Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Mike Huckabee Threatens the Jews (Again)

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group representing (as the name implies) many of the most significant Jewish groups in the US,* recently nominated Dianne Lob to be its new chair. Lob was most recently chairwoman of HIAS, a Jewish immigrant rights advocacy group and a mainstay of progressive Jewish politics that has taken a leading role in opposing President Trump's draconian and racist anti-immigrant policies. Sadly, many people came to know HIAS because they were the specific Jewish organization that Pittsburgh shooter was fixated upon in "justification" for his massacre. He hated HIAS for doing what it has done for years -- assist needy refugees in securing a safe and thriving home in America. Hence, in my quick thoughts on Jewish organizations, all I wrote on HIAS was "If you don't like HIAS, you're a monster."

Of course, the world is full of monsters. And one of them is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who, despite not being Jewish, decided he was in a position to dictate to Jews who our institutional representatives should be.

For "their own sake". Subtle.

Huckabee has a habit of expressing his great affinity for the Jews in the form of veiled threats and antisemitic jabs. For example, when he was criticized by the ADL for comparing failing to confront the national debt to the Holocaust (speaking of Holocaust trivialization!), did he apologize? No. He lashed out, darkly warning that "Israel and Jewish people need to make friends, not insult the ones they have." (The ADL, spinelessly, then apologized to Huckabee). He's complained that American Jews just aren't as supportive of Israel as evangelical Christians. He even spread a baseless conspiracy theory that antisemitic grafitti in Chicago was actually the false flag work of left-wing Jewish students seeking to smear Donald Trump -- a grotesque smear on which he doubled-down when challenged.

The arrogance Huckabee is displaying (and I haven't even gotten into the idea that American Jewish organizations should choose their leadership based on fealty to Netanyahu) is both astounding and par for the course. Even if he hadn't repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for the American Jewish majority he still wouldn't be entitled to pick our leaders. American Jews are not his serfs, and we do not run scared from his brand of thuggish intimidation.

Meanwhile, ZOA -- which already has gotten a warning from the COP regarding its inability to play nicely with others -- jumped into the fray to not just oppose Lob's nomination as chairwoman, but to suggest that HIAS should be expelled from the COP outright. When you're outflanking Dani frickin' Dayan from the right....

Huckabee and ZOA deserve each other, but the Jewish community deserves better than either. I hope Lob is welcomed into her new role, and that her ascension begins the important process of healing some very real rifts that have grown between the American Jewish community and an appointed leadership which has taken actual, mainstream progressive Jews for granted for too long.

* Though this can be a bit misleading. Some legacy organizations that once were prominent but today are basically shells remain members, and other important groups of more recent vintage have been denied membership notwithstanding their prominence -- J Street being the obvious example.

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