Progressive Jewish bloggers like Phil Weiss and Robert Dreyfuss in the Nation have found the silver-lining in Obama's predictable and depressing talk before AIPAC. Obama closed his speech with the following:
In the great social movements in our country's history, Jewish and African Americans have stood shoulder to shoulder. They took buses down south together. They marched together. They bled together. And Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were willing to die alongside a black man--James Chaney--on behalf of freedom and equality.
Their legacy is our inheritance. We must not allow the relationship between Jews and African Americans to suffer. This is a bond that must be strengthened. Together, we can rededicate ourselves to end prejudice and combat hatred in all of its forms. Together, we can renew our commitment to justice. Together, we can join our voices together, and in doing so make even the mightiest of walls fall down.
Note to Obama campaign: playing the "Jewish-Black-civil-rights-coalition" card will get you a landslide Jewish vote in November.
For years many Jews in the US have looked with nostalgia at a period when they were the good guys -- not only in their own communities, or for the State of Israel, but for the civil rights of black people. Of course, the Jewish support for civil rights was not universal, unequivocal, or at all costs. It was one thing to deplore segregation in the South. but quite another to encourage open housing. It was one thing to fight racial discrimination and quite another to allign with other whites in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville controversy of the late sixties. Good blacks were those who behaved well and dressed well like Dr. King, Jr. (before he started to comment about Vietnam), and believed in integration. Not-so-good blacks were those who dressed and talked like Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) – the black power advocates who resented Jewish paternalism and saw the Jewish role in institutionalized white racism. Would it be churlish to recall that not all Jews were enthusiastic about Jews like Andrew Goodman and Michael Scherner going down to Mississippi?
Obama knows all this, of course. He knows quite a lot about the splits and fissures with the Jews during the waning days of the civil rights movement. But his belief in black-white coalitions is fundamental for him. The person who hired him as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago first was a Jewish leftwinger. Part of Obama's success in Chicago, and now in the Democratic primary, has been because Jewish liberal fat- and not-so-fat cats believe in his message.
Obama knows that saying "Some of my best friend are Jews" won't win him any points. But saying, "Some of the black people's best friends have been Jews" will. This is going to be a powerful message, especially since that message hasn't been heard since the late sixties. Even Podhoretz and the Commentary crowd will want to be reminded by Obama of the pre-Ocean Hill-Brownsville golden age. For the subtext is: I am here today because of what you people did for my people out of the goodness of your heart, and the morality of your tradition.
What Jew wouldn't kvell to hear that?