving fingers at an allegedly racist and colonialist Israel, their arms are ready to embrace the ruling Iranian mullahs. So much for the mainline leftists being champions of tolerance and social justice.

Huckabee’s rhetoric has revealed that, with their willingness to have cordial relations with Iran’s current rulers, progressives have signaled their readiness to befriend a regime that has incorporated distinctively Nazi ideas into its ideology. Were this to be widely known, progressives would have even bigger political problems than those that result from their support of the Iran nuclear agreement. I suspect that’s the main reason Huckabee’s comments have drawn such intense criticism.

About the Author
Martin Krossel is a Canadian journalist living in Westchester County, New York. He's been writing about Middle East affairs for over 40 years.
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