Jews should be proud of being Jews

Some Jews seem to be afraid of openly supporting Israel and even afraid of being Jews.  They should get over themselves and embrace their identity.  All people should be proud of who they are, and Jews have particularly good reasons to be proud.

Andrew Cohen is a Jewish Canadian journalist and academic, and I wrote previously denouncing his shallow criticism of Israel.  Now he has gone to the next logical level and upgraded to shallow criticism of Jews.  His column “Conservatives pandering to Jewish voters” is presented as an attack on Conservatives, but it is more of an attack on Jews.

Cohen complains that Canada’s Conservatives are “courting” the Jewish voters by doing such awful things as wishing them “a sweet year” and “an easy fast”.  How could they?

In many of the countries where they reside, Jews face anti-Semitism by the general population and scapegoating by politicians. In Canada, despite being a minority of one percent, Jews are treated with respect by all three major parties and especially by the Conservatives.  Cohen should be thrilled about this, but instead he denounces a government payment to repair a Jewish Community Centre’s dehumidification system.

But Cohen does not stop at criticism of the Conservatives.  He also attacks Canadian Jews which he accuses of having become “parochial” and “one-issue voters”.

Cohen does not appear to have spent any time with fellow Jews lately.  If he had then he would know the deep sense of disenchantment that Jews feel towards the West for not supporting Israel enough and for not addressing growing anti-Semitism.  He would know that Jews feel isolated and aggrieved by growing hordes of anti-Semites in Western streets, universities, and even political elites.

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks boldly and eloquently in support of Israel, he gives hope to Jews that someone understands their pain and is willing to stand with them.  Jews know that Harper cannot do much for Israel, but the morale boost that he provides is valuable, and it naturally influences Jewish voting decisions.

Cohen’s insulting accusation that Jews have become “one-issue voters” is one of the most vacuous comments one could make about elections.  Every single voter has some policies, and often only one, that is critical to him or her.  They are the policies that affect their lives deeply.  For new parents, the policy may be childcare.  For many Jews, it is support for Israel.  There is no shame in that, and in fact Cohen should be ashamed for making that accusation.

I am not a Conservative voter.  I have never voted Conservative in my life, and in this election I am supporting Tom Mulcair’s NDP.  I believe that despite Mulcair’s lack of flowery rhetoric in support of Israel, he supports Israel, and I agree with his center-left policies.  At the same time however, I have no right to demean those who will vote for Harper based in part on his unapologetic support for Israel.  Each voter makes a choice based on his or her priorities.  This is not “parochial”; it is the very essence of democracy.

There are countless reasons for Jews to be proud to be Jews and to be proud of Israel.  If Cohen feels that the Conservative party of Canada is not the right choice then he should explain why another choice is better.  But Cohen’s attack on Conservatives for doing what political parties do (woo voters) and his attack on Jewish voters for caring about Israel are disgraceful.  It is an indication that Cohen has chosen to cater to anti-Semites rather than to show pride in being a Jew.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports the Palestinians' right to self-determination in their own state. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.
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