HOWARD EPSTEIN: BEING LEFT – LICENCE TO SCRAPE THE BOTTOM
In the Jerusalem Post last Friday, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote that character (such as that of Trump, not everyone’s cup of tea or skinny latte, one readily concedes) should be regarded as less important than policy. Boteach related how President Truman wrote in his private journal in July 1947 “The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power – physical, financial or political – neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty and mistreatment of the underdog.” Nevertheless, Boteach continued, we should thank Truman for the service he did the Jews in ensuring that the USA was the first to recognize the State of Israel. (He might have added that Truman also made sure that the Negev would be part of Israel and that the UN vote for partition would not be abandoned in favour of trusteeship).
This patently reasonable approach – of regarding not the personality but the policy and actions of a politician – seems to have eluded Boteach’s fellow-columnist Lawrence Rifkin writing in the same publication on the same day. He referred to Trump as “a human garbage scow cut loose in a surging tide”. Does that not make you feel dirty just reading it? (It should.) And how does it reflect on Rifkin? Has he ever lifted a mirror to his own writings?
It is bad enough when the polarization comes from America where some who consider abortion to equate with murder believe the murder of an abortionist justifiable. But in Israel? Surely, as a beacon to the nations we might try to build bridges and tear down barriers – starting with words and language.
Things are little better in the UK where, last week, Labour MP Laura Pidcock announced she had “absolutely no intention of being friends” with Tories because they are “the enemy”. She then doubled-down, tweeting the message that “it’s visceral. I’m not interested in being cosy with Tories”. Is that any way to approach parliamentary business? No doubt, because she is on the Left she thinks she can only be right. This demonizing of the other is nothing more than a race to the bottom.
From where does this self-congratulatory, sanctimony of the Left come? In my view, it is the last vestige of the poison of Nazism which has given “The Right” a bad name from 1933 to the end of time. What the Left is doing with this is leveraging to their advantage the foul taste left by the Nazis, so that, to be anything other than Left must, ipso facto, be utterly immoral and reprehensible, not entitled to a hearing and not to be tolerated under any circumstances. (In Britain, that viewpoint makes it OK for the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Corbyn, to associate with Hamas and Hezbollah because, again, being on the Left he must be right – and being on the Right will always be wrong.)
In other words, just cloaking oneself with a mantle that is red, frees one up to write like Der Stürmer (which, Rifkin please note, regarded the Jews as human garbage) without being recognised as having done so.
In another egregious expression of what has become a continuous ad hominem attack on Trump, a discussion on the usually excellent podcast, “Dan Snow’s History Hit” queried whether Trump could be compared to Hitler. On every analysis within the podcast, it was plain – and expressly acknowledged – that the accusation was vacuous; but the damage was (as doubtless intended) already done: merely by raising the question, the Trump/Hitler association was to some extent established.
Let us not fall into the Rifkin trap and consider that, so much is it open season on the boorish, oafish, uneducated and (worse) ineducable Trump, that sinking to his level is acceptable. Let us raise the standard of debate and await events for which he can be properly applauded or castigated. For example, either he will rise to the challenge of the North Koreans (who are now flaunting their three-stage ICBM for the satellite imagery of the US) or he will not. The progeny of the flower-power generation along the West Coast of the USA should be praying that he will (before they fry), rather than worrying about his general indecorousness.
In the meanwhile, it is way past time for a new centre party – actually three, one each in of the USA, the UK and Israel – in which the fair-minded, prepared to admit of divergent views, commit (as Churchill suggested) to Jaw-Jaw and not War-War on every subject that may come along. As the group that is plainly being battered from both Right and Left – and more clearly so every day now in the USA – Jews have more of an interest in this than most other groups. That applies even to “Americans of the Mosaic Persuasion” (or as their detractors call them “JEWS!”), who seek to distance themselves from their long-term guarantor of security, the Jewish State of Israel. If they think that they command more respect from their attackers by claiming that distance as opposed to declaiming proud association, then they will probably leave it too late (as did their fellow-Jews in Germany in the thirties) to save themselves.
© Howard Epstein – August 2017