Preaching to the raging choir: Israel, settlements and rhetorical overkill

Monday, June 29th, 2009

What is it about “credibility” that so many friends of Israel don’t get?

In the past 24 hours I’ve received several emails, all citing with apparent approval the latest comments by WorldNetDaily founder and editor Joseph Farrah, who’s not Jewish but who can geshrei with the best of them.

Writing about growing Obama pressure on Israel on the question of  settlements, Farrah writes:

“I hope my Jewish friends remember this well.  Many of them voted for Barack Obama. Many of them voted for Hillary Clinton. These are not your friends. These are the same kinds of people who turned away ships of Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1940s. These are the same kinds of people who appeased Adolf Hitler at Munich. These are the same kinds of people who made the reformation of the modern state of Israel so difficult. I say, ‘No more ethnic cleansing. No more official anti-Semitism accepted.’”

Excuse me? Even if you disagree with the administration’s tough policy on settlements, how is that the same as turning away boatloads of Jews fleeing Hitler’s executioners?

(Read the full column here)

Why is it that Jews rightly argue that the Holocaust was an incomparable tragedy unique in world history, and yet tolerate from other Jews and non-Jewish supporters of Israel comparisons likening the Holocaust to just about everything they fear or dislike?

And I wonder who, exactly, is the intended target of this kind of rhetorical overkill.

Surely it’s not intended to appeal to President Obama – compared here to history’s great appeasers, and the target of a WND campaign challenging his constitutional eligibility for office.

I’m guessing it’s not middle-of-the-road Jews who care about Israel, but are hardly inclined to see President Obama as a raging anti-Semite.

Surely it’s not those members of Congress who aren’t already inclined to see Obama as the devil incarnate.

It seems to me that if you were a rational right-wing pro-Israel Jew who fears an enforced settlement with the Palestinians would jeopardize Israel’s security, you’d be embarrassed and worried about such emanations, which seem designed only to stoke the anger of true believers – preaching to the raging choir, so to speak – but seem almost certain to turn off almost everybody else.

In a nation where the pro-Israel movement has  benefited hugely from its ability to cut across political and ideological grounds, I’d be worried that such statements, amplified by the incredible power of the Internet, can undercut that coalition and turn Israel into the most polarizing of causes.

The same is true, of course, of far-left fanatics who see in every Israeli action proof of their favorite conspiracy theories. Objecting to settlements is fine – millions of Israelis do – but positing settlements as the ultimate proof of Israeli perfidy, while richly satisfying to the far-left minions, can only turn off those in the center and give solace to Israel’s most implacable enemies.

But it’s also true that the pro-Israel establishment is generally willing to speak out against the rhetorical excesses of the far left while giving the far right a get-out-of-jail-free card.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.