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Posts For: April 6, 2012

Passover in Fiction

Passover starts in an hour or two. Jewish families everywhere will arrange the seder plate, turn down the heat on the matzah-ball soup, and set a Haggadah in front of each seat — more likely than not, the Maxwell House Haggadah. Ever since Abraham Cahan described the holiday as a “feast and a family renuion which form the greatest event in the domestic life of our people,” Passover has been a fixture on the American Jewish literary calendar.

The theologian and novelist Arthur A. Cohen explains why in The Tremendum (1993), his book on the Holocaust:

The Passover Haggadah commands that every Jew consider himself as though he had gone forth in exodus from Egypt. The grammatical authority of of the Haggadah makes clear that this is no metaphor, whatever our wish to make apodictic language metaphoric. The authority is clear: I was really, even if not literally, present in Egypt and really, if not literally, present at Sinai. God contemplated my virtual presence then, thirty-odd centuries ago. The fact that history could not prevision and entail my presence is irrelevant.

Cohen goes on to argue that what is true for Sinai is true a fortiori for “the death camps,” and perhaps that is so: but the literary and moral imperative derives from Passover. Jewish fiction adopts this apodictic mandate. For it places the reader at far-flung and distant events of Jewish life — really, if not literally.

Cahan explicitly invokes the grammatical authority of the Haggadah in his novel The Rise of David Levinsky (1917). The Yiddish poet Tevkin, although a “free-thinker since his early manhood,” celebrates Passover every year as an expression of his Zionism. Raising the first glass of wine, he tells his children (who are treating the seder as a joke) that “Scenes like this bind us to the Jews of the whole world, and not only to those living, but to the past generations as well.”

Cahan’s poet insists that the seder is not a “religious ceremony” but a “national custom.” Over the years, however, the significance has deepened for him. “He was bent upon having a Passover feast service precisely like the one he had seen his father conduct,” the book’s narrator observes, “not omitting even the white shroud” — the kittel worn by the master of the seder for at least ten different reasons. “Father looks like a Catholic priest,” his Communist son cries. Undaunted, Tevkin lowers the first glass of wine and says: “This is the Fourth of July of our unhappy people.” At the end of the seder, Eastern European Jews used to shout “Next year in America!” instead of “Next year in Jerusalem!” In The Rise of David Levinsky, the next year has come.

Allusions to Passover are not uncommon in American Jewish fiction — David Schearl learns the words to Had Gadya, one of the seder’s concluding songs, in Call It Sleep (he is his parents’ “one little goat”), Augie is caught by the gangsters he tried to double-cross just as the synagogues are letting out on the first night of Passover in The Adventures of Augie March (“I was not permitted to pass by,” he remarks), Frank Alpine makes atonement for robbing Morris Bober’s store in The Assistant (“After Passover he became a Jew,” the novel concludes) — but full-length seders are fairly rare.

“Passover has always been my favorite holiday,” says the narrator of Isaac Rosenfeld’s novel Passage from Home (1946). The reason Bernard likes it so much is that he gets to drink four cups of wine — “and it was to wine, rather than the history of my people,” he says, “that I owed my sense of reverence.”

The day before Passover, “when the house was undergoing the annual cleaning in preparation for the feast,” Cousin Willy comes to visit. Strictly speaking, Willy is not really a cousin; even more strictly, he is not even a Jew. He is a “hillbilly” from Tennessee; he had been a “miner, a newspaperman, a sailor, and had seen the world.” He and Bernard are fast friends. Willy slips him extra cups of wine.

“The first of the ‘four questions’ asks why this night of Passover differs from all other nights of the year,” Bernard says. But the real question was: “how did this Passover differ from all other Passovers of all other years?” The Haggadah furnishes a “lengthy answer” to the first question. Bernard’s answer to the second is shorter: at ten years of age, he gets drunk for the first time. In the middle of the seder, he rises unsteadily to his feet and tries to explain the true meaning of the holiday, but the words spill out “thick and silly, ending in a laugh.” Many years later, apparently writing an autobiographical novel, he recalls the moment as the beginning of his life as a sensualist:

[I]t occurred to me that this holiday, which we celebrated in such worldly fashion with chopped liver and gefülte fish and chicken soup floating a thick scum of yellow fat, the droplets winking like the glass grapes — even the matzoh had such a lively, freckled brown face — this holiday, I suddenly felt, was something my family could not understand, a celebration not even of this earth, its meaning lying beyond the particular individual. . . . It was an event only I could understand.

For Rosenfeld, in short, the holiday commemorates both a personal deliverance and the acceptance of a literary rather than a religious obligation: to tell the story of the young American intellectual, “sensitive as a burn,” whose independence from Jewish tradition is narrated in language deeply embedded within the tradition.

I am going to pass over in silence the wacky 65-page interfaith seder in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys (1995), because I have treated it at length elsewhere, in order to conclude with a writer I much prefer. Dara Horn’s third novel, All Other Nights (2009), may be the first American novel to acquire its theme and structure from Passover.

Horn’s title comes from the first of the four questions — the same question Isaac Rosenfeld turned back onto himself. Horn turns the question back onto history. Her novel, the story of a Jewish spy in the Confederacy during the Civil War, finds the place where Jewish history and American history are knotted together — namely, in the experience of slavery.

Jacob Rappaport begins his career as a spy at a Passover seder in New Orleans. Every moment of the service has a double meaning for him. The meal is served by slaves while Southern Jews “sang the Hebrew hymns thanking God for freeing them from bondage.” His host, a Confederate patriot, recites the imperative passage: “In every generation . . . each person is obligated to see himself as if he personally had come out of Egypt.” The Southerners around the seder table smile and nod, confident they will soon “come out of” bondage to the North. “Pour out Thy wrath on the nations that do not know Thee,” Jacob’s host drawls slowly, drawing out the words with passion. To which the assembled company responds: “Death to the Union! Death to Lincoln!”

In every generation, Horn implies, the imperative of freedom must be followed, because in every generation, the Jews must free themselves again — from their ignorance of their own religion, from their dependence upon other people’s thinking, from the mental slavery that holds them in irons. Next year in America! Next year in Jerusalem! Hag kasher v’sameyah!

Passover starts in an hour or two. Jewish families everywhere will arrange the seder plate, turn down the heat on the matzah-ball soup, and set a Haggadah in front of each seat — more likely than not, the Maxwell House Haggadah. Ever since Abraham Cahan described the holiday as a “feast and a family renuion which form the greatest event in the domestic life of our people,” Passover has been a fixture on the American Jewish literary calendar.

The theologian and novelist Arthur A. Cohen explains why in The Tremendum (1993), his book on the Holocaust:

The Passover Haggadah commands that every Jew consider himself as though he had gone forth in exodus from Egypt. The grammatical authority of of the Haggadah makes clear that this is no metaphor, whatever our wish to make apodictic language metaphoric. The authority is clear: I was really, even if not literally, present in Egypt and really, if not literally, present at Sinai. God contemplated my virtual presence then, thirty-odd centuries ago. The fact that history could not prevision and entail my presence is irrelevant.

Cohen goes on to argue that what is true for Sinai is true a fortiori for “the death camps,” and perhaps that is so: but the literary and moral imperative derives from Passover. Jewish fiction adopts this apodictic mandate. For it places the reader at far-flung and distant events of Jewish life — really, if not literally.

Cahan explicitly invokes the grammatical authority of the Haggadah in his novel The Rise of David Levinsky (1917). The Yiddish poet Tevkin, although a “free-thinker since his early manhood,” celebrates Passover every year as an expression of his Zionism. Raising the first glass of wine, he tells his children (who are treating the seder as a joke) that “Scenes like this bind us to the Jews of the whole world, and not only to those living, but to the past generations as well.”

Cahan’s poet insists that the seder is not a “religious ceremony” but a “national custom.” Over the years, however, the significance has deepened for him. “He was bent upon having a Passover feast service precisely like the one he had seen his father conduct,” the book’s narrator observes, “not omitting even the white shroud” — the kittel worn by the master of the seder for at least ten different reasons. “Father looks like a Catholic priest,” his Communist son cries. Undaunted, Tevkin lowers the first glass of wine and says: “This is the Fourth of July of our unhappy people.” At the end of the seder, Eastern European Jews used to shout “Next year in America!” instead of “Next year in Jerusalem!” In The Rise of David Levinsky, the next year has come.

Allusions to Passover are not uncommon in American Jewish fiction — David Schearl learns the words to Had Gadya, one of the seder’s concluding songs, in Call It Sleep (he is his parents’ “one little goat”), Augie is caught by the gangsters he tried to double-cross just as the synagogues are letting out on the first night of Passover in The Adventures of Augie March (“I was not permitted to pass by,” he remarks), Frank Alpine makes atonement for robbing Morris Bober’s store in The Assistant (“After Passover he became a Jew,” the novel concludes) — but full-length seders are fairly rare.

“Passover has always been my favorite holiday,” says the narrator of Isaac Rosenfeld’s novel Passage from Home (1946). The reason Bernard likes it so much is that he gets to drink four cups of wine — “and it was to wine, rather than the history of my people,” he says, “that I owed my sense of reverence.”

The day before Passover, “when the house was undergoing the annual cleaning in preparation for the feast,” Cousin Willy comes to visit. Strictly speaking, Willy is not really a cousin; even more strictly, he is not even a Jew. He is a “hillbilly” from Tennessee; he had been a “miner, a newspaperman, a sailor, and had seen the world.” He and Bernard are fast friends. Willy slips him extra cups of wine.

“The first of the ‘four questions’ asks why this night of Passover differs from all other nights of the year,” Bernard says. But the real question was: “how did this Passover differ from all other Passovers of all other years?” The Haggadah furnishes a “lengthy answer” to the first question. Bernard’s answer to the second is shorter: at ten years of age, he gets drunk for the first time. In the middle of the seder, he rises unsteadily to his feet and tries to explain the true meaning of the holiday, but the words spill out “thick and silly, ending in a laugh.” Many years later, apparently writing an autobiographical novel, he recalls the moment as the beginning of his life as a sensualist:

[I]t occurred to me that this holiday, which we celebrated in such worldly fashion with chopped liver and gefülte fish and chicken soup floating a thick scum of yellow fat, the droplets winking like the glass grapes — even the matzoh had such a lively, freckled brown face — this holiday, I suddenly felt, was something my family could not understand, a celebration not even of this earth, its meaning lying beyond the particular individual. . . . It was an event only I could understand.

For Rosenfeld, in short, the holiday commemorates both a personal deliverance and the acceptance of a literary rather than a religious obligation: to tell the story of the young American intellectual, “sensitive as a burn,” whose independence from Jewish tradition is narrated in language deeply embedded within the tradition.

I am going to pass over in silence the wacky 65-page interfaith seder in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys (1995), because I have treated it at length elsewhere, in order to conclude with a writer I much prefer. Dara Horn’s third novel, All Other Nights (2009), may be the first American novel to acquire its theme and structure from Passover.

Horn’s title comes from the first of the four questions — the same question Isaac Rosenfeld turned back onto himself. Horn turns the question back onto history. Her novel, the story of a Jewish spy in the Confederacy during the Civil War, finds the place where Jewish history and American history are knotted together — namely, in the experience of slavery.

Jacob Rappaport begins his career as a spy at a Passover seder in New Orleans. Every moment of the service has a double meaning for him. The meal is served by slaves while Southern Jews “sang the Hebrew hymns thanking God for freeing them from bondage.” His host, a Confederate patriot, recites the imperative passage: “In every generation . . . each person is obligated to see himself as if he personally had come out of Egypt.” The Southerners around the seder table smile and nod, confident they will soon “come out of” bondage to the North. “Pour out Thy wrath on the nations that do not know Thee,” Jacob’s host drawls slowly, drawing out the words with passion. To which the assembled company responds: “Death to the Union! Death to Lincoln!”

In every generation, Horn implies, the imperative of freedom must be followed, because in every generation, the Jews must free themselves again — from their ignorance of their own religion, from their dependence upon other people’s thinking, from the mental slavery that holds them in irons. Next year in America! Next year in Jerusalem! Hag kasher v’sameyah!

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Hersh: U.S. Trained M.E.K. in Nevada

No, not at Area 51, but speaking of conspiracy theories, here’s Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker:

Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. [Mujahideen-e-Khalq] has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”) …

It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)

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No, not at Area 51, but speaking of conspiracy theories, here’s Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker:

Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. [Mujahideen-e-Khalq] has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”) …

It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)

It’s even more difficult to take Hersh seriously after reading Jamie Kirchick’s persuasive takedown of his work in last month’s COMMENTARY, and this Nevada training scenario seems particularly unrealistic. If true, it would be an enormous scandal. But why would Joint Special Operations Command go through the trouble and risk of bringing members of a terrorist group back to the U.S. for training, when the U.S. controlled an entire military base full of M.E.K. members, Camp Ashraf, in Iraq? And there has been no indication that any training was going on there, so why would it take place at a Department of Energy facility in Nevada?

There’s reason to believe that Israel may have provided the M.E.K. with training and worked with the group on assassinations in Iran. Which seems to make it even less likely that the U.S. would do the same thing, particularly inside the country, with all the security and legal hazards that would carry.

Unfortunately, Hersh provides the sort of storyline that benefits both the M.E.K. and its enemies. A Washington attorney for the M.E.K., and a British defector who now works against the group, were two of the only people quoted who didn’t remain anonymous in Hersh’s story (though neither actually confirmed that the Nevada training took place). Why is that? Because it helps the M.E.K.’s lobbying efforts to get removed from the U.S. list of designated terrorist groups if it gives the impression that members went through training on U.S. soil. And proponents of the Iranian regimes love to find ways to try to tie the U.S. to the M.E.K., a theory that fits flawlessly into their anti-American worldview.

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“Peace” Group Promotes Anti-Semitic Passover Seder

As I wrote earlier, there is a disreputable modern American Jewish tradition of attempting to use Jewish liturgy and especially the Passover seder as an excuse to promote non-Jewish political issues. When Arthur Waskow created his “Freedom Seder” to make the holiday about American civil rights rather than the Exodus one could at least say it was an attempt to use Judaism to promote a good cause rather than a bad one. Other such attempts to make Haggadahs about immigration, the Labor movement or any other left-wing cause are less defensible. And using Passover to play partisan politics is simply pathetic. But the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) has now gone completely beyond the pale with a new version of Passover in which Israel is transformed into Egypt and the Palestinians have become the Jews.

This Haggadah, which was brought to our attention by the Anti-Defamation League, isn’t merely an expression of dissent against the policies of the Israeli government about which Israelis and Americans may differ. By appropriating the symbolism of the Festival of Freedom to promote a cause whose purpose is to deny the Jewish people their rights and liberty, the group is committing an act of spiritual vandalism. Identifying Israel with Pharaoh and Egyptians is an effort at delegitimization that crosses the boundary from bad taste to anti-Semitic invective.

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As I wrote earlier, there is a disreputable modern American Jewish tradition of attempting to use Jewish liturgy and especially the Passover seder as an excuse to promote non-Jewish political issues. When Arthur Waskow created his “Freedom Seder” to make the holiday about American civil rights rather than the Exodus one could at least say it was an attempt to use Judaism to promote a good cause rather than a bad one. Other such attempts to make Haggadahs about immigration, the Labor movement or any other left-wing cause are less defensible. And using Passover to play partisan politics is simply pathetic. But the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) has now gone completely beyond the pale with a new version of Passover in which Israel is transformed into Egypt and the Palestinians have become the Jews.

This Haggadah, which was brought to our attention by the Anti-Defamation League, isn’t merely an expression of dissent against the policies of the Israeli government about which Israelis and Americans may differ. By appropriating the symbolism of the Festival of Freedom to promote a cause whose purpose is to deny the Jewish people their rights and liberty, the group is committing an act of spiritual vandalism. Identifying Israel with Pharaoh and Egyptians is an effort at delegitimization that crosses the boundary from bad taste to anti-Semitic invective.

The point of this seder is to demonize Israel and Zionism. Though Passover is fundamentally a celebration of the national liberation of the Jewish people, the JVP seder is one in which only the Palestinians have rights and seeks to brand the return of the Jews to their homeland and the creation of their state into an act comparable to the enslavement of the Jews. It even urges Jews to add an olive to their Passover plates along with the traditional symbols as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians and “an invitation for Jewish communities to become allies to Palestinian liberation struggles.” The authors are apparently so imbued with hatred for Israel that they ignore the fact that those “struggles” have mainly consisted of violent attempts to eradicate the national existence of the Jews.

In this parody of a Haggadah, the ten plagues are represented as Israeli actions and the bitter herbs that Jews eat to remember slavery are used instead to speak of the bitterness of Palestinian existence. Even more egregious is the l’chayim(toast) over the traditional cups of wine to BDS — the economic war on Israel which seeks to boycott, isolate and sanction the Jewish state — and the traditional breaking of the middle matzah which to the JVP symbolizes the destructive impact of Israel’s creation.

To single out the Jewish state for denial of rights in a way that no other country would be treated is an expression of prejudice. One of the standard tropes of anti-Semites is to try and paint Jews as the mirror image of their oppressors. Calling Israelis Nazis is a commonplace slur, but for Passover, the JVP has made them Egyptians and attempted to transform one of the sacred rites of Judaism into a vicious exercise in Israel-bashing.

In doing so, JVP has demonstrated that it has no place within the organized Jewish community or among the society of decent Americans. Their desire to wage economic war on Israel already places them outside the boundaries of normal political dissent. But their compendium of Passover-themed slurs is an act so despicable that it merits their being shunned the same way we would any other hate group.

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Dems Turn Passover Into Obama Worship

One of the most disturbing aspects of modern American Jewish life is the almost obsessive desire of many Jews to universalize every aspect of Jewish belief while downplaying the original meanings of customs and ritual. Leftist Rabbi Arthur Waskow help set this in motion decades ago with his “Freedom Seder” in which he hijacked the Haggadah recited by Jews on Passover to promote other causes. Since then, transposing the seder in order to morph the Jewish holiday that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people into something that has nothing to do with the Jews and Judaism has become so commonplace it is something of a cliché.

This year, there are more egregious examples of this trend. The National Jewish Democratic Council has published a new version of the “Four Questions” from the Haggadah that is a paean, not to the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, but to the wonders of Barack Obama, to whom the NJDC directs Americans to express thanks rather than their Creator. One need only read the NJDC’s questions to understand their desperation to make up for three years of Israel-bashing by President Obama as well as to get a feel for the attitude of the group toward the president that can only be characterized as worshipful.

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One of the most disturbing aspects of modern American Jewish life is the almost obsessive desire of many Jews to universalize every aspect of Jewish belief while downplaying the original meanings of customs and ritual. Leftist Rabbi Arthur Waskow help set this in motion decades ago with his “Freedom Seder” in which he hijacked the Haggadah recited by Jews on Passover to promote other causes. Since then, transposing the seder in order to morph the Jewish holiday that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people into something that has nothing to do with the Jews and Judaism has become so commonplace it is something of a cliché.

This year, there are more egregious examples of this trend. The National Jewish Democratic Council has published a new version of the “Four Questions” from the Haggadah that is a paean, not to the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, but to the wonders of Barack Obama, to whom the NJDC directs Americans to express thanks rather than their Creator. One need only read the NJDC’s questions to understand their desperation to make up for three years of Israel-bashing by President Obama as well as to get a feel for the attitude of the group toward the president that can only be characterized as worshipful.

The president’s shaky record on Israel — which was made all too clear by the constant fights and sniping against the Jewish state that only abated once his re-election campaign began — has made it imperative for Democrats to pretend as if the administration’s stands on Jerusalem, the 1967 borders and years of failed engagement with Iran never happened. They can rightly claim he has not trashed the alliance with Israel and has even done the right thing at the United Nations and continued to fund programs begun under his predecessor like the Iron Dome missile defense system (which Obama falsely claims credit for initiating). He has also said all the right things about stopping Iran’s nuclear threat though his actions (and a series of insidious leaks from his staffers) have demonstrated that he is more concerned about stopping Israel from defending itself than actually doing something about Iran.

The NJDC’s questions also attempt to use Passover to promote their party’s stands on ObamaCare and the defense of entitlement spending that is bankrupting the nation. There is nothing wrong with Democrats taking those positions if that’s what they believe, but the attempt to link these partisan stands on divisive issues — about which Jews as well as non-Jews can disagree — with Judaism is absurd.

An old joke about Reform Judaism had it that the movement’s concept of the faith was merely the Democratic Party Platform with holidays thrown in. As unfair as such a characterization was, it appears the NJDC wants to go it one better by attempting to transform Jewish holidays into partisan talking points. Such things show no respect for Judaism by trivializing the Exodus as merely an excuse for political rhetoric.

Passover is the occasion for Jews to remember their liberation from Egypt and to embrace not only the gift of freedom but also the ability to worship God and His laws as a people. While seders are appropriate moments to remember those in need as well as other Jewish communities — such as that in Israel — which are assailed by foes, it is not the time to be delivering obsequious paeans to American politicians, no matter which party they belong to. That sort of absurd distortion of the festival of freedom bears a closer resemblance to idol worship than it does to Judaism.

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Anti-Israel Incitement Pops Up On the Left

Democrats got a reminder of just what the far left wing of their party is thinking these days when a debate among contenders for their party’s nomination in the race to replace retiring Senator Joe Lieberman was overshadowed by vicious anti-Israel rhetoric on the part of one of the candidates. Candidate Lee Whitnum called frontrunner Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” because of his support for Israel. She also referred to another candidate as “ignorant” during the course of the debate that was televised by the local NBC affiliate.

Whitnum, the sole focus of whose campaign is hatred of Israel, is a marginal player at best in a Democratic race that centers on the competition between Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. But her ability to get on the stage and spout bile against the Jewish state and its supporters is something of a victory for the Occupy AIPAC crowd and a warning to both Democrats and Republicans about their obligation to denounce anti-Semitic agitators who seek to worm their way into the mainstream.

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Democrats got a reminder of just what the far left wing of their party is thinking these days when a debate among contenders for their party’s nomination in the race to replace retiring Senator Joe Lieberman was overshadowed by vicious anti-Israel rhetoric on the part of one of the candidates. Candidate Lee Whitnum called frontrunner Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” because of his support for Israel. She also referred to another candidate as “ignorant” during the course of the debate that was televised by the local NBC affiliate.

Whitnum, the sole focus of whose campaign is hatred of Israel, is a marginal player at best in a Democratic race that centers on the competition between Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. But her ability to get on the stage and spout bile against the Jewish state and its supporters is something of a victory for the Occupy AIPAC crowd and a warning to both Democrats and Republicans about their obligation to denounce anti-Semitic agitators who seek to worm their way into the mainstream.

Whitnum’s candidacy is more or less the embodiment of the Walt-Mearsheimer conspiracy theories. She is obsessed with AIPAC and Zionism and spends a great deal of space on her campaign website trying unsuccessfully to assert that she is not an anti-Semite. But at least she comes by her bias honestly. According to her biography, her father was a British military officer who served in Palestine during the 1940s when the U.K. was preventing Jews from immigrating to their homeland and assisting Arabs in their efforts to prevent Israel’s birth.

Murphy rightly denounced Whitnum’s comments saying, “This is in our national security interest, ultimately in the interest of U.S. taxpayers to have a strong relationship with Israel and I think it is worth saying on this stage that a lot of her comments have been out of bounds and over the line.” He also said he was reconsidering his support for allowing marginal candidates access to the debates.

Support for Israel in the United States is bipartisan and encompasses a broad coalition of members of both parties including liberals and conservatives. But the virus of hate is alive and well on the margins, especially the far left where, as the Occupy Wall Street protests proved, Jew-hatred seems not far below the surface.

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Obama Grandstands About the Masters

For some reason, this is being treated as a remarkable revelation:

The White House revealed Thursday that President Barack Obama believes women should be admitted to the all-male Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters golf tournament.

The club still has the right to make its own decision, but “[Obama’s] personal opinion is women should be admitted to the club,” spokesman Jay Carney said during the White House briefing.

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For some reason, this is being treated as a remarkable revelation:

The White House revealed Thursday that President Barack Obama believes women should be admitted to the all-male Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters golf tournament.

The club still has the right to make its own decision, but “[Obama’s] personal opinion is women should be admitted to the club,” spokesman Jay Carney said during the White House briefing.

Once a year, the Augusta National Golf Club’s men-only membership policy is turned into a political issue by those lawmakers who want to demonstrate how egalitarian and enlightened they are for opposing gender discrimination in the 21st century, and then the subject is dropped shortly after the Masters tournament. That’s mainly because nothing can be done about it. As outdated as Augusta National’s policy may be, it’s still the club’s prerogative.

The question posed to Carney – does Obama think the club should allow women members? – is an anachronism in itself. Considering that it’s 2012 and not 1950, what is Carney supposed to say? “No, actually the president thinks golf is a distraction from women’s primary domestic duties, so it’s best if Augusta doesn’t allow them full membership”? Other than ducking the question entirely – which President Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer took a lot of heat for in 2002 – Carney had little choice but to answer it, and give the only answer he could give. Of course women should be allowed membership. With the requisite disclaimer: But of course it’s up to the club to decide.

The media is now running out to track down a Republican who will defend the Augusta National policy and serve as a useful foil for Obama’s completely uncontroversial stance on the subject. They had no luck with Romney or Boehner, but maybe Rush Limbaugh can weigh in on it.

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