Saturday, January 28, 2012

Confessions of a LIBERAL

So apparently, I am officially a “LIBERAL”. I never really thought of myself that way, but then again, as I’ve maintained since I launched this blog, I've never really thought of myself as fitting into any labels or pat descriptions. But last week I was accused (apparently it is a blemish on any self-respecting Jew) of being a LIBERAL – in caps because I was being yelled at (according to online etiquette).

The accusation came in an exchange on a thread in a Facebook group in which I responded to a picture which I personally believe is inaccurate. You may have seen this picture – it shows a man's back with the Israeli flag on it being stabbed, and on the arm holding the knife is written “Obama”.

I am not, and never have been a supporter of President Obama, and I do not believe that his policies and statements are favorable to Israel. I know that many people – Jews and others will disagree with this and that is certainly their prerogative – I have no intention or interest in debating the merits or implications of US policy towards Israel – but my personal opinion is that Obama is not one whom I would consider a “friend” in the international arena.

But that does not mean that he has “betrayed” us. Too many Israelis and American supporters of Israel seem to think that President Obama, and indeed the United States “owes” Israel their loyalty and support. But Obama was not elected to look out for Israel’s interests and he is in no way accountable or answerable to Israel. His mandate, as with every US president before him, is to do what he believes will most further American interests. If he honestly believes that it is best for the United States to support Palestinian statehood, then not only is it his right to do so, it is in fact his responsibility.

I realize that I am walking a fine line on this one, so I will do my best to be absolutely clear. I do not want to discuss whether or not Obama actually is a friend to Israel or whether or not he is giving priority to the Palestinian claims and cause over Israel's. That is really neither here nor there, and it is irrelevant to the point that I do feel is the important one here.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Obama’s positions are in fact pro-Palestinian. We can make a very strong case that would disagree with those positions, and we can make an equally strong case that supporting the Palestinian over the Israeli claims is in fact not truly in America’s best interests. But I don’t see how we can say that Obama is “wrong” for believing what he does if he truly believes it to be what is best for American interests.

We can say that he not a friend of Israel – he has many supporters who claim otherwise, but we have a right to disagree based on his statements and actions as president.

We can say that his policies and his stands increase the already incredible challenges that we have in struggling for our very existence.

But we cannot say that he is “stabbing us in the back”. For that to be true, he would have to owe us a certain loyalty and support. These are what he owes to his country, not to ours. Of course I would personally prefer that he gave us that support, not because he has to but because he would see that it is in the best interest of America as well as the world.

So that was my basic response to the picture (I didn’t go on nearly as long there as I did here, but that’s one of those pesky differences between a blog and a Facebook thread). At no time did I say, or even imply that I support Obama (because I don’t) nor did I say or imply that I think he is a friend to Israel.

But the response from one woman was quick and violent (well, as violent as one can get in a Facebook thread). She screamed (again – by using lots of CAPITAL LETTERS) that stabbing Israel in the back is exactly what (and now I quote) “Satan's son is DOING to his ALLY ISRAEL. He's nothing but a MOOZLEM Islam-loving TRAITOR!!!!!! DEVIL in Disguise”.

Once she made it clear what Obama is doing (apparently not merely her opinion, but an indisputable fact) she went on to attack me for having the audacity to voice an opinion – a wrong one at that – with which she does not agree, “And what BOTHERS ME in this above comment, is that I strongly sense your LIBERAL inclination…if you were to make such a Commie statement in our other CONSERVATIVE group, you would be banned on the spot WITHOUT a single DOUBT!!!”

So there! Not only am I a LIBERAL, but I am also a Commie!

For all of my attempts to clarify my position, this woman absolutely refused to calm down, she continued blasting me for being such a LIBERAL, refused my request/challenge to show what I had written which was so “LIBERAL”, and then even complained about my rudeness. Apparently the polite, gentlemanly thing would have been for me to humbly acknowledge that she was absolutely right (and I use that word in every sense of its meaning) and then go to my room to think about what I had done.

But who knows? In spite of the fact that I don’t see Obama as a friend to Israel, and as an Israeli I would rather see a US president who I feel is more sympathetic to Israel’s concerns, perhaps I still am a “liberal” (or, if it is in fact a curse, a “LIBERAL”). Let’s examine it for a moment.

If being a LIBERAL means that I support gay rights and gay marriage, then maybe I am a LIBERAL.

If being a LIBERAL means that I have seen a lot of the advantages of Israel's socialized medicine and would love to see a similar system operating in America, then maybe I am a LIBERAL.

If being a LIBERAL means that I believe that marijuana does not pose nearly the dangers of cigarettes and alcohol, and would be happy to see it legalized – albeit with certain restrictions and safeguards similar to those in place for cigarettes and alcohol, then maybe I am a LIBERAL.

If being a LIBERAL means that I believe that the government should have absolutely no say in a woman’s decision to abort a fetus, and thatno, it is definitely NOT “murder”, then maybe I am a LIBERAL.

But of course – none of those issues are the burning ones for me as an Israeli, so let’s expand things a little bit.

If being a LIBERAL means that I can accept the possibility that Israelis can have “left-wing” views - even ones which I do not share - without being self-hating enemies of Israel, then OK - I am a LIBERAL.

If being a LIBERAL means that I refuse to lump all Arabs and Muslims together under the umbrella label of “evil”, then OK - I am a LIBERAL.

If being a LIBERAL means that I don’t use my religious beliefs as a basis for my political views then OK - I am a LIBERAL.

And if being a LIBERAL means that I don’t see foreign leaders as “betraying” Israel when they do not share my view of the correct and just solution for the conflict here, then once again, I guess I am a LIBERAL.

There is no shortage of people with whose opinions I disagree – sometimes very strongly, yet never have I felt the need to label or insult those with whom I disagree or to invalidate their views. Maybe that makes me a LIBERAL.

Worse yet, I never feel the need to convince others that my view is the “right” one, and that they need to see things my way is what makes me a LIBERAL.

Don't get me wrong - I do enjoying sharing my views, hearing the views of others, and I enjoy the intellectual challenge of being forced to defend and reinforce my opinions and conclusions. And I am very happy to accept that I don’t agree with someone, and even worse – that they don’t agree with me.

That is just so damn LIBERAL of me.


  1. Word games have little value. Read Wittgenstein for a more erudite explanation, otherwise, try D. H. Lawrence:

    What is he?
    -A man, of course.
    Yes, but what does he do?
    -He lives and is a man.

    Oh quite! But he must work. He must have a job of some sort
    Because obviously he’s not one of the leisured classes.
    -I don’t know. He has lots of leisure. And he makes quite beautiful chairs.

    There you are then! He’s a cabinet maker.
    -No, no
    Anyhow a carpenter and a joiner.
    -Not at all.

    But you said so
    -What did I say?
    That he made chairs and was a joiner and carpenter
    -I said he made chairs, but I did not say he was a carpenter.

    All right then he is just an amateur?
    -Perhaps! would you say a thrush was a professional flautist, or just an amateur?

    I’d say it was just a bird
    -And I say he is just a man.
    All right! You always did quibble?

    1. Brilliant DHL!!!