Top Ten Reasons Why Jews Shouldn’t Abandon the Left
Toronto UJA, March 2007
Quite a few people would question if I’m a Liberal, anymore, at least federally. But I suspect quite a few Conservatives wonder if Hugh is really one of them, too, so I guess that makes us even.
I am here because I am a Zionist, and I love Israel. I am also here because I am a bit of a leftie on some things.
I like taxes, gun control, gay marriage, Jean Chrétien, Kyoto, obscure punk rock bands, and the separation of church and state. I also like baby seals and bicycles. I am not fond of George Bush, Anne Coulter, SUVs or the sale of water by private companies.
For reasons I do not completely understand, however, I happen to like Alister and Hughie. So I promised them I will limit my opening remarks to ten minutes. Sort of.
Because I love Top Ten lists, I have also agreed to provide you with a list of ten reasons why Jews belong on the Left – or, at the very least, why Jews should ensure they have some representation on the Left side of the spectrum, too.
Ready? Here goes.
- For Starters, Most Jews Already Are On the Left
As American Jewish sociographer Milton Himmelfarb once memorably said, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” That is as true in the United States as it is in Canada, except Episcopalians are called Anglicans up here. In the US, three out of every four Jews vote Democratic.
In Canada, it’s even more. As my fellow Post columnist George Jonas recently lamented, the combined Jewish left-wing vote – that is, Jewish votes going Liberal or NDP – has been at about 85 per cent for years.
George called it, and I quote, “the bicycle-riding vegetarians in the progressive-liberal-socialist axis of moral relativism.” Say that with your mouth full of crackers!
I argue that the vast majority of Canada’s 400,000 Jews are on the Left not despite the alternative, but because of it. They have considered the alternative, and know where they belong, which is on the Left. Here’s more reasons why.
- Don’t Assume A Stupid Leftie Represents the Whole Left
Yes, yes, I know. Former Democratic president Jimmy Carter called the “wholly justified and long overdue action against Hezbollah an unjustified attack on Lebanon,” quote unquote. He likened Israel to an apartheid state. Jesse Jackson once called New York “Hymietown.” And my former federal political home, the Liberal Party of Canada, has recently had a whole series of appalling statements made about Israel by idiots.
But the right wing has just as many idiots making idiotic statements. Pat Buchanan praised Hitler and called Capitol Hill “occupied Israeli territory.” Bush Secretary of State James Baker said “f*** the Jews” because “they don’t vote for us anyway.” And that ADQ jerk, just this week, saying Jews are responsible for wars. And so on,
Just as Buchanan and Baker do not represent the whole Right, neither do Carter and Jackson represent the whole Left. Both sides are guilty of stupidity and bigotry. Our job, all of us in this room, is to ensure we are in a position to educate and influence both sides of the ideological spectrum.
I am unconvinced Buchanan and Carter can be educated about anything, but we should give it the old college try.
- Let’s Get Machiavellian For A Minute, Shall We?
Look, as much as guys like Alister or Hughie try to prevent it, Liberals like me sometimes get power. We occasionally win elections. The reverse is true, too, although not as often.
However much I oppose the knock-down-the-wall-between-church-and-state approaches of Stock Day – and, stop the presses, I confess that he’s been a not-bad cabinet minister, now that he has adult supervision in the form of the Prime Minister – and however much I try to keep Hughie or Alister out of 24 Sussex, sometimes they get the keys.
Pardon my French, by why the Heck are those of us who love Israel throwing caution to the proverbial wind, and casting our lot with just the Right wing? Why don’t we try and have friends in every camp?
It’ll make for fewer sleepless nights during elections, believe me. And, as Woody Allen said, sort of, it increases your chances of getting a date on a Saturday night.
- Jews Vote Liberal Because Most Jews Are Liberal
Here are the facts: when it comes to social issues, Jews are liberal. Very liberal. Jews are mostly pro-choice. Jews favour gun control, stem-cell research and the separation of church and state.
Jews favour women’s rights and were at the forefront of the civil rights movement. As a consequence, Jews are understandably uncomfortable when they see nativity scenes, or prayers before football games. It reminds Jews, I think, how quickly a minority can become a powerless minority.
Polls show that Jews are therefore very uncomfortable with almost every single social policy held dear by Conservatives. Some of you may think George W. Bush is terrific – but did you know that George W. Bush’s Texas Republican Party constitution proclaims the United States a “Christian nation?” Don’t forget that, or what that means.
- Jews Know How To Fight Wars on Terror, and It Isn’t George Bush’s Way
An overwhelming majority of American Jews – 73 per cent – describe themselves as moderate or liberal. Only 19 per cent of American Jews voted for the guy claiming to be leading the war on terror, George Bush.
That’s less than half what Ronald Reagan got in 1980, the high water mark. The Jewish vote trend line, among all but Orthodox Jews, is down for conservatives.
Why? Well, I don’t know a lot about politics, but I do know that the Jewish community is educated, engaged and politically active. And my gut tells me that a lot of people have made a lot of assumptions about how the Jewish community thinks we should fight terror. And those assumptions are wrong. Why else would the so-called “cut and run” party, the Democrats, have all but four of the Jews in the 110th Congress? (Where, I am happy to note, there are more Jews than at any time in U.S. history.) Why has the Jewish Democrat vote gone up in the mid-term elections, to a historic high of 90 per cent, not down? Why did a survey by the American Jewish Committee late last year find that Jews favoured the Democrat’s approach to Iraq over the Republican’s, by a margin of close to 40 per cent? Why?
Because Jews know how to fight terror. Because they know that you don’t do it the way George Bush has done it.
To appropriate Ronald Reagan’s phrase, “Are you safer now than you were in 2000?” The answer is self-evident.
- Jews Know That History Matters
…And the history, as I documented in this book ten years ago, is that the fountainhead of anti-Semitism and racism – the very birthplace of fascism, the ideology of murder – is, historically, on the Right. Not the Left.
And I do not just mean the more visible manifestations of anti-Semitism, as practiced in the Third Reich. I mean country-club political anti-Semitism, too, which is more subtle but also harmful.
The right, and Christianity, still has much to answer for. And I say that as a practicing Catholic, who is usually at church right about now, who remains ashamed and penitent for the abominations that have been done to Jews in Christ’s name. History matters, and Jews have a better understanding of history than most.
- Jews Fear the Social Agenda of the Christian Right, Because They Should
There’s a reason why the Right works so tirelessly to chip away at the wall between Church and State. It is because they see the State as an impediment to a Christian nation.
Without overstating matters, I see this as the Jewish community’s key domestic challenge – and it’s a big challenge to our democratic values in the West, too. The Christian Right do not pull down the wall between Church and State because they necessarily want to harm you. It is because they want to “save” you. They think you need saving. Do you think you need saving?
To me, liberalism is the result of religious values. It is not their antithesis. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish organization in the United States, puts it best: “When people talk about God and yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to [Jews]. When they cloak themselves in religion, and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.” Amen to that.
- Jews Fear the Religious Agenda of the Christian Right, Because They Should
Christian Zionists on the Right have end-times beliefs. I’ve told my friends Linda Frum and Ezra Levant about these beliefs, but they wouldn’t listen to me. They never listen to me, those two. Maybe you guys will.
Christian Zionists see the return of Jews to Israel as a Scriptural precondition for the return of the Messiah. 144,000 Jews are to be converted in this apocalyptic scenario. If the Jews don’t convert, they will burn in Hell, or be slaughtered, or both.
I’m not making this stuff up, folks. Romans 1:16: “to the Jew first.” That one has been interpreted to mean they have a mandate to convert you, right off the top.
John 4:22: “salvation is from the Jews.” Meaning, Christ will not return if you folks don’t cooperate.
And then, of course, Matthew 23:39: “You will not see me” – this is Christ speaking – “until [the Jews] say ‘he is Jesus that comes in the name of the Lord’.”
Doesn’t that kind of stuff worry you? It worries me, and I’m the church-going Christian guy. Choose your friends very, very carefully, folks. You never know who may turn out to be the wrong kind of friend.
- Jews May Work on Bay Street, But They Never Forget Main Street
…because Main Street is where the Jewish community started. The poorest of the poor. The least powerful. The ones kept out of the clubs, and the swimming pools, and the private schools, and moved to the back with the blacks and us Catholics.
Jews have a historic kinship with the Left – arising out of the labour movement, and the women’s movement, and the civil rights movement, and all of the great progressive movements of the last Century.
It is essential that this community does not turn its back on that great progressive tradition, because Jews – more than any other minority I can think of – understand how quickly one can lose everything, and move from Bay Street, to Main Street, to far, far worse.
The veneer of civilization isn’t just thin. On some days, it seems like it is non-existent. It is this community – it is the people I stand before today – who remind the rest of us of the daily need to be decent, and tolerant, and kind to those who have less.
Look at me, folks. I am a latté-sipping, Kyoto-loving, One-World Government Secular Humanist. I probably got here today in a black helicopter, piloted by Hilary Clinton.
But to echo that great line in ‘Jerry Maguire’ – you all had me at “hello.” I will always support you, always. After hearing my little rant, today, some of you may not want me, but too bad. You’ve got me.
There are others like me – many, many others, and they’re all a lot smarter, too. There are others like me, who admire Israel for being a beacon of democracy in a sea full of tyranny. For its generosity, for its wisdom. There are others like me, who see Israel’s continued existence as a precondition to a safer, saner world.
There are others like me! So, by all means, vote for Hughie’s conservatives, sometimes. But vote liberal sometimes, too. Our enemies – and I say that as a Zionist, and as someone who loves Israel, and as a proud member of the team – always want to isolate us, to identify us with only one cause or one choice. Let’s not give them that.
Let’s be smart and let’s be strategic. Israel, and Israel’s people, is owed no less.