For decades most of the organized left has fought against Republicans and conservatives more than against the world's greatest evils. During the Cold War, starting in the late 1960s, one heard little if anything from the left about the evils of Communism or of Communist societies such as the Soviet Union or Communist China. But one heard a great deal about the evils of American anti-Communists; Ronald Reagan was vilified much more than Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
But last week, a new line seems to have been crossed. The organized Jewish left -- i.e., left-wing Jewish organizations that claim to be committed to the welfare of Jews -- made it clear that even in the fight against the greatest enemy of the Jewish people, the Jewish left prefers to fight what it considers an even greater enemy -- conservatives and Republicans.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who has repeatedly called for the annihilation of Israel and who denies the Holocaust, came to speak at the United Nations. The day before he was scheduled to speak, Jewish organizations across the religious and political spectrum had organized a "Stop Iran" rally at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the UN. They had invited Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and then invited Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The intent was to maximize publicity for the anti-Iran cause, the most important Jewish concern (and arguably the most important world concern) today. With Clinton and Palin present, the world press would cover the anti-Iran rally, and the Jewish community could show the world and America that this was one cause that knew no politics -- the most prominent female Democrat and the most prominent female Republican would both lend their names and prestige to this rally.
However, the moment that Clinton learned that the organizers had invited Palin, she withdrew. For Clinton, giving the other most popular woman politician in America publicity was unacceptable -- even among New York Jews, one of the steadfast liberal and Democratic groups in America. The near collapse of the Stop Iran rally was of less consequence to Clinton than denying Palin a public platform.
Not many were surprised by Clinton's action. What was alarming was the realization that for much of the Jewish left -- not leftists who happen to be Jews and for whom the welfare of the Jewish people is not particularly significant, but left-wing Jews who claim to care deeply about Jewish survival -- fighting Palin is of greater importance than fighting Ahmadinejad.
Left-wing Jews and Jewish organizations put intense pressure on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to cancel the invitation to Palin. And the pressure worked.
As the liberal editorial page of New York's major Jewish newspaper The Jewish Week put it:
"But somehow, a big-tent cause like Iran as a terrorist power seeking nuclear arms has become so politicized within our community that Monday's rally was more about the non-presence of Gov. Sarah Palin than about the very real presence at the UN of a Holocaust denier whose goal is to destroy our way of life."
Yet, in a rare move, publishing an entire speech that was never given, Ha'aretz, Israel's equivalent to The New York Times in its prestige and in its liberal politics, published the speech that Palin would have given. In Israel, liberal and even many left-wing Jews know that Iran is a greater threat to Israel than American conservatives.
The Palin speech was so good it should be read by every American concerned with Israel's survival. And it was so nonpartisan that it praised Clinton for being at the rally. To say that Palin -- who has the American, Alaskan and Israeli flags in her Juneau office -- is a better friend of the Jews and Israel than much of the American Jewish left sounds odd only to Jewish leftists.
But the Jewish left acts as if it fears and hates her more than it fears and hates Ahmadinejad. That is why within days of her nomination Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., announced that "John McCain's decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel. … It is frightening that John McCain would select someone one heartbeat away from the presidency who supported a man who embodies vitriolic anti-Israel sentiments."
Wexler's statement was false: Palin supported Steve Forbes, not Buchanan. And associating Palin with Nazi or anti-Israel sympathies is morally loathsome, not to mention weakens the struggle against real anti-Semites.
For left-wing Jewish organizations and their supporters -- as opposed to many rank and file liberal Jews -- the real fight is against Republicans and especially Christian conservatives (as a community, the Jews' best friends) more than against a nuclear Iran.
After the cancellation of Palin, a left-wing Jewish organization that was influential in opposing Palin's appearance, an organization called J Street, on whose Board of Advisors sits the executive director of MoveOn.org, headlined on its website: "We Won!"
That is indeed the case. The Jewish left did win. Which is why the Jews and Israel lost.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member