Angry Jews and their Political Wars
Civility and consensus have given way to name-calling and political separation.
Americans are angry. Many feel that their government doesn’t work, while others believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction. For some their anger is about feeling marginalized in their own society, as immigrants and others are seen as threats to this nation’s values and its character.
This state of anger is readily present within the Jewish community as well. Jewish political frustration is broad and encompasses the perspectives of Jews both on the left and the right. For liberal Jews there is growing unhappiness over the absence of legislative initiatives dealing with immigration reform, gun control, and the protection of voting rights for minorities across the country. Jewish conservatives, who were already critical of the Obama Administration in its handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, would become enraged by the Iran Nuclear Accord Agreement, the management of the American response to ISIS, and the general tenor of the nation’s commitment to security. The grievances and differences among Jews has created what some have framed as the “great divide,” where the political tension can be defined as deep and uncompromising. The degree of angry rhetoric and the heightened levels of communal tension serve to affirm this schism. Civility and consensus have given way to name-calling and political separation.
Five years ago I had occasion to write an article entitled, “The New Angry American Jewish Voter”(Jewish Journal cover story, August 11, 2010). In that piece I described the American Jewish community as a “contemporary version of the Maccabees, namely a revolt against the existing order.” But the depth and intensity of Jewish anger has not dissipated, quite the reverse, it has become more entrenched and pronounced.
In crisis settings there is a tendency to seek to place blame on those who are “responsible”; at times such reaction is directed against authority figures, and not just against perceived external enemies or those who are seen as real or possible internal threats to the society. Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argues that the use of the term “War on Terror” was intended to generate a culture of fear deliberately because it “obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.”
Part of the anger and distrust we see being exhibited in the public square it would seem is being emulated within the Jewish world. A number of specific factors seem to contribute to this state of “Jewish warfare”: