Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

How Not to Talk Politics

When I  lectured my friends about Obama’s stance on Israel, I ended up alienatingnot enlighteningthem

Print Email
(David Silverman/Getty Images)

In the fall of 2008 I had dinner with two Jewish friends for the last time. Already then we saw each other rarely, but they had done me the favor of traveling up to the far east of the Upper East Side to an Israeli place where I could eat kosher meat, at the time a fresh commitment.

The conversation is hazy to me. It turned at some point to the impending election (one of the two was wearing the “Barack the Vote” T-shirt popular at the time) and Israel must have come up.

What did I say? Something about Obama’s weak record? A mention of Rashid Khalidi or Jeremiah Wright? I’m sure I was too passionate, probably even pedantic.

I learned later that I had exasperated them. About that I can’t complain: The person sitting at the table criticizing the Democratic candidate was the same one who earlier in the year had been walking around with an Obama-for-president sticker stuck to his T-shirt.

It was bad enough for my two friends to be told over dinner that their concern for Israel should force them to reexamine their political commitments. Worse for it to come from a friend who had become unrecognizable from the leftist they once knew.

For me, as for many of his early supporters, Obama’s appeal had been based on his depiction of himself as a politician who was above politics. But his response to the Wright controversy, and later, when he broke his promise and accepted public funds for his general election campaign, made it clear to me that the Democratic candidate had more powerful motivations than changing the way things work in Washington. Once I saw him as a politician like any other, I couldn’t justify throwing my support behind a candidate who had no significant record on foreign policy and Israel.

They say you should never speak about politics or religion at a dinner party. Ditto for lecturing about those—or any other topics—to friends you’d like to keep. But unlike others, for whom politics had always animated their friendships, I was someone who made my close friends when politics was something I cared very little about. Perhaps that’s why losing them came as such a shock.

***

If there is a beginning to my political transformation, it started in the Ecuadorian rainforest, where I went to live for a couple of years as a Peace Corps volunteer after I graduated from college in 2000. When I wandered out of the remote town where I lived as one of a handful of non-Ecuadorians, the Westerners I spent my time with were other Peace Corps volunteers or Europeans, eager for a picture with the natives, beating around a corner of the Third World.

I found myself often disagreeing with them: the Brit in a dark street in Baños, a small town in the mountains popular with tourists, who insulted George Bush when I asked him for a light and he heard my accent. The lone Dutch tourist who made it all the way to Puyo, the largest of the Ecuadorian rainforest’s small cities, and invited himself into a hostel room I was sharing with an American friend to lecture us on the impending world war driven by American thirst for oil. The embarrassed whispers among my Peace Corps friends when they saw fellow American tourists in Cuenca.

The strongest disagreements, though, turned out to be over Israel. I had been sent to Hebrew school and a Jewish summer camp and performed the rudiments of a bar mitzvah ceremony when I was 13. I moved passively through these experiences, picking up little, and thus understanding little about the Jewish state.

But there must have been some sort of latent emotional attachment, because it was with shame that I discovered I had nothing to say when I heard wild things said about Israel that I knew could not be true: a casual invocation over chess of Israeli “slaughter” of Palestinians, a justification on a walk to buy beer of suicide terror as the desperate act of a people with no other choice, a dismissal of Zionist claims by noting (falsely, I regret to add) that there are more Jews in New York than in Israel. Everywhere I found an unthinking identification with the Palestinians and condemnation of the very idea of a Jewish state as chauvinistic, oppressive, and anachronistic.

These accusations stayed with me when I made my first trip to Israel in 2003, the year after my departure from Ecuador. They gradually become elements of an ongoing argument I had in my head with interlocutors without names. They said, “Jews need to just stop moving there because it’s pissing people off,” and I explained in response the necessary and just relationship of a nation-state to its diaspora.

New York, I also learned, could be similar in its condemnations and negative impressions of Israel. A colleague at a public school where I was teaching told me that the small northern Israeli city of Sfat was a “sad” place to visit. Another teacher made plans to bring an International Solidarity Movement representative to speak to the tenth grade. Meantime, I was getting addicted to Israeli news websites, struggling through Josephus, and leaving copies of Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel in my colleagues’ mailboxes.

Among friends, the conversation was less aggressive than it had been in Ecuador, but it was similarly troubling. New York, these friends maintained, might not have more Jews than all of Israel, but it did have more than Tel Aviv, which they somehow thought was a point of substance against Israel’s legitimacy. More often, Israel was a topic of boredom and, for some of my Jewish friends, embarrassment. This wasn’t because they knew much about it, but because they knew it as a place that didn’t receive gentle coverage in their favorite publications.

To all this I spoke up, never imagining it would raise any questions of loyalty among my friends. For those whom I discovered were my true friends it didn’t, even if we often disagreed. Those whose friendship turned out to never have been as strong as I imagined began trading around stories of my “Zionist freakouts” and made plain, in one way or another, that my company was something they could live without.

Lost friends are the common experience of all adults. But I suspect that the ones you lose in your twenties must hurt the most; they are the friends you made as a teenager, telling yourself that you’d be friends forever.

I have no survey to prove this, but I suspect that much of what is thought of as young American Jewry’s distancing from Israel must be more about avoiding hard conversations with close friends than anything else. Israel’s cause has probably never been less popular than it is today in the cities where most young Jews live. Saying something kind about it carries with it a potential social cost most young adults would simply prefer not to risk—despite their personal feelings. Silence, and waiting for a more amenable topic, is an easier option.

If given another chance, I would handle that night in the fall of 2008 differently. I wouldn’t stay silent, but I would have changed my tone. Stubbornly voicing my opinion guaranteed that my views would fall on deaf ears. If I had had a real conversation with my two friends, who knows, perhaps they would have changed their minds. That’s what I’ll be thinking about—and I hope doing differently—this election season.

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Print Email

I think it’s fascinating how the cultural mores between different American cities can vary so widely. As another twenty-something Jew, I’ve rarely had the experience you’ve had of overwhelmingly complete antipathy towards Israel. When the subject is opened, it’s more likely people will talk about how much they support Israel and admire Israelis than anything else. Tell people you’re a Jew, and strangers will immediately pipe up with some anecdote about either the importance of Israel or their pastor/priest’s latest interfaith sermon.

I suppose the biggest difference is that I live and work in Texas instead of New York – I suspect that in terms of culture, you couldn’t find two more opposite places that are still in the same country…

salemst says:

Superb piece by Matthew. I don’t believe he did anything wrong at his gathering.
See, the great thing about fellow Jews, IMO, is their adamant views on social/economic justice. The bad thing about my fellow Jews. IMO, is their adament views on social/economic justice.

Problem with young people tends to be their balancing their idealism with the realistic pragmatism they usually learn as they get older gaining wisdom. Young people generally don’t understand much, they just know they’re righteously indignant with all that’s “wrong” wanting what they want when it doesn’t come to fruition. The issue is what they want is unattainable within the prism they desire. Many regard the US has now become their homeland with so many so comfortable, wealthy, and successful here. Much easier to move around in Democrat party/Liberal circles denouncing/renouncing Israel. And many young people don’t have the Israeli attachment as they didn’t live through the wars with many receiving pro Arab propaganda in their college educations since the Arabs have become far more astute in their oppression marketing in the past 25 or so years filtering into universities appealing to that social justice strain appealing to Jews.

So the young’s ideals are a double edged sword. Wonderful they want to do what they can to save the world from being killed. But often in their zealousness don’t realize they’d kill the world in their quest to “save” it.

Obama, IMO, is an enemy and hostile to Israel. Unencumbered in a 2nd term he’d do his all to destroy her. But, again, many firmly ensconced in the Democrat party wouldn’t care. The US is now their homeland. They no longer “need” Israel. Until they become uncomfortable and purged from the US ignoring Jewish historical context. Rahm Emanuel, Axelrod, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Boxer, etc…..they’ve done well here. Couldn’t care less about Israel as it’s really all about them.

Matthew, you’re learning. If they don’t accept you for who you really are, they weren’t real friends and there’ll be others.

My American Jewish friends are often embarrassed by Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, like when Israelis blare noise into the West Bank as “collective punishment”.

fred lapides says:

What I find off: Jews who are to the left (the norm) support Israel, often, but lefties 9non-Jewish) support the Palestinians. Israelis, generally, have moved to the Right and the left is fairly impotent in Israel, though Jews still in general tend to be [olitically to the left.

Allen Hertz says:

Normally we can choose to avoid talking about politics, where there are bound to be divergent viewpoints. However, where there are truly evil things afoot in the world, it is immoral to remain silent, exactly because there is some danger that our interlocutor will wrongly imagine that we share some of the all too common negative views of Israel, mistaken assessments that we judge to be incorrect and perhaps even reprehensible. Sweet indeed is the “fraternity” of the trio of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” But, it’s not always going to be “fraternal” in that way. There is indeed a price to be paid for our convictions and sadly, with regard to the topics of Israel and also of Obama’s policies toward Israel, we can be certain that we will lose some of our friends. Bottom line is that like Jews, Judaism and the Jewish People, Israel positively deserves fairness and sound social science. And yet, it is often quite hard for Jews to regularly treat Israel in the same way that they would regularly consider any other country. And this lack of a comparative optic and fairness raises an important problem within the context of modern human-rights methodologies. It is very hard to believe that the topic of Israel can often really be separated from that of Jews, because most Jews round the world see Israel as the historic and current homeland of the Jewish People, where more than 40% of world Jewry now lives. Therefore, negativity toward Israel is in some sense clearly linked to negativity to Jews or to other Jews. I would go further and even suggest that the modern meaning of antisemitism probably “includes” persistently targeting Israel and persistently applying to Israel a more exigent standard than normally applied to other countries in the same or similar circumstances. So, go ahead and call some of your stubborn Jewish friends “antisemites”! They will not remain your friends for too long. This reminds me of what French-Canadian families in Quebec Province experienced around the time of the 1995 referendum over secession. Families and friendships were broken because the one family member was a federalist and the other a separatist. That’s simply the way of the world, exactly because some issues are perceived to be of such supreme importance! So, go on speaking out for Israel, even if it is sometimes painful and alienates some friends and colleagues.

Anyone who lives in Israel, as I do, knows that among the biggest problems in Israel are that 1) most Arabs aren’t terrorist but you have to be VERY careful, because you never know if they aren’t being blackmailed into poisoning your food or blowing you up. 2) There are still enough leftest here, and enough left-over leftest rubbish, to make it a misery. It is often difficult to get things done because most of Israel still has the old Labour-Zionist mindset (i.e. government, unions, etc. – no interest or real clear idea about free markets, a work ethic, etc.).

neils60 says:

Your commentary was better than the original article.

In my experience (as a 20 something Zionist Jew), having conversations like this shows you who your real friends are. Real friends love and respect you enough to try to understand why you believe what you believe instead of brushing you off with stunned silence. People you just happen to know and enjoy getting beers with will be the ones that will sit in silence, making your advocacy look like lecturing. Good riddance. Conversation is nice, but it takes two to have a conversation. Interestingly enough, the best conversation I ever had on this topic was not with friends, but with a stranger. Elena speaks the truth that “tell people you’re a Jew and strangers will immediately pipe up.” I met a “Muslim” guy (his self-identity, though the fact that we met over a beer means his coreligionists might object to his self-identification, but then again the Haredi might question my Jewish self-identity). Anyway, met this Muslim guy who wasted little time after finding out I was Jewish in joking about the occupation. We had a great conversation. He admitted that the Palestinians are an invented people (that was awesome!), and understood the rationale of the settlements pre-Oslo. I conceded that new settlement building turns off Palestinian would-be peace makers, and agreed that peace cannot be made without including (a much reformed) Hamas. We understood where we both were coming from. As a Muslim he had to stand with his people, and as a Jew, I had to stand with mine. But as young, left-of-center people we had common ground based upon which we were able to reconcile our differences.

I agree that no one wants to have politics be the centerpiece of any friendship, especially if friends disagree. As such, I seriously try to avoid the prolonged discussions when meeting with friends in person. Instead I prefer the online approach. E-mails can be ignored and allow people to cool their jets before sending their opinions, whose unfiltered harshness might turn people off. In the end however, one has to be honest with oneself, and if people find that repugnant, perhaps those people aren’t worth calling friends.

Oh and in case anyone cares, the other side had touched on this issue already: http://mondoweiss.net/2011/10/americans-who-support-palestinian-cause-must-be-willing-to-lose-friends.html (God I hate giving mondoweiss traffic, but this is a great case of knowing your enemy) Unlike Ackerman, Weiss doesn’t equivocate in saying friends be damned, stand up for what you believe in. Perhaps this is why the perception among the Beinarts of the world is that we’re losing the argument. They’re making the argument, while we sit and stare into our beer.

Salemst says “Obama, IMO, is an enemy and hostile to Israel. Unencumbered in a 2nd term he’d do his all to destroy her. But, again, many firmly ensconced in the Democrat party wouldn’t care. The US is now their homeland. They no longer “need” Israel. Until they become uncomfortable and purged from the US ignoring Jewish historical context. Rahm Emanuel, Axelrod, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Boxer, etc…..they’ve done well here. Couldn’t care less about Israel as it’s really all about them.”

This comment is dangerously delusional. My hope is that any youth (or adult) who reads this unfortunate claim will dismiss it and its source (Salemst) as dishonest and hyperbolic. Shame on this commenter for assailing Americans for their loyalty to America. What a despicable claim. Jews are loved in America. Asserting Jews will be purged from their home country of America is pure paranoia and not worthy of consideration – at least not by those who are fact-based and emotionally stable.

Israeli documentarian Yoav Shamir has a great film called “Defamation” which helps explain much of the genesis of Salemst’s paranoid claims. You can download it at no cost.

surfer_dad says:

It goes both ways … in certain company I keep it’s tantamount to treason to mention ANYTHING critical of Israel at all. It simply gets boring talking about Israel because you simply can’t have an honest conversation.

Israel is a wonderful and crazy place, it has it’s strength and weakness like everyplace, to whitewash everything about it is as dishonest and dangerous for ourselves and young people as blaming it for every ill in the area and ME in general.

Honesty, always honesty, is the best course.

You raise two issues in your article. One is that of detachment of Jewish from Israel as a political issue. The second is how to evaluate Obama on the issue of Israel.

I’m curious, how would you respond to someone who is a clear supporter of Israel but who does not see the issues where Obama departs from Israel, essentially the settlements and attacking Iran with the Iran issue not being so settled within the Israeli security establishment, as significant factors in evaluating Obama?

Ruth says:

A family member kept posting anti-Israel crap (“The Israelis are doing to the Palestinians exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews!”) to our family listserv.

I told him I would not argue the points he was making but asked him politely to stop putting such material up as I found it offensive and not at all in line with the jokes, photos and family news we all enjoyed sharing. He replied, “You don’t really understand what’s going on, so I’m trying to educate you!”, and kept on posting. We went through a couple of rounds of requests to knock it off, and “I need to make you understand” replies.

Finally, I made a public posting that he had crossed a line which had nothing to do with Israel or politics, but everything to do with respect and civilized behavior. I pointed out that I had asked politely several times and then told him to stop posting such material, but he had behaved like a boor rather than as a respectful family member and a decent human being. When someone says they don’t care to discuss something, you apologize and change the subject unless you’re a therapist or a detective. Regardless of the subject in question. I also said I was blocking his email effective immediately, and did so. Haven’t lost any sleep or any other members since, and am still close to his children (my cousins).

Ezikiel says:

Dear Mathew, Standing up for truth is nothing to be
regretful about. I’ve also had to wrestle with the mob mentality of the Left. Faced with willful ignorance, self-righteousness,
plain stupidity, and anti-semitism among professed progressives, I had to go back and re-examine what progressivism
really is all about – and to gradually understand its fallacies. That’s called growing up, which never a
pain-free process. I sympathies
with your disappointments, but hope that you continue to stand tall and be
proud. The Jewish-Arab war is a
clear case of right and wrong, and justice is on your side.

Using the words “lecture” and “friends” in the same sentence sums up your whole problem. People who lecture friends quickly lose their friends. Kind of like Israel and so many Israelis that we all probably know, if you think about it.

On the other hand, people who talk with their friends and listen more than they talk, tend to gain friends. Kind of like Obama and some other Israelis have long been trying to do.

Sorry but anyone who thinks Jermiah Wright is a live issue is giving away the radical agenda he’s working on. Your reasons for turning away from Obama are a perfect copy of right wing talking points.

To any thoughtful Jew it should be difficult to defend what Israel has become. Really what can we say? We support peace, a two state solution, blah blah blah. Not much evidence that the State of Israel supports these things. Not much evidence that the State is creating the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. Not much evidence in short that the State of Israel is on OUR side, and therefore difficult for us Jews out here in the hinterlands of America to be on its side. Sometimes the only thing we can do, out here in the real world, is shake our head in sadness. In doing that we are doing far more for the Jewish people than lectures will ever accomplish.

The power of our honesty and our despair is our power. And I think Obama is more closely aligned with that honest despair and hope for peace than a Mitt Romney would ever be. All that Romney offers is lectures on the rightness of Israel, the “democracy” (really? still? and for how much longer?) and the wrongness of everyone else. Is that pro-Israel? Not in my mind. That’s just a lecture, political dogmatism, a form of crude philo-semitism that ultimately is strangely antisemitic, and really about appealing to Evangelist fantasies of Armageddon, dead and converted Jews and the return of their messiah.

Obama isn’t much, but he’s all we’ve got in American politics if we care about Jewish survival and the welfare of Israel and actual peace in dialogue with the real Arab peoples of the Middle East.

As a instructor who has taught Contemporary Israeli/Palestinian Cinema and will teach again American Jewish Theatre this coming fall, I find that few of my students hold any strong ideas about Israel or the Middle East and less have dated a Jew. I offer them extra points if they go on J-Date and remedy that. Then I ask if any have ever met a poor Jew? Usually, none raise their hands. Well, I say, “You’re looking at one.”

Considering that few follow the news in general (they don’t even glance at the cover of the New York Post as a daily amusement), their lack of a stance on Israel is not that surprising.

But that aside, I do think Mr. Ackerman should acknowledge that many Israelis, such as the writer Amos Oz, have been voicing Obama’s opinions about Israel way before Obama probably formed these notions for himself. (Oz’s 1983 work, “In the Land of Israel” is a good start.)

Oz writes: “Perhaps it was a lunatic promise: to turn, in the space of two or three generations, masses of Jews, persecuted, frightened, full of love-hate toward their countries of origin, into a nation that would be an example for the Arab community, a model of salvation for the entire world. Perhaps we bit off too much. . . . Perhaps we should have aimed for less. . . . Perhaps we should take smaller bites, relinquish the totality of the Land for the sake of internal and external peace. Concede heavenly Jerusalem for the sake of the Jerusalem of the slums, waive messianic salvation for the sake of small, gradual reforms, forgo messianic fervor for the sake of prosaic sobriety.”

Alas, I can relate to this as well…but the author places too much blame on himself. No matter how much sugar-coating one tries, if one is to deal with the hard issues, the results will likely be the same. Check this out…
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9494
I’ve made enemies too–but they, unfortunately, are necessary ones…unless just accepting the “Progressive” view that Thor will strike Jews dead with his hammer, unless they vote for Democrats, is the only acceptable behavior for Tribal members.
http://www.geraldahonigman.com
http://q4j-middle-east.com

Alas, no matter how much you try to sugar coat some things, it will not do any good. For too many Tribal members, those who do not espouse their “Progressive” views are considered as outcasts. Check this one out by myself–lead op-ed in Israel National News a few years back http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9494

Steve says:

Matt,
If you need a friend, I’d be happy to provide my contact info. Jews who dump you for caring about other Jews are better off forgotten.

baltasar almudárriz says:

I once mentioned to a Jewish friend how impressed I was with the subway network in Berlin, Germany and that was enough to start a very nasty conversation in front of 3 other people — forget about talking about Israel or cultural politics.

herbcaen says:

Thanks for this honest commentary. Your friends are lost to Judaism and like Jews in Germany who left the faith in the 19th century, their descendants served in the SS with distinction. The children and grandchildren of these former friends may well turn out to be future suicide bombers against Jews

One remembers the name of the country is not America but the United states of America. Just as we are one nation each state has its own riches and differences
We have core believes in liberty part of that liberty is being different from one another that’s why there is electoral college so it is harder for large states to dictate over smaller states

Well, I don’t particularly support peace or a two-state solution, and I actually find it very easy to defend Israel. This is not to say I support Israel unconditionally, but I don’t see why I should give the Palestinians a pass for the excrecable way they behave, and have been behaving for the past 10+ years.
And honestly, when you talk about the “power of our honesty and despair is our power”, you sound like a stoner. Nobody listens to a stoner, dude. Work on your presentation.

salemst says:

Really? Look who comprises the Democrat Party base……..Many Blacks blaming Jews for slavery bringing Blacks here such as Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Wright and others and regarding Judaism as a “gutter religion” such as Jesse Jackson, or fomenting riots at Crown Heights as Al Sharpton. Plus, many Blacks identify with Arabs as ‘people of color’ equating Israel with Apartheid South Africa.

Then there’s the growing Muslim part of the Democrat base
Then there are the anti Israel intelligencia some even Jewish such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, etc…fanning the flames.

With growing numbers within the Democrat Party of people with minimal commonality with Israel and some hatred for Israel and disdain for Jews anything’s possible in the future. We can’t assume America will always be our Homeland.
But we’d best hope Israel is

salemst says:

Thank you, I appreciate the kind words.

camcepeda says:

This is a seriously crazy piece of writing! A bunch of touchy-feely stuff about how your opinions changed, and not one actual fact about how Obama is somehow bad for Israel! And then so many of the comments are so tinged–or even totally darkened–with racism. Why don’t any of you actually try listening to Obama and actually using your reasoning abilities. Is he some great savior of Israel? No, of course not. Does he disagree with the current parties in power in Israel, yes, obviously. Like about half of the Israeli public. Is he somehow less knowledgeable about the Middle East and less inclined to take a pro-Israel position than any other U.S. president, excepting perhaps Jimmy Carter, in any of our lifetimes? NO. In fact, the opposite is clearly true, if one takes into account the way the far right in the U.S. enables the far right in Israel to create a time bomb that can only blow Israel to smithereens.

I believe that honesty, even when it is despairing, is more powerful than putting up a dishonest front and echoing propaganda points.

I believe that listening is usually more powerful than lecturing.

I don’t give anyone a “pass” for their behavior.

If you find it easy to defend Israel, that says a lot about you.

I defend Israel with a heavy heart. And I do so more by what I don’t say than by what I do, and by acknowledging the validity of many of the criticisms that are made of it. Israel deserves to be defended because it is still the defense system for the lives of Israeli Jews, and stands between them and annihilation, even today. But that’s a pretty low bar. What democrat or progressive can be proud of what it has become and is in danger of becoming? Who among us does not feel disgust at the vicious racism that permeates some sectors of Israeli society and politics? Who does not see in those who act in the name of Zionism to settle Yehuda and Shomron, mortal enemies of the Jewish people, threatening not only democracy but ultimately the entire Jewish project in the Land of Israel?

It’s a sorry mess we’re left to defend, though defend it we must. Lecturing is the last thing we should be doing.

Historicism says:

I stopped reading this after the second paragraph, but it should be obvious that the most important thing for Jewish well-being right now is a concerted effort to prevent Israel slipping further into anti-democratic parochialism. The occupation is a stain on the Jewish collective conscience.

Surakij Vuthikornpant says:

First,please allow me to show sympathy & compassion to victims & their families in Colorado raid tragedy. I have sympathy & compassion to victims & their families & I hope they will in Peace & rejoined with my “God” now,I think.. If I am not misundertanding,a lot of people concerns “Iran nuclear issue”,am I correct? If I am not misunderstanding again,Russia is not agree about “Iran to have nuclear” too. Considered tentions in Middle East that quite high, “Why have to make Middle East tentions (that quite high) increase now?” “What for?” And be friendly to everybody,collecting friends always,because good friends bring a lot of good things to your life. And enemies never bring good things to your life,so there is not nescesary to seeking new enemy. International community can help resolve this. And considered,U.S. now is having good international relationships to a lot of Arab League countries,(except Iran,Syria,), “Why risks to have negative impacts to international relationships between U.S. & another Arab League countries(except Iran,Syria) ?” And I think,that’s ok,about U.S. to be good friend with Israel as well as be good friend with another Arab League countries,(except Syria & Iran by now). May be post-Assad Syria,may be U.S. can be friend with Syria too, “Who knows?”

mayacb says:

I agree with your overall point of view, but not your tone. The only, possible, racism note is that Obama was a member of Rev. Wright’s church. Obama is not great, but despite all his retoric, neither would Romney be, andI Bush wasn’t so great in supporting Israel either. We all need to speak as kindly as we can to each other.

mayacb says:

People on both the left and the right don’t listen to other opinions very often. I have friends and subscribe to listservs on both sides. The vitriol is evenly distributed. We have to listen to each other, as the Jewish community is just to small for enmity. However, I wonder if the reason my daughter doesn’t talk about Israel with her friends is that most of them aren’t Jewish and would not agree with her support of the state of Israel, if not necessarily the government of Israel.

elixelx says:

Rubbish! Do you think that Republicans and Democrats share the same views of Israel?

Dina Truman says:

This is exactly how I feel, but never have managed to put it in as clear form. Thanks

mayacb says:

Remember, we are supposed to be polite and respectful to all. Yes I do believe that. In actual practice, not rhetoric, how different were Clinton’s policies on Israel from either Bush?

Bert says:

Part of the problem is that Jewish leadership has failed to speak the truth and thus the Arab and anti-Israel narrative often dominates the news.

Bert says:

The “occupation” is the illegal presence of Arabs in Jewish land. The Arab invasion took place in the year 638, 1,600 years AFTER King David ruled a Jewish nation from Jerusalem. It was the Arabs who went on an imperialistic rampage of brutal conquest after Mohammed and who today rule 10 million square miles of stolen land. It is the Arabs who promote Judenrein ethnic cleansing. Historicism must be a new way to invent history that never was.

paul delano says:

Your friends were morons.

ozzie says:

Your story reminds me of my time at Columbia Social Work School in the mid 80′s. I sometimes heard classmates and others at the college disparaging Israel in a way that made me feel that Israel and Jews were viewed by left leaning people as negative and that the Palestinians were grouped with the exploited, sympathetic “people of color”. I was very liberal and still am. It did, and still does pain me to see this grouping based on good intentions, ignorance of the facts, and a black and white (I wrote this before I realized those words) view of the people of the US and the world. I actually felt that speaking out about Israel or my Jewish identity alienated me from some people, although I did speak out and I did not hide my identity. (I am a reform/Conservative Jew who had studied in Israel in college)

The right and the Republicans certainly seem to make more sense to me on MIddle Eastern issues and that worries me too, because I do think that they tend to be the opposite of the leftists I encountered-reactive and judgmental of those who are different or perhaps darker, than them, although certainly that is not true of all Republicans. On all other matters, the Republicans seem almost comical in not making sense and not caring about the concerns of the “middle” Americans whom they seem to verbally shower with reassurance, nor the environment, women’s issues, or international diplomacy.

I want my President to value Israel and view it as an ally with strong ties despite different views at times, but I cannot cast my lost with Romney or any of the other (even more extreme) candidates that ran for the Republican ticket. In the last election, Sarah Palin was the vice presidential candidate. In two elections before that, Bush won because the SC would not allow a recount. And a war that was not aimed at the aggressors of 9/11, but an old nemesis of the President’s father (who was an evil person). I have to hope that Obama will stand by his commitment to Israel and that he will not forget that caring about multiculturalism, includes those minorities that may not be dark of skin, but have a proud and clear history as citizens in this country.

this is how it is. the article in tablet is good, but the commentary from others regarding this sad reality is even better. personally, i have found that there are plenty of people who simply want to argue (rather than learn and possibly reconsider their position) – there’s nothing to be done about them. and…i’ve found too that there are plenty of people who think they are morally superior if they support the losers or those who are losing – never mind the facts, and history, and common sense, and so on. i think they think not only that they are righteous…i think they think it’s a little “romantic” too. to me (and others, i’m sure) it’s very sad. and finally, of course, anti-semitism figures into it. that…virus

Faival44 says:

Israel is simply one more fault line in the Liberal – Conservative divide. Talking truth to a Liberal friend about economics, foreign affairs, self-defence, religion, you name it, is the best way to end a friendship. They can’t accept that the world they imagine is not the world that exists.

elixelx says:

Ah! Clinton, out of office for 12 years, and Bush out of office for four. These two are “DEMOCRATS’ and “REPUBLICANS”?
How about your pusillanimous potus and his buddies, Wright, Farrakhan and Ayers…are they Dems, or Repubs? Do they share the same POV’s on Israel as Lieberman, Schumer, Feinstein?
How about the CBC in Congress? Other than Allan West show me one of that misbegotten caucus that is behind Israel!
Congressional Dems are anti-Israel. Their views are reflected in the Democrat Electorate…
Take a look for yourself…from one of YOUR pollsters…
http://www.forbes.com/2010/06/02/israel-palestine-republicans-democrats-opinions-columnists-john-zogby.html

Douglas Baines says:

America gives Israel billions of dollars a year. So we get to criticize the country. You don’t like it? Too bad.

The hesitating diplomacy of Hussein Barack Obama in the middle east – cause a fanatic islamic rise in this region. Obama forgot his friends at the middle east. Obama supported the islamic brotherhood in egyept , wich seems to be going with iran and it’s supporters (chaina as well ) . obama didn’t stop iran from having a nuclear bomb. from my point of view, a lot of mess in this region is beacause of obama’s diplomacy. instad of dealing with the big issues in the middle east he decided to deal with israel’s problems. . We hope he won’t be elected.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

How Not to Talk Politics

When I  lectured my friends about Obama’s stance on Israel, I ended up alienatingnot enlighteningthem

More on Tablet:

Sneaking a Peek at Poetry on the High Holidays

By Jake Marmer — Just because you’re in synagogue doesn’t mean you have to read what’s in the prayer book