Why aren’t the battalions of Jewish anti-defamation organizations across the United States playing hardball with the many health-care reform opponents who’ve been comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler and health-care reform to Nazism, Peter Keating wonders on New York magazine’s website today. He suggests a few possible answers: “Nonpartisan organizations typically avoid wading into partisan battles like health-care reform. Some Jewish leaders who feel estranged from Obama over Middle Eastern issues may not want to defend him. Others may not consider radio entertainers a serious political threat.” (That last suggestion seems dubious, given that groups like the Anti-Defamation League have censured everyone from Don Imus to Michael Richards, and that, as Keating notes, the Obama-Hitler comparisons have spread from shock jocks to evangelical leaders to a Florida Jewish congressman.)
What’s really new here, Keating argues, is that the Holocaust may not be the sacred cow it once was: in the past, if the ADL criticized a public figure for an inappropriate Holocaust comparison, they’d make a show of contrition, while this crowd throws such accusations right back at the accusers (as in the attacks heaped on Barney Frank from the right after the congressman slapped down a questioner who equated Obama’s health plans with Nazism). “The radical right has created a new game,” he writes, “and Jewish groups haven’t yet figured out how to play it.”
Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.