Let’s start with the political bottom line — or at least how it stands as of this writing.
The furor kicked up in recent days by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar will not — I repeat, will not — turn the Democratic Party into the American equivalent of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, which has a clear and significant anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic problem.
At least not for the foreseeable future. Or to be more precise, at least not as I perceive the immediate future unfolding.
For this, the Democrats, the majority of American Jews and Israel can thank President Donald Trump. As long as the Republican Party remains in his firm control and that of his morally and culturally conservative congressional enablers, American Jewish voters are more than likely to stay firmly Democratic.
Too many of them are just too liberal in their social outlook to vote Republican as the party is currently configured. Period.
This, and because of the substantial Christian Zionist support for Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s politically expedient bromance with this president.
Both Christian Zionism, which tends to back the most right-wing elements in Israeli political society, and the aforementioned bromance are, again, anathema to the majority of American Jews.
Christian Zionism, regardless of how well it is actually understood by the rank-and-file, is a complete turn off for the preponderance of American Jews because it sounds to them like Christians wanting to control Jews simply to foster their own theological beliefs and yearnings. And when has that ever turned out well for Jews?
As for the bromance, well, need I say anything more than if Trump’s for it most folks on the American center-left, Jewish or not, find it suspicious. Nor do they like Netanyahu, who is viewed as entirely unwilling to give Palestinians any of what they want for the sake of a peace agreement.
(This latter aspect is far too complex to get into here. Suffice it to say that a lot of Israeli Jews believe the Palestinian leadership cannot be trusted to uphold such an agreement, making it too risky to try.)
For those reasons and more — including the not inconsequential staunchly pro-Israel stance of the current Pelosi-Schumer Democratic leadership — large numbers of American Jewish Democratic voters and their representatives are not about to abide a party takeover by anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian activists and politicians, who they are also likely to paint as anti-Semitic.
That’s the sum of it — for now, at least.
Still, Omar and other Democratic upstarts, in particular Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American, won't go away and won’t stop trying to keep debate over United States’ support for Israel on the front burner. They will continue to push the envelope at every opportunity.
Why? Because whether you agree with them or not, they’re part of today’s American political environment. So like it or not, as elected representatives, Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women in Congress, have every right to push their agenda. And they're good at it; they know how to manipulate our prevailing social media world, which now also holds considerable sway over what are still quaintly known as the mainstream media.
They — as does every other political activist worth his or her salt today — know how to game a system that revels in the outrageous statement and the ensuing Twitter storm and oped avalanche.
This, no matter, what the former political and journalistic gatekeepers may think. Say something that goes against the grain and overwrought partisan sparing ensues on a global basis.
By now, you all should be aware of the basic elements of the running story that Omar triggered. So rather than restating them, allow me to simply point you toward this Atlantic piece — “Ilhan Omar Just Made It Harder to Have a Nuanced Debate About Israel“ — that covers them in fine fashion.
As you might imagine, the Israeli and American Jewish media unloaded on the story. Opinion piece followed opinion piece until just about everyone with a keyboard appeared to weigh in (okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration).
On the left, by way of example, the Forward offered this one, among many others. The author Peter Beinart, is also a fixture on CNN. He’s long been a prominent critic within the Jewish world for his anti-Netanyahu positions.
On the right, the Tablet offered this piece, also one of several.
Note it emphasizes the Christian Zionist link as a key aspect of overall American support for Israel. Note again, that, as I said above, I think this line of reasoning, regardless of its accuracy, is, shall we say, under appreciated by contemporary, mostly non-traditionally religious, or irreligious, American Jews.
One last thought.
As I said, this issue will not quiet down anytime soon. Because of that, it has the potential to further divide in a very dangerous way the American Muslim and Jewish communities. Dangerous, I say, because both are minority communities with shared religious freedom concerns that are too important to be cast aside out of pique.
The two communities already harbor great suspicion against each other. Obviously that has much to do today with the Israel-Palestine issue. Plus, they're so culturally different, though we should not make the mistake of assuming that either of the communities are monolithic.
But it goes even deeper — like back to the founding of Islam and the rejection of the religious and political leadership of the Prophet Mohammad.
Not to mention the many centuries during which Middle Eastern Jews lived as second-class citizens under Muslim domination, largely ending with the founding of modern Israel. This accounts for why Israeli Jews who trace their ancestry to Muslim lands -- and in particularly Arab Muslim lands -- tend to vote rightwing.
America has more than enough religious divides. We don’t need to inflame them any further.