Friday, April 29, 2005

We are all Zionists

This is Friday night, the night of the sabbath.

Here at President Aristotle, I am going to try to make a rule of looking at issues of Israel and Judaism in Friday night posts.

My thoughts go back to the 1970s when I was still in high school, and the UN passed its notorious UN resolution 3379 that Zionism (the right of Jews to live in Israel) was "a form of racism." Nor was the vote terribly close. The UN General Assembly, which some would make the touchstone of moral legitimacy for any war, voted in favor 72 to 35 with 32 abstentions.

My father had married a Jewish woman that summer. And passover seders or bar-mitzvahs were the only real religious observance we had growing up.

But the issue ran deeper than personal family identifications with Judaism. In 1975 the entire American university class was strongly pro-Israel; dissent from this position in American culture at the time was limited to far-right Republicans and pockets of anti-Israel sentiment at the Pentagon.

Leading the opposition to UN 3379 was the American ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan--Irish Catholic, a Democrat serving a GOP president, a PhD'd academic who would later become Senator from New York. Moynihan was flamboyant, principled, and eloquent. He had won his job by writing an electrifying article for Commentary magazine denouncing the UN's appeasement of dictators and tyrants. With UN 3379, Moynihan was the right man at the right place at the right time, denouncing the anti-semitic demagogues who controlled the UN, and becoming overnight a national hero.

In Cleveland, I remember packing into a crowded synagogue to hear local Congressman Charles Vanik defend Israel and Israel's right to exist. The crowd wore small buttons with the saying: "We are all Zionists."

That was then, this is now. In Britain, the union of university professors has called for an academic boycott of Israel--and by that act has become the center for the new western anti-semitism. In the US, anti-semitism risks becoming the default position in American academia (tracked in stinging detail at Martin Kramer's website). In the US, a Senate that once had the courage to send brave men to the UN now wavers and vacillates over the bold John Bolton. And American liberals, who once made being pro-Israel essential to liberal identity, now find excuses to oppose Moynihan's logical successor, John Bolton.

Dubya--often confused for a conservative--is taking a stand for what in 1975 was universally thought to be liberal principle. We have a president with courage. We will find out soon enough whether the same can be said of the Senate.

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