Friday, August 14, 2015

Dangerous rhetoric - Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash



by Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash

The Obama administration knowingly exploits the Jewish discourse and it deliberately places Jewish members of the Senate and House of Representatives under scrutiny, to undermine their public legitimacy if they oppose the deal, and bolster their position if they support the administration's policy.

Something dangerous is lacing political discourse in the U.S.

It began with U.S. President Barack Obama's recent address, in which he commented on the American Jewish lobby's financial clout, and continued with the lambasting of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose opposition to the nuclear deal reached with Iran prompted some 170,000 Americans to sign a petition condemning Schumer's views. 

More explicitly, the Daily Kos website posted a caricature showing Schumer as a bear holding the Israeli flag and explaining why he opposes the deal, alluding to Schumer's dual loyalty to both Israel and the U.S. 

The delegitimization and demonization of those opposing the Iran deal are not new, but recently they have taken a dangerous turn to include highly problematic rhetoric. It began with Obama practically labeling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an enemy of the state for daring to oppose the emerging deal, and once it became clear that, like Netanyahu, most Knesset members oppose the deal, the rhetoric expanded to include Israel and the Israeli public.

Next, it was the Jewish lawmakers' turn. Once Obama began his attempts to convince hesitant lawmakers to support the deal, their heritage suddenly became relevant, and the "Jewish" label found its way into the conversation. It is as if someone has opened the can containing the "Jewish discourse," which immediately spilled over, obscuring the real danger the deal poses. 

U.S. senators are no longer identified by the party they serve or the state they represent, but by the adjectives preceding their name: "Jewish senator." First it was the three Jewish representatives who publicly announced their opposition to the Iran deal: Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who were "outed" by the American media as the "first Jewish Democrats" in Congress to oppose the deal.

Then came the criticism of "Jewish" senators Chuck Schumer and Eliot Engel, both from New York, while the support voiced for the deal by another "Jewish" senator, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, was used to counterbalance Schumer's opposition. 

The Los Angeles Times listed the names of 12 senators who may tip the scale of the congressional vote, identifying three of them as "Jewish," while sufficing with generic details about the others and making no mention of their religious affiliation. 

CNN's supposedly general coverage of the deal parroted the rhetoric, with a headline reading, "American Jews support deal," and highlighting polls suggesting the ratio of American Jews who support the deal is higher than that of the general public.

The opposition to the Iran deal voiced by non-Jewish senators such as Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) was not linked to their religious roots. 

Schumer's and Schatz's positions on issues that do not pertain to Israel have nothing to do with their Jewish identity as far as the media coverage goes. Still, they are Jewish and someone wants the public to know that about them, especially over their support, or lack thereof, for the nuclear deal. In other words, the use of their Jewish identity is deliberate, and this affiliation is used to label and at times tarnish them.

This trend is evident in mainstream American media, and not by chance. The Obama administration knowingly exploits the Jewish discourse and it deliberately places Jewish members of the Senate and House of Representatives under scrutiny, to undermine their public legitimacy if they oppose the deal, and bolster their position if they support the administration's policy. On both cases, this discourse is wrong.

Schumer has said that, prior to making the decision to vote against the deal, he discussed the issue with Obama and senior officials such as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who led the talks with Iran, and Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. 

Kissinger and former Secretary of State George Shultz expressed their concerns in April, in a joint editorial published by The Wall Street Journal in which they listed the accord's shortcomings and claimed it would make Iran a nuclear threshold state. 

Clearly, the opposition to the Iran deal has nothing to do with the Jewish blood running through its opponents' veins, but rather with the dangerous reality Iran is forcing on the world, and the anxiety stemming from the global support its dangerous ambitions are receiving.


Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=13475

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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