Monday, February 11, 2008

Jews for Obama--and Against Lashon Hara

Hat tip to Aunt S for sending along one of those viral emails being sent to Jewish people supposedly blowing the lid off Barack Obama's (not-so) secret anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. I wish I could go through the email point by point, but as you know about such emails, the "evidence" is so overwhelming in its sheer volume that we'd be here all night trying to sort through the truth, half-truth, and outright lie. Oh my god, it must be true! Look how long this email is! You couldn't possibly fill that much space with stuff that isn't true! (As my girl Meg says, "It weighs like an A.") It also just provides quotes rather than links to reputable news sources where the quotes can be found. Hello?! Basic email courtesy, basic minimum standard for supporting such serious claims. Or am I supposed to believe it because I read it in an email that 500 other people have read? So annoying.

Besides the fact that about 50% of the email provided innuendo about what Obama really believes based on his associations with others rather than on what he has himself said and done, it gets many things just flat wrong. The email fails to note when offering Richard Cohen's now-well-known smackdown on Obama's association with his church preacher honoring Louis Farrakhan, that Obama DID speak swiftly and unequivocally on the topic. And how about this?! I'm providing the link: mediamatters

The email also spends a great deal of time impugning the characters of people who the email author believes might be in an Obama administration. But here's my major issue with this email and others like it. In Judaism we have a concept called Lashon Hara. It means Evil Tongue/Evil Speech and refers to specifically to situations such as this email. I know that the writer (Ed Lasky) and senders believe that they are attempting to save us all from harm, thereby preserving them from such a charge. But a viral email full of innuendo? Really? Don't get me wrong. This here very blog runs on talking a decent amount of trash about people. I'm the last person to suggest that we all stop talking about people in the strict constructionist interpretation of the Torah. Please. But I'm not speaking On Behalf of the Jews or On Behalf of Israel when I offer that George Bush may be an terrible president. I'm speaking IMHO, and I'm sure as hell not "uttering a false report" (Exodus 23:1) under the guise of being helpful. I'm not saying "When Obama moved to Chicago and became a community organizer, he found it expedient to choose a Christian church to join. Even though his father and stepfather were both Muslims and he attended a Muslim school while living in Indonesia, suspicions based on his days as a child are overheated and unfair. Still, his full name alone conveys the biographical fact that he has some elements of a Muslim background." Wow. Wasn't long ago that having a "stein" at the end of your name subjected you to this kind of mindless bigotry and suspicion, so I'm doubly troubled by the fact that this email is by and for a Jewish audience. From the Jerusalem Post: There are no more American-sounding names than George, Lincoln and Rockwell. Too bad that George Lincoln Rockwell was a rather famous leader of the American Nazi Party. Or in other words, we are better than this.

We are--or ought to be--better than this. If you don't support Obama, have at it. But to imply that he's somehow dangerous because "He is the candidate most favored by the Arab-American community"? That's racist, as well as unfounded and unsupported by any polls I've seen. What if he was the preferred candidate of Chinese-Americans and Cuban-Americans? What of it? To imply that he's soft on terrorism because he doesn't say unequivocally that he'd be happy to bomb Iran? Moronic by any standards, especially since there are Israelis LIVING IN ISRAEL who agree with him. Are they Bad For Israel too?

And in the areas where Obama's bona fides cannot be besmirched? Mr. Lasky simply discounts them because they don't fit into his preferred narrative. Funding for Israel? His supporters will point to a string of votes that are supportive of the American-Israel alliance (foreign aid, for example). These generally are not controversial and routinely pass by large margins, precisely because they support an ally and serve American interests.

Iran? However, Obama did introduce the Iran Divestment Bill along with two Democratic Congressmen (Congressmen Barney Frank and Tom Lantos). Given that Barney Frank is one of the most knowledgeable members of Congress and chairs the House Financial Services Committee and knows the financial industry well, would know how to craft such a bill. I suspect that Obama signed on as a co-sponsor for protective coloration, while Frank and fellow veteran Tom Lantos felt it could not hurt to have a rising star as a co-sponsor.

Or, when Obama holds an opinion that is clearly within the mainstream but not suitable to Mr. Lasky, he simply adds innuendo: "...as Barack has put it, Iraq is under occupation by America (which makes one wonder how he feels about Israeli settlements)." By far, however, my favorite line is this on Obama's vote against John Bolton for UN Ambassador: Regardless of Bolton's evident talents and drive, Obama worked to derail his career. Was it his views that Obama objected to? Hello?!! John Bolton is a wing nut! *I* opposed John Bolton's nomination! Does that make me a bad Jew or shaky on Israel? Gimme a break. Anyone in their right mind opposed John Bolton's nomination. You don't have to dislike Israel to dislike Bolton. But according to this email, Obama's opposition to a fine fellow like Bolton renders him suspect on all aspects of Israel policy.

On the subject of "pressuring Israel" Mr. Lasky says, "Obama has also said "our neglect of the Middle East Peace Process has spurred despair and fueled terrorism" implicitly blaming Israel for terrorism and a sign that a President Obama would pressure Israel. Obama seems to ignore the roles that schools play in the Middle East in the teaching of hatred; the roles of mosques and Imams in stoking terrorism; the glorification of violence and martyrdom in the media; the role of jihad in the Koran." Where has Barack Obama EVER said or is credibly known to believe that Israel is "responsible for terrorism"? That is lashon hara right there, bringing up "settlements" and "blaming Israel for terrorism." Push polling. Push-emailing? Whatever it is called, it's dishonest discourse designed to shade the truth, obfuscate the facts and make people--who more than likely WON'T research all of his claims-- distrust a candidate wholly on the basis of these "issues."

Well. I have no idea if I'm met my objective of encouraging anyone who gets this email to mail this blog post back to every person on the email list. So just to ensure it occurs, I'm attaching links to others (Jews, no less!) who have said it better than me. And for good measure I'm listing the nine organizations that have denounced these emails. Surely each of us can find at least ONE in there about which we think, "okay, I suppose they are not committed to the destruction of Israel by promoting a Muslim Manchurian candidate":

William Daroff, vice president of United Jewish Communities
Richard S. Gordon, president of the American Jewish Congress
David Harris of the American Jewish Committee
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League
Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Nathan J. Diament of Orthodox Union
Phyllis Snyder of the National Council of Jewish Women
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

And here are the articles:
nytimes.com

jerusalem post.com

And you, Mr. Lasky, have a few more al-cheits to do this Yom Kippur.

*More on lashon hara at Judaism 101: http://www.jewfaq.org/speech.htm

2 comments:

Mer said...

I'm a Jew under the age of 45. Do you get the feeling that these emails are generational in nature? We should check and see how old Lasky is. Also, you should look into an article by Michael Lerner where he credibly explains Obama's difficulty in this regard and why people with certain viewpoints see those views as anti-Israel when they are not. I'll try to find it.

Miko said...

Standing ovation. I'm not Jewish but felt I really had to investigate these claims, as a supporter, to be sure I wasn't getting hoodwinked. It's some twisted stuff.