Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Dan Ross and His Generation

Does the name "Dan Ross" sound familiar? Probably not: he did Teach For America and now blogs for the Huffington Post. Anyway, Dan is the latest in a group of young American Jews who the Huffington Post enlists to pontificate about their Judaism and try to convince their readership that American Jews' opinions on Israel are eroding. Dan is no exception to this, but this time around (while Israel and Gaza are fighting again) he has decided to write about the election, ten days after the election is over.

Dan's article takes the form of a letter to Sheldon Adelson (?) because apparently Adelson said something along the lines that Democrats are anti-Israel or not as pro-Israel as Republicans. Being a young Jewish American, Dan is of course a Democrat, and feels that Adelson would actually care what he has to say:
"I found one of your points particularly flawed: your insistence that today's Democrats are anti-Israel. As a young Jewish American and an avowed Democrat, I can say to you without hesitation that this is not the case, and that I found your flagrant attempt to exploit your Jewishness to court Jewish voters deeply offensive."
Give it to him, Dan! Tell him how wrong he is!
"The truth is that my peers and I don't have a problem with Israel -- we have a problem with you and your condescending ilk. We don't like being told what to think."
That's right! Young Jewish Democrats like Dan love Israel! And don't you forget it, Adelson!
"Mr. Adelson, my generation grew up in a world in which Israel has not been the underdog that you and your generation still insist that it is. We came of age bearing witness to an Israel that fought rocks with tanks, that built walls instead of bridges, and that eliminated threats with chilling efficiency....And we listened as Israelis took their backers in the Diaspora for granted, challenging our choices about our Jewish practice and often outright denying the legitimacy of our Judaism...."
 Probably should have quit while you were ahead Dan. It's not that I don't think Israel should be criticized on some things, but saying that you love Israel and then immediately launching into a tirade about it only serves to undermine your own point. The way you said it especially indicates you are motivated by something beyond "legitimate criticism." After all, if you were at least halfway informed you would know the Palestinians kill using weapons beyond rocks, and that Israel is hardly "chillingly efficient" in the way it struggles against terror.

I have a feeling that Dan came into this article thinking he could pull a typical "AsaJew" HuffPo essay: Go after a nice right-wing strawman, pretend to like Israel right before bashing it, and reaffirm his liberal credentials. But he forgot to make his criticism of Israel subtle, as it stands it's obvious that he really doesn't like Israel very much, but that's nothing compared to the way he doesn't like Adelson. Speaking of which, let's get back to the essay.
"We feel profoundly disenfranchised to engage in a conversation of any kind about the Jewish state because of your generation's insistence that any and all criticism of Israel's conduct is ignorant at best and anti-Semitic at worst....Me? Anti-Semitic? Really? Really?"
I'd like to congratulate Dan. That's the most blatant strawman I have ever seen in three years of "watching" the Huffington Post, and believe me I've seen a lot. If he would like to claim that Adelson's generation (not merely Adelson himself but thousands and thousands of people) thinks that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, then believe me I would absolutely love to see it. But like his attacks on Israel above, he went a bridge too far in going after Adelson and his point of view. If he hadn't implied that he was anti-Semitic, playing the victim like that, or limited his attack to Adelson himself, he might have gotten away with it. But the way that it is, it just comes off whiny. Which, I know, makes it perfect for the Huffington Post.
"The more you tighten your grip, Mr. Adelson, the more we will slip through your fingers, our ambivalence expanding until Israel fades into the most distant regions of our political identity. Just as you left the Democrats, I fear that we might leave the Jewish state. And that's something that, I think we can agree, neither of us wants to see."
I gave Dan ten points for the (perhaps unintentional?) quoting of Star Wars, but negative twenty for contradicting himself. See, earlier in the article he said that, "the vast majority of us think that Israel is in the right most of the time." But it's a hard sell to threaten Adelson with fading American Jewish support for Israel while simultaneously claiming that nothing is "fading" at all. Of course, Dan already contradicted himself by trying to be both pro-Israel and viciously "critical" of Israel's "policies" at the same time. 

Finally, it would be nice if Dan could explain exactly how Adelson and "his generation" are "controlling the conversation" about Israel. Or maybe something to explain how exactly he is "tightening his grip." I always got the impression that whatever his flaws, Adelson was just a guy with a lot of money who gave it to people and things that liberals didn't like. That hardly makes him Darth Vader.

Oh, and for some icing on the cake, one of the Huffington Posters calls out Dan for his hypocrisy vis a vis Adelson and Birthright (for which Adelson is a large sponsor). Apparently Dan is willing to take his money and use that experience as a platform to bash Israel, but not bother to mention that to anyone:

Ah, of course. That's what you were doing when you said Adelson had "schizophrenic assumptions." Disagreeing with him. How silly of me not to realize that.

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