Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Got Chutzpah?

One of the chief joys - and supreme challenges - of writing a weekly blog devoted mostly to progressive politics, is going through the various comments sent in by readers. I must admit that for the first 12 to 24 hours after posting an essay, I am a wee bit apprehensive; like most people, I do not particularly relish being raked over the coals.  Most positive, thoughtful comments come with a screen name and email address; the most scathing and hateful are, generally speaking, anonymous and therefore not included on the blog's right-hand margin.  Over the course of a dozen-plus years, I have received enough "thumbs-up" email to give me the sense that what I write is not totally without merit. Then too, I have been attacked and vilified for being everything from a traitor and mental pigmy to a deluded, self-hating Jew and Communist.  One of the "favorites" is the anonymous soul who informed me that I - and "people of your ilk" - "represent a far, far greater threat to America than ISIS." 

Talk about chutzpah!   

As a blogger who has long made it clear which candidates I support and where I stand on any number of political issues, I am frequently challenged to respond to a comment, action or "fact" which may or may not be true . . . and occasionally are either fabricated or "trumped up" - pun intended.  Over the years, I have been asked to explain Barack Obama's having "bowed down" to the then Saudi King (Abdullah) or "apologizing" for America before a huge crowd at Cairo University; to respond to the "fact" that the president is a "white-hating racist"; to deny that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "the most anti-Semitic, Israel-hating" presidential candidate in history. (n.b. All of these charges - among many, many others -  have been puffed and pumped by, whose executive chair, Stephen Bannon, was recently appointed C.E.O. of the Trump for President Campaign.)

Normally, I don't respond to these requests-cum-demands . . . and for two basic reasons:

  1. A lack of time, and
  2. No desire to become a modern incarnation of Sisyphus, the cunning King of Ephrya who, according to Homer, the gods had condemned to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it fall back of its own weight. Historically, this is perhaps the most dreadful punishment of all: futile and hopeless labor. 

Having said this however, I will respond to one of these requests-cum-demands; not to change the mind of the political foe - which would be overtly Sisyphean- but rather to provide ammunition and bullet points for my political allies who may also be challenged.  The subject of the challenge?  Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and who's best for Israel.  The challenge began with an email I received the other day bearing the legend THE DONALD TRUMP VIDEO EVERY JEW MUST WATCH!!  The sender appended a message which said in part, Dear Prof:  I need a rebuttal (disagreement) on this piece before I send it to all the Jews in my data base. I at this time think Jews who love Israel, are better off with a loose cannon then Clinton. . . . I can never forgive her for Bengazi (sic) . . . Why would I ever think of voting for Clinton.  The email contained a link to the following video, "starring" the controversial Canadian media pundit Ezra Levant,  founder of the online The Rebel Media.  (For those who do not wish to watch the entire You Tube video (which runs 13:35), there will be a brief summary below):



 In a nutshell, Levant asserts that "real Jews" - those who practice the faith of our ancestors all support Donald Trump for president.  Those Jews whose connection to the religion ended with their bar mitzvah and are at best "only culturally connected" Jews,' are typical Democratic liberals who don't really care about Israel or real Jewish issues and will most likely vote for Hillary Clinton.  To Levant, when it comes to Israel, Jewish voters have only one choice: Donald Trump.  He backs up this claim by informing us that:

  1. All of Trump's children (save son Barron, who is only 10) are either married to or dating Jews. (Actually, Donald Jr.'s wife, Vanessa Haydon is the daughter of a Jewish father and a Danish mother .  .  .);
  2. That all 8 Trump grandchildren are Jewish (except for Vanessa's three kids);
  3. That most high-ranking members of the Trump business empire are Jewish;
  4. That The Donald was Grand Marshal of Manhattan's "Salute to Israel" parade in 2004;
  5. That he knows more about ISIS and how to defeat it than anyone in the world; and
  6. That unlike President Obama and Hillary Clinton he - and he alone - is willing to say the words "radical Islamic terrorists."

On the other hand, Levant continues, Hillary Clinton is an obvious anti-Semite who hates Israel.  As proof he asserts that:

  1. The former Secretary of State is largely - if not solely - responsible for the creation of ISIS, the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (which he sees as a bad thing), and both the election AND the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi (both of which he sees as bad, which makes little sense).
  2. That her closest associate, the Kalamazoo, Michigan-born Huma Abedin is, in reality, a not-so-secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a protector of Islamic terrorists;
  3. That as a United States Senator, Hillary Clinton didn't lift a finger to support Israel;
  4. That as Secretary of State, she accepted money for "her" foundation from the Kings of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar and worked to make the Iran nuclear deal a reality;
  5. That she is "the most anti-Israel candidate ever to run for President of the United States," and
  6. That if elected POTUS, Hillary Clinton will be "the absolute death of Israel."

How to respond?

First, Levant, who I repeat is a Canadian and therefore cannot vote in an American election, firmly believes that Israel should and must be the central - if not the only - issue which should concern Jews in November.   Moreover, he declares that any Jew who chooses to support and vote for Secretary Clinton isn't an authentic Jew - about as obnoxious a bit of chutzpah as ever came out of the mouth of a supposedly sentient being. In the most recent poll conducted by GBA Strategies, a highly respected Washington progressive think tank and polling firm, Israel isn't the top concern of Jewish voters.  It actually ranked ninth out of 13 potential issues.  The economy, ISIS and terrorism and the Supreme Court were at the top of the list. 

Unlike Donald Trump, whose support and knowledge of Israel and the Middle East is far more rhetorical than real, Hillary Clinton has a track record going back more than 40 years:

  • In the days when she was the wife of the Arkansas' Attorney General, she introduced the Israeli-conceived "HIPPY" (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) educational program into "The Natural State." Today, this imaginative and highly effective curriculum is used in 137 sites and 22 states plus the District of Columbus.  
  • As United States Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton was one of the earliest supporters of Israel's right to build a security barrier.
  • Senator Clinton joined Palestinian Media Watch in exposing anti Israel and anti-Semitic biases in Palestinian schools.
  • In 2006, she cosponsored thePalestinian Anti-Terrorism Act to block foreign assistance to Hamas. 
  • She supported virtually every aid package for funding Israel, and was a vocal supporter for a two-state solution.

As Secretary of State, she

  • Helped avert all-out war in Gaza by negotiating a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Built and maintained a coalition to enact the toughest sanctions in Iran’s history. These sanctions were largely responsible for bringing Iran to the negotiating table, thus making it possible for the 6-state nuclear deal to be signed and enacted.  Despite the certain knowledge expressed by most Republicans - and more conservative Jews - that this brokered deal has been a failure, the reality is that in international relations, the efficacy of pacts of such complexity cannot be known for years.  In the meantime, Secretary Clinton has pushed for a "distrust and verify" modus operandi.    
  • Benghazi remains a difficult challenge for Secretary Clinton. Especially among her many conservative detractors.  And yet, despite the fact that 10 congressional committees have held more than 22 hearings (as compared to only 21 for 9/11), testimony from more than 250 witnesses, 13 published reports at a cost of more than $7 million for the Benghazi Select Committee alone, no one has found any culpability on her part.
  • Like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton also has a Jewish son-in-law.  Unlike Donald Trump, she had a Jewish step-grandfather, from whom, as a little girl, she learned about the Holocaust.

The above, of course does not venture into such areas as maturity, temperament, the ability to listen, basic knowledge and the ability to hit the ground running day one.  Yes, yes, I know: there are issues of trustworthiness and the possibility of indictments . . . for both candidates. 

But in sum, those who insist that a Clinton presidency would be the death of the Jewish State, or that those Jews who support her - as well as any progressive program or candidate  - are either inauthentic or Judaically  insensitive, are alas, giving new meaning to the word chutzpah.

Do I believe this essay will change the mind or position of those who believe Hillary Clinton is an Israel-hater? 

Sadly - and undoubtedly - the answer is "no."  I am neither that deluded nor have got that much chutzpah within me.

And yet, hope springs eternal . . .

Copyright© 2016 Kurt F. Stone