Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Judgement Day

I may be the only political observer out there who feels more comfortable talking about Black political thought and theology than "mainstream" White conservative evangelical Christianity. So while I feel pretty good giving context to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I don't have the requisite background to know if there's any reason not to take Sarah Palin's pastor at face-value. Because while Rev. Wright certainly had some guests who weren't as Jew-philic as I would have liked, I don't think any of his mates thought that Jewish deaths represented the just judgment of God. (And with Rev. Hagee still lurking in the background of my memory, isn't this the second time we've had to deal with this issue?). She's already been dealing with the allegation that she was a Pat Buchanan supporter (David Bernstein has mostly convinced me that she was not, but at the same time I think Harry's Place is not being entirely off-base when it wonders if Palin would have sported a David Duke button had he dropped by town. After all, most Jews think, at best, the difference between the two is one of degree, not kind.). The info about her pastor will only inflame the situation (to be fair, he seems across-the-board crazy, rather than focusing solely on Jews).

Now, here's the problem: Palin's new emergence on the political scene means that she's a totally unknown quantity to Jews. With Barack Obama, he did in fact have a long pedigree dealing with Jews and Whites -- we had data points on him personally which demonstrated he wasn't going to launch on an anti-White and anti-Semitic crusade once in office. And he has also done an excellent outreach job to us as a community, something I am very grateful of. Meanwhile, Palin is being tied to possibly the most reviled organization in the Jewish community that isn't actively launching suicide attacks on us -- Jews for Jesus. It's possible she does not subscribe to their creed, and maybe we should give her the benefit of the doubt. But unlike Barack Obama, she just hasn't spent much time courting Jews on a national stage. I don't think we're unreasonable to ask for some heart-to-hearts -- particularly given that she comes from a community (evangelical Christianity) that has not always been the most respectful or friendly to Jews in the past (being apocalyptically pro-Israel doesn't get you as far as one might think).

My presumption on Palin is that her views on Jews are standard evangelical fare -- outward positivity (enemy of my enemy -- Islam -- is my friend) and some personal respect, mixed with a desire for our social extermination (via conversion) and very little grasp or concern with the issues that actually are important to Jews (or why, or how, they're important to us). Fortunately, this means my bar is not being set high -- it would not take much for her to dispel those sentiments. At which point, I would happily oppose her on pure political grounds. I'm not going to pretend that by assuaging the concerns of the Jewish community she's going to get my vote. She won't. But I greatly prefer opposing someone because I disagree with their policy stances than because I think they're actively or covertly hostile to me as a person.


Mark said...

While I don't recall where I saw it, I did read a short snippet that suggested that Ms. Palin did some outreach and connected favorably with the very small Jewish community in the Anchorage area (and I'm not recalling if was as Mayor or Governor). You could look for that.

PG said...

Here you go:
“Governor Palin has established a great relationship with the Jewish community over the years and has attended several of our Jewish cultural gala events,” Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, the director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Anchorage, wrote in an e-mail after McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee and longtime Arizona senator, announced that she was joining his ticket.

“Governor Palin also had plans to visit Israel with members of the Jewish community, however, for technical reasons, the visit has not occurred yet.”

Palin is likeable enough that she got props from Ethan Berkowitz, the Jewish former minority leader in the Alaska House of Representatives who appears poised to become the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives since Nick Begich disappeared in a snowstorm in 1972.

“I like her and this is an exciting day for Alaska,” Berkowitz told JTA.

Republicans have been scouring the archives to uncover evidence of Palin’s outreach to Jews and to Israel.

Her single substantive act is signing a resolution in June marking 60 years of Alaska-Israel relations, launched improbably in 1948 when Alaska Airlines helped shepherd thousands of Yemeni Jews to Israel. However, she did not initiate the legislation: Its major mover was John Harris, the speaker of the Alaska House.

The paucity of material led the Republican Jewish Coalition to tout the appearance of a small Israeli flag propped against a window of the state Capitol in an online video in which Palin touts the virtues of hiking Juneau.

In an e-mail blast, RJC executive director Matt Brooks offered the screengrab as an answer for “those of you who have had questions regarding Sarah Palin and her views on Israel.”