Rush Limbaugh, just before his blitz on black quarterbacks, said presidential candidates claiming Jewish ancestry is ìgetting out of hand.î Limbaugh was ticked off by reports that the retired Gen. Wesley Clark is descended from five generations of rabbis before being raised as a Christian.
ìIs every Democrat of prominence going to find Jewish roots in their past?î Limbaugh asked recently. ìRemember Madeleine Albright? John Kerry all of a sudden found out that somewhere deep, dark in the bowels of his family is a Jewish relative. And even Hillary [Clinton] found some Jewish relationship way, way, way back. Some ancestor was a distant cousin to Moses or some such thing.î
Limbaugh called the whole thing ìa total pander.î
ìIt never ends,î he said. ìSoon they are going to find that theyíve got some black relatives. Theyíll dig up relatives to match whatever minority happens to be ruling the roost at the time.î
Limbaugh asked, ìWhy have we never heard of Wesley Clarkís Jewish roots until he became a presidential candidate? Am I being cynical? Youíre damn right I am, folks ó and happily so.î
Hey, Rush, The Jewish Week reported Clarkís rabbinical ancestors in 1999, before he became a candidate.
But Judaism might attract Jewish wrath as well as votes. Philip Weiss, a columnist for The New York Observer who happens to be intermarried, has written several pieces in which he questions the right of Jews to hold public office if they are ìracistî enough to think intermarriage is a threat to Jewish survival.
Weiss raised the issue at least three times regarding Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2000, and a few weeks ago in a front-page story about Elliot Abrams of the National Security Council. Abrams claims intermarriage has ìlargely wreckedî the Jewish community.
Weissí position is that ìa lot of this rhetoric has a segregationist ring to itî and is ìoddly reminiscent of southern whitesí concern with miscegenation.î Weiss said Abrams ìshould pay [the] price … either give up his job or step back from his extreme views.î Jewish candidates beware.
In Rolling Stone (Oct. 16), Clark didnít play the Jewish card, but did approve of Israelís use of pre-emptive military strikes. Asked if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ìneeds to be hemmed in?î Clark answered that Israel ìis beset by nations that want to destroy it. Any nation that is under attack has the right to self-defense. And the right to self-defense is the right to strike pre-emptively to disrupt the threat.î
Clark approves of Israelís security fence because ìIt says to the Arab world the clock is ticking, weíre not prepared to make unlimited concessions, we have our principles and we will fight for them.î
Israelís air strike against Syria, in retaliation for the suicide bombing in Haifa, was explained this way by the BBC Ramallah correspondent Barbara Plett (Oct. 5): ìSyria is, of course, Israelís enemy. The two countries are still in an official state of war, caused by Israelís occupation and illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.î
Of course, right-wingers might suggest that Syria went to war in 1948 at Israelís birth, then used the Golan Heights as a tank and artillery perch to destroy Israel in 1967 and again on Yom Kippur 1973. But the BBC takes the more progressive view.
Elsewhere in England, the Telegraph wrote in an editorial (Oct. 6) that Israel is ìperfectly justified in striking a neighbor that sponsors groups wishing to drive the Israelis into the sea. That this is the first such attack in more than 20 years suggests that the Assad regime Ö has been treated with remarkable indulgence.î
The New York Times (Oct. 7) editorial damned the ìweekend of despicable Palestinian terror and a recklessly inappropriate Israeli military reprisal deep inside Syria,î chiding President Bush for encouraging Sharonís ìmost hawkish impulses.î Yes, ìAmericans fully understand that no Israeli government can accept endless terrorism,î but no, ìPalestinian violence ought not to lead Israel across a military threshold it has wisely respected for three decades.î
Wall Street Journal on-line columnist Claudia Rosett (Sep. 24) cautioned against the cliches of wartime that muddy our sense of reality. For example, there canít be a ìwar on terrorî without war on the citizens and states that applaud and support terror.
ìIn Syria,î Rosett said, ìthe problem is not simply some faceless phenomenon called ëterrorist sponsorshipí but [a regime] ìrun by a dictator, Bashar Assad, whose address is Damascus.î
Rosett preferred the term ìsuicide bombers,î not ìhomicide bombers,î because the latter doesnít convey the killerís willingness to die. ìThe task is to convey both an accurate description of this revolting act and the depth of malign intent,î she said. ìSuch killers are monsters, grotesques, and by now may warrant a concise ugly word all their own. Maybe we should call them ëghoulsí ó a term for evil spirits that feed on corpses ó also a word which, derived as it is from Arabic, might have some useful resonance in the Middle East.î
The Wall Street Journalís editors (Sept. 7) offered a suggestion of their own: Arafat ìshould enter history not merely as the name of one autocratic man but as the name we assign to an entire Western phenomenon of false thinking. ëArafat,í we now see, has come to represent the act of self-delusion on a massive, international scale. ëArafatí is about refusing to believe that an adversary is simply irredeemable.î
Whatís in a word? Israeli papers often play the same story in quite different ways. Haaretz of Sept. 22 headlined, ìJews purchase land near Rachelís Tomb; planning new settlement.î Hatzofeh that same day didnít see a settlement. ìBuyers establish place of Torah study,î it wrote.
Sadly, there arenít too many ways to ìplayî this next item. A Yediot Achronot editorial wondered if the government knows what to do about the 72 percent of Israelis who ìbelieve that there is no future for youth here
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