M.J. Rosenberg
Israel Policy Forum
October 30, 2008 - 8:00pm

I have been looking to see if the Jewish “defense organizations” put out statements condemning the vicious attacks on Professor Rashid Khalidi, the Palestinian-American academic.

I looked in vain. But then, these Jewish organizations tend not to get overly excited when the targets of bigotry are Palestinian or even Palestinian-American. And some of these organizations themselves play the “guilt by [Palestinian] association” game so they are in no position to criticize it.

Fortunately, the Washington Post (which happens to be a bastion of neo-conservatism) published a terrific editorial today that points out that Khalidi is nothing more, or less, than a respected Palestinian-American academic who holds views that are “unsurprising” although “complex.”

What are those views? He supports the two-state solution. He opposes terrorism. And he is strongly critical (like at least half of Israel's population) of the occupation of the West Bank). He is neither anti-Jewish nor anti-Israeli. And he's an American.

But even if he was a strident critic of Israel's policies, so what? Is policy toward Israel the only issue about which an American is not allowed to hold opinions? Is it possible that it is acceptable to oppose, the US war in Iraq, President Bush and everything he stands for, and, say, social security, but you cannot oppose Israel's policies in the West Bank? If it is, Walt, Mearsheimer, and Carter are not just right but guilty of understatement.

In the words of the Washington Post: Big deal! “To suggest . . . that there is something reprehensible about associating with Mr. Khalidi is itself condemnable—especially during a campaign in which Arab ancestry has been the subject of insults.”

Actually, the whole Khalidi issue matters less than the general smearing of Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians that has been a staple of this presidential campaign since the Democratic primaries.

Candidates of both parties have consistently tried to appeal to Jewish voters by accusing their opponent of being tainted by association with Arabs and Muslims. No matter if the Muslim or Palestinian in question is foreign or American. No matter if, as Colin Powell reminded us, they died in this country’s service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

No. To the political operatives launching these campaigns, there is no good Arab or Muslim. Or, to put it more precisely, they want Jews to think that their candidate honestly believes that there are no good Arabs. And that Israel, unlike even our own country, is the only country in the world that is never ever wrong about anything.

Of course, the candidates don’t really believe that.

Nor do any of the candidates indulging in these racist smears actually believe them. I happen to know that the very same candidates who smear their opponents for having an Arab or Muslim friend or colleague have such friends themselves. I don’t know about Palin (who is new to national politics), but I do know that the other candidates who have resorted to the guilt by association smear first in the Democratic primaries and now in the general election bear no animus to Palestinians, not even to Rashid Khalidi who they know and respect.

The only reason they engage in Arab or Muslim baiting is because they believe that Jewish donors and voters want to hear this stuff and will vote—based not on their perception of American interests—but on bigotry, racism, and hate.

In fact, the people who should most be insulted by these racist smear campaigns are Jews.

It is as if these candidates do not know that Jewish attitudes (according to polls) are the least racist and most liberal of any white American group. And that includes their attittudes not only to African-Americans, but also Muslims, Palestinians, and Arab-Americans.

True, some not-very-bright Jews fall for these libels. And true, some Jewish political operatives (including pseudo-journalist Matt Drudge) are all too willing to put this junk out; not because they care about Jews or Israel, but because they will say or do anything to elect their candidate.

Nonetheless, it is time for Jews to demand that it stop. This constant (and nauseating) pandering on Israel coupled with invoking the Holocaust and bashing Arabs is insulting to us.

Not that long ago, Jews were killed by the millions because they were scapegoated. To think that the way to get our support is by scapegoating Palestinians, African -Americans, Muslims, or Arabs is about as ugly as anything I’ve seen in politics. It disrespects us. It desecrates the memory of the Holocaust. It drives dangerous wedges between Jews and the non-Jewish majority in this country. And it tells us how little regard these campaigns really have for us.

It is as if they don’t view us as real Americans who care about the same issues as our neighbors, but rather as bigots. Stupid bigots.

In short, this whole episode, which began back in the Democratic primaries, is deeply and profoundly offensive . . . to Jews. It is our community that should put an end to it.


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