Harvard opts for BDS — so take me out to the ball game for tefillin

United? The USA is as divided as ever with its most prestigious university's newspaper backing the boycott movement while a baseball star's father openly practises the Jewish custom

May 06, 2022 16:03

We call it “America” as if it were a single place. But that is short for a plural, “the United States”, which are barely united at all. Congress is so paralysed by corruption and partisanship that it cannot legislate.

Parties are so divided that the losing side has questioned the legitimacy of every president since the 2000 elections. And this week, America’s last party-neutral institution, the Supreme Court, crossed the Rubicon with the leaking of its deliberations on revising Roe v. Wade, presumably by a clerk who considers his or her activism to be more important than the neutrality of the court.

Optimists will tell you that we haven’t yet reached the nadir of the years before the Civil War. True, we have yet to see a rerun of the day in May 1856 when Rep. Preston Brooks of the pro-slavery Democrats beat Senator Charles Sumner, an abolitionist Republican, with his walking cane in the Senate chamber.

Still, America in 2022 is a house divided — and in all kinds of ways. It has always been true that you can pick your own reality in America; in a way, the entire country is an exercise in this. But the screen has never been so split.Two images of Jewish life in America struck me this week.

The first came from a university in a blue state and what we now call the “elites”. The second came from a baseball stadium in a red state and what always were “the people”. Together they make a whole picture — or would, if they could be combined. The Harvard Crimson is perhaps America’s most prestigious student newspaper. Its past editors include two presidents, FDR and JFK, the writers David Halberstam and Michael Crichton, and the media mogul Jeff Zucker.

This week, the Crimson’s editorial board endorsed the BDS campaign against Israel. Orlee Marini-Rapoport, the editorial chair, said she’s “so proud to be part of this thoughtful group” who, as all thoughtful people do, all reached exactly the same conclusion at the same time. She added the now-obligatory “as-a-Jew” bit, then published it on Yom HaShoah.

Looking at her Twitter feed, Marini-Rapoport wants us to know that she’s majoring in American History & Gender Studies.

She takes further pride in having completed a term paper on that notoriously thorny topic in Middle Eastern politics, “Motherhood and the Problem of Food Allergy in World War II and Early Cold War America”. Go, Orlee!

The Crimson board’s editorial contains the usual BDS stuff about “apartheid”, but — though the authors may well not realise it — mostly it’s effectively a complaint that the Jews control America.

The Crimson reckons that debate about Israel in the US is restricted by an “overwhelming power imbalance” and that journalists who criticise Israel face “an objective professional risk”.
This is objectively nonsense. Most of American media leans left. Slandering Israel is the fast track to the best-paid jobs, and some might say the shortest route to a job with the New York Times.

The second image of Jewish life in America was a photo taken last Sunday at the final of Major League Baseball’s National League East division in Miami, Florida. The father of the Marlins’ pitcher Richard Bleier was snapped laying tefillin before the game with a Chabad emissary. This is not an unusual sight at baseball games. Now how often do you imagine you’d witness the same scene at the Emirates Stadium or Stamford Bridge?

There are now two versions of America. The blue-state one is close to the institutions of power, institutionally hostile to Israel and highly susceptible to the more genteel forms of anti-Jewish incitement. The red-state other has a growing hostility to the institutions and also has a growing Jewish population, but at the same time is highly susceptible to the more vulgar forms of anti-Jewish incitement.

Pick whichever you like, but over here we have to live in one of them.

May 06, 2022 16:03

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