Monday, May 26, 2008
One. From Jodi Kantor’s Page One article in the New York Times, entitled “As Obama Heads to Florida, Many of Its Jews Have Doubts”:
“Novel and exotic rumors about Mr. Obama have flourished. Among many older Jews, and some younger ones, as well, he has become a conduit for Jewish anxiety about Israel, Iran, anti-Semitism and race… Mr. Obama might fill his administration with followers of Louis Farrakhan, worried Sherry Ziegler.”
Two. Rumors? American Jews not related to Sherry Ziegler, but who have a worried cousin with access to a “forward” button, will have received an email link last February to a column written by Jerusalem-based novelist Naomi Ragen:
“If I had a Rabbi, for example, who publicly supported and honored a despicable racist, I'd change shuls. Mr. Obama's distancing himself [from Louis Farrakhan] , even during a political campaign, has not included either changing churches or spiritual leaders. In light of this, the fact that Mr. Obama's father and step-father were both Muslim, and that he spent part of his childhood in a Muslim school in Indonesia perhaps should begin to concern us.”
Three. If I had a Rabbi who...? From another Naomi Ragen column, written for Arutz Sheva, the West Bank settlers’ media site, on the March 23, 2006; Ragen was ruminating on the approaching Israeli election:
“The coalition of the National Religious Party and the National Union, with Effie Eitam, whom I deeply respect...”
Four. The words of Effie Eitam, whom Ragen “deeply respects”:
"We will have to do three things: Expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here... We will have to make another decision, to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system. Also here things are clear and simple: We have raised a fifth column, a group of traitors of the first degree, and therefore we cannot continue to approve such a hostile and great presence inside Israel's political system… The third thing: We will have to act differently than everything we have known so far opposite the Iranian threat. These are three things that will entail a change in our war ethics.”
Five. Barack Obama, from Dreams From My Father, published in 1995, discussing black nationalism and Louis Farrakhan:
"Among the handful of groups to hoist the nationalist banner, only the Nation of Islam had any significant following: Minister Farrakhan’s sharply cadenced sermons generally drew a packed house, and still more listened to his radio broadcasts. But the Nation’s active membership in Chicago was considerably smaller—several thousand perhaps, roughly the size of one of Chicago’s biggest black congregations—a base that was rarely if ever mobilized around political races or in support of broad-based programs. In fact, the physical presence of the Nation in the neighborhoods was nominal, restricted mainly to the clean-cut men in suits and bow ties who stood at the intersections of major thoroughfares selling the Nation’s newspaper, The Final Call.
"I would occasionally pick up the paper from these unfailingly polite men, in part out of sympathy to their heavy suits in the summer, their thin coats in winter, or sometimes because my attention was caught by the sensational, tabloid-style headlines (CAUCASIAN WOMAN ADMITS, WHITES ARE THE DEVIL). Inside the front cover, one found reprints of the minister’s speeches, as well as stories that could have been picked straight off the AP newswire were it not for certain editorial embellishments (Jewish Senator Metzenbaum announced today…). The paper also carried a health section, complete with Minister Farrakhan’s pork free recipes; advertisements for Minister Farrakhan’s speeches on videocassette (Visa or MasterCard accepted) and promotions for a line of toiletries--toothpaste and the like—that the Nation had launched under the brand name POWER, part of a strategy to encourage blacks to keep their money within their own community…
"...It was this unyielding reality—that whites were not simply phantoms to be expunged from our dreams, but were an active and varied fact of our everyday lives—that finally explained how nationalism could thrive as an emotion and flounder as a program. So long as nationalism remained a cathartic curse on the white race, it could win the applause of the jobless teenager listening on the radio, or the businessmen watching late-night TV. But the descent from such unifying fervor to the practical choices blacks confronted every day was steep...
"What in the hands of Malcolm had once seemed a call to arms, a declaration that we would no longer tolerate the intolerable, came to be the very thing Malcolm had sought to root out: one more feeder of fantasy, one more mask for hypocrisy, one more excuse for inaction. Black politicians less get gifted than Harold [Washington] discovered what white politicians have known for a very long time: that race baiting could make up for a host of limitations. Younger leaders eager to make a name for themselves upped the ante peddling conspiracy theories all over town. The Koreans were funding the clan, Jewish doctors were injecting black babies with the AIDS virus. It was a shortcut to fame, if not always fortune; like sex or violence on TV, black rage always found a ready market.
"Just talk. Yet what concerned me wasn’t just the damage loose talk caused efforts at coalition building, or the emotional pain it caused others. It was the distance between our talk and our action, the effect it was having on us as individuals and as a people. That gap corrupted both language and thought; it made us forgetful and encouraged fabrication; it eventually eroded our ability to hold either ourselves or each other accountable. And while none of this was unique to black politicians or to black nationalists…it was blacks who could least afford such make-believe. Black survival in this country had always been premised on a minimum of delusions… [W]e seemed to be loosening our grip, letting our collective psyche go where it pleased even as we sank into further despair.
"The continuing struggle to align word and action, our heartfelt desires with a workable plan—didn’t self-esteem finally depend on just this? It was that belief which had led me into organizing and it was that belief which would lead me to conclude, perhaps for the final time, that notions of purity of race or of culture could no more serve as the basis for the typical black American’s self-esteem than it could for mine. Our sense of wholeness would have to arise from something more fine than the bloodlines we’d inherited."
Suggestion: As more worried Jews hear rumors spread by writers for Arutz Sheva , they might want to keep in mind, not only Obama's doubts about Farrakhan, but about letting "our collective psyche go where it pleased."
(Picture: Getty Images, From the Wall Street Journal)
Posted by Bernard Avishai at 9:15 PM