Undernews: The Jihad Against Rep. James Moran
The Jihad Against Rep. James Moran
Extracted From Undernews March 13th 2003
THE JIHAD AGAINST Rep. James Moran for suggesting that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this" is proceeding apace. The hyperbolic hyper-hawks at the Washington Post have called on his constituents to elect someone else next time. And a group of six Jewish Democratic congress members have called on Moran not to run again. This demand - which violates the deepest congressional taboo of not messing in someone else's district if they're in your party - reflects a haughty presumption of power not unlike that to which Moran alluded.
While it's true that Jews support the war in an almost identical percentage as the American average, it also true that politics, particularly in Washington, is mainly driven these days by money and access. The one third of Jews who are not happy with the way things are going in the Middle East receive little attention from either politicians or the media. According to the latter - which gets to decide these things - the highest ranking Jew opposed to the war is Michael Lerner and he makes it primarily because he's accused some of his allies of ant-Semitism.
Even the pro-Israel Richard Cohen of the Washington Post had to admit that "Moran's remarks have produced an overreaction. In the first place, his reference to Jews did not come out of left field. He was attending an antiwar meeting at a church when a woman who identified herself as Jewish wondered out loud why more Jews were not present." It was then that Moran made his comment. Cohen also notes that "Jews are politically potent -- and no one knows that better than a member of Congress. Their activism, their prominence in political life, is a fact. What's more, one reason -- and it is one among many -- that the United States is almost uniquely pro-Israel is that the American Jewish community makes its weight felt. Moran, who at times has been highly critical of Israel, knows this better than almost anyone." In fact, the Israel lobby in Washington is the NRA of religious activism.
Everyone knows this in the capital but if you treat Jewish politics with the same frankness (and the same generalities) as black or feminist or Catholic politics, you reap the whirlwind from the avengers of appropriateness. The Post stuffily declares that "the argument moves from merely wrong to patently offensive when it attributes to Jews or 'the Jewish community' a single view and a nefarious influence." Of course, if the paper applied that standard to its discussion of other groups (including blacks, liberals, Republicans, and environmentalists) it couldn't fill the space between the ads.
The sort of attack that has been launched against Rep. Moran is, in gentler moments, just part of the silly, hypocritical, and bullying character of American politics. In black politics it's called playing the 'race card.' It's a bit different this time for a couple of reasons. First, the last thing the Democrats need right now is another family squabble and the attack on Moran, coming so swiftly on the unseating of Rep. Cynthia McKinney with the help of the Jewish right, is another indication of the how badly frayed the classic Democratic coalition has become. Bush, Cheney and Rove probably cheered when they read of Henry Waxman's attack on Moran.
The second point is that this is not some polite, antiseptic discussion on the Lehrer Hour. This is one of the most dangerous, dismal and disastrous moments in American history and to haul ourselves out of it we need a great deal more honesty in our debate over the Middle East than has occurred in recent decades. It is a problem that is intricately intertwined with the political goals of religious groups primarily Christian and Jewish dogmatists and this can no longer be shunned any more than we can ignore the role of the Catholic Church in the abortion debate or that of the Protestant fundamentalists in the faith-based dismantling of constitutional freedoms.
Religious politics - in this case that of Christian and Jewish fundamentalists - is absolutely fair territory when it leaves in its wake war, a crusade against another religion, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the destruction of constitutional government, and the endangerment of domestic tranquility. Politeness will not get us out of this mess; honest and frank argument just might.
- SAM SMITH