The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, as Senator Ted Stevens recently discovered. For Jews vigilance tends also to be the price of survival. When we forget to look over our shoulder we are likely as not to get a knife in the back. This is why I step out of character to tolerate the existence of Holocaust scholars.
The title has such a phony ring, conjuring up a vision of the dean’s brother-in-law reading a few Auschwitz memoirs and cultivating rich survivors in return for an endowed seat where he can watch Donald Duck cartoons in stocking feet. Even those who take it very seriously and exhaustively research every aspect of the Holocaust are one real discipline short of a professorship. Still we tolerate. It is a small luxury we afford ourselves to be assured of sentries standing at the gate. We figure if the big one ever comes down the pike again, these folks will sound the alarm early.
When one of these personalities steps out onto the political stage to comment on a policy or candidate, there is one standard by which to judge this utterance: is it freighted with maximum consideration for potential danger to Jews? Paranoia is acceptable, exaggeration is understandable and overprotectiveness is livable. Only carelessness is offensive, an offense which brooks no clemency.
With this in mind, I believe that the endorsement of Barack Obama for President by Deborah E. Lipstadt, resident Holocaust scholar at Emory University, is an atrocity in its own right. It represents a profound betrayal of the raison d’être of her creed.
MS. LIPSTADT begins by saying that McCain is pro-life and Palin even disapproves of abortion in cases of rape and incest. This is an unwarranted intrusion into a personal family matter. It also conflicts with Torah, which puts the life of the mother ahead of the unborn child. Many rabbinical opinions include mental health as a factor, considering the danger of losing her mind equal to losing her life.
Lipstadt concludes: “Were McCain and Sarah Palin to write their pro-life beliefs into law, their policy could create both an obstacle to Jewish law and severe invasions into our private lives.”
God, how I wish I was eloquent enough to show you how viciously, corruptly, grossly false this is! Grrrrr. The citing of Torah in support of this position is a horror. By Torah law, abortion is a form of murder. The justification for putting the mother’s life first is self-defense (despite lack of malice), as Maimonides explains, just as an outside attacker can be killed. To apply this in the arena of mental health requires a finding that the mother is in danger of going crazy if the child is born and adopted.
No state had a law disallowing abortion if the life of the mother is in danger, even before Roe vs. Wade. No state has a legislature favoring such a law. The Republican platform does not advocate such a law. Neither McCain nor Palin supports such a law. The chances of such a law ever being enacted in the United States under any combination of executives, legislators or jurists is absolutely zero for the foreseeable future. Anyone who really looks to the Torah for guidance must in good conscience hold the identical view as that expressed in the Republican platform.
But let’s forget the legal categories for a minute and look at it from the perspective we would assign to a Holocaust scholar. There are two segments of society, expressing views on a public matter. One says: “The wording in a law may annoy me in my private life and could possibly be enforced to the point that a woman with fragile mental health might have to give birth in an unhealthy predicament. Therefore, I prefer to see fifty million babies killed over thirty-five years.” The other says: “Yes, there may be some dislocation of individual situations, but I am prepared to endure that to save fifty million lives.”
Which of those points of view should be of concern to a Holocaust scholar? Which of those groups is likely to stand up on behalf of a beleaguered Jewry if the Gestapo makes a comeback?
The next section of her essay belongs in the theater of the absurd. She explains that the Torah promotes charity and compassion, so she prefers Obama’s health-care plan. After we shrug off fifty million murders of convenience, it is time to heal the sick with other people’s money.
LIPSTADT is not through dispensing wisdom. She turns to the question of Israel and its security. Obama impressed Benjamin Netanyahu, she says, by his grasp of the Iranian threat. How do we know this? Simple, he told it to the Jerusalem Post. As if he would tell them otherwise if he believed otherwise.
What we do know is that the leftist professoriate in the United States, where Obama has his roots, is far from pro-Israel and has for two decades allowed pro-Palestinian rhetoric to dominate the academy. Obama himself praised Rashid Khalidi, former spokesman for Yassir Arafat, for helping him to identify some of his own “blind spots and biases.” Funny, but that sounds to me like a sound-bite which might perk up the ears of a Holocaust scholar. I guess not.
Her clincher argument is this. Obama came into his meeting with the editor of the Jerusalem Post all by his lonesome and said the right things. McCain, by contrast, brought Joe Lieberman into the meeting and when unsure of a particular detail he deferred to Lieberman. This tells Lipstadt that Obama is better prepared to help Israel.
Once again, the Holocaust maven is faced by two scenarios. One, a cocky non-Jew who thinks he knows all the answers. The second, a humble non-Jew who brings an Orthodox Jewish Senator along and graciously defers to him when in doubt. Which one sounds like the safer bet for the long term?
Clearly, Lipstadt has learned nothing from her own subject. She glibly hands the key to Israel’s future to a man who loses no sleep over fifty million souls bartered for convenience and “privacy.” King David had it right when he admonished us: “It is better to rely on God than to rely on man.”