The discredited Anthony Weiner (soon to resign, unless he goes the
“thirty-days-of-therapy-and-now-I’m-cured” route) and his debacle raise an
interesting question about the Jewish community at large: should we continue to
support and defend an unabashed supporter of Israel, notwithstanding his
infamy? Does loyalty to the tribe – and the good works that a public person
does – overcome the personal degradation and embarrassment he brought on
himself and others?
For many liberals, the answer is clear. Weiner’s scandalous behavior should be overlooked (if not excused altogether) because he’s “fought for” important liberal causes, in the words of one D-list celebrity. The demise of Weiner, this theory goes, affects more than his own personal career, but also the success of a number of initiatives to which Weiner has dedicated his public life, and for which he
became known as an outspoken, brazen, and even arrogant advocate. Should Jews adopt the same approach, seeing as Weiner has long endorsed a strong pro-Israel line – Israel’s right of self-defense; calling for bans on arms sales to Saudi
Arabia, supporters of terrorism; opposing entry to “Palestinian” leaders,
albeit unelected; and castigating the New York Times for its anti-Israel bias?
He represents a district that is strongly pro-Israel (the district coincidentally
in which I used to live in Queens, although Weiner represented another district
back then). So, does he get a pass ? No.
Support for Israel should be, and is, grounded in morality and justice. It is certainly not a sop to pushy and wealthy Jews, as our enemies would have it. There simply aren’t enough Jews or Jewish money in America to make either the critical component in championing Israel’s cause. Thus is it clear why Americans have long been supportive of Israel’s rights and claims and impressed by its narrative, and why Americans with a passionate belief in the Bible are among Israel’s strongest supporters. Such support is rooted in shared values and common goals, and even the romance of the history of the Jewish people that returned to its homeland and reclaimed its sovereignty – as prophesied in the Bible – after nineteen centuries of exile.
While support for Israel should not be taken for granted, it should also not be perceived as an act of charity or compassion. It is simply the natural expression of all people who esteem justice and/or take the Bible seriously. Support for Israel has therefore always been bipartisan. Even though, today, such backing is much more enthusiastic among Republicans than among Democrats, that is true in the grass roots but not among the political class – where lovers of Israel are found on both sides of the aisle in large numbers. And while the pro-Israel community is based in the Jewish world, it could not possibly have the impact it does on American life if the number of non-Jewish pro-Israelites did not dwarf the number of committed Jewish devotees. We make a mistake in thinking that support for Israel is a favor, or limited to a small group, or precarious; it is none
of the above. It is elementary, widespread and reliable in the United States,
and the testimony of many non-Jewish politicians that they feel that Israel’s
fate is ultimately America’s fate – and that America will be judged by its
commitment to Israel – is sincere and pervasive. And, again, the more
religious-based the sentiment, the stronger it is.
The mystique of the Jewish people is based on our status as the People of the Book, a nation distinguished by G-d to transmit His moral notions to mankind. Our standing in the world is premised on the laws and morality of the Torah, which constitutes our wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. While supporters of Israel number in their ranks both the chaste and the lecherous, it is far better – and far more salubrious and persuasive – if the public face of the pro-Israel community consists of many of the former, and none of the latter. It is just more representative of who we are as a people and what values we wish to project, and for which a Jewish state is a moral imperative.
We have to be a little more sophisticated, and mature, than to simply defend the indefensible – especially when almost all sensible, decent people have turned on him – just because he is on our team and plays one role well. That methodology is characteristic of ethnic groups that are less secure, and likely less worthy, of public sympathy for their causes. It was Cordell Hull, FDR’s Secretary of State, who allegedly said of the brutal Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, an American ally: “He’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB,” an attitude that informed American foreign policy for decades with decidedly mixed results.
It should not be our attitude. Anthony Weiner’s reprehensible and bizarre conduct taint his public life even as it has devastated his private one. He needs to repent, make amends, and recover some sense of normalcy – spiritual and personal – so he can be a constructive member of society in years to come. That he is pro-Israel should not be a reason to overlook his sins or preserve his career. Someone else – undoubtedly equally or more pro-Israel – will succeed him and be a more effective spokesman and leader. And this scandal can become just a sordid footnote in the annals of our nation.