web analytics
March 27, 2015 / 7 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Monitor »

Writing About Presidents


Media-Monitor-logo

Writing about U.S. presidents and their relationships with Israel and the American Jewish community, whether in this column or a longer feature piece (i.e., this week’s front-page essay) is never easy. Readers are quick to react to any perceived slight of presidents they admire or, on the other hand, to chastise the writer for going too easy on an irredeemable reprobate.

Years ago this reporter, in a burst of uncharacteristic naiveté, wrote a critical assessment of the first President Bush that included several positive observations. To read some of the mail that came in, one would have thought the subject of the article had been Hitler or Stalin or some other demon in human form. Here’s the part of the essay that bothered a good many respondents:

As a collegian at Yale, Bush fought successfully for Jews to be allowed into the exclusive Skull and Bones Society.As vice president of the United States, Bush coordinated America’s role in the exodus of Falasha Jews from Ethiopia. And as president, Bush had his administration work for Jewish interests on several fronts – as when it helped facilitate the emigration to Israel of hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews; played a crucial role in the rescue of a second wave of Falashas; and strong-armed the United Nations into rescinding the infamous 1975 resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

From everything that is known about him, there is absolutely no reason to believe, as some have recklessly charged, that George Bush is an anti-Semite. And yet, he is fated to be remembered – deservedly so – as one of the two or three American presidents most unfriendly to Israel.

In that last sentence – and the sentiment was fleshed out in the body of the article – Bush was clearly described as not having been particularly sympathetic toward Israel while president. But merely mentioning that Bush on several occasions had helped Jews was too much to bear for a certain subset of readers who see everything in black and white and who reach for their revolvers at even a hint of nuance.

A front-page essay on Richard Nixon in 2005 inspired several vituperative e-mails as well as ridicule on a few left-wing blogs for the alleged sin of whitewashing Nixon’s anti-Semitism. Yet reference to Nixon’s anti-Semitic side had been made in the very first paragraph of the piece:

If judged only by what is heard on his White House tapes, Richard Nixon … appears to have been a man obsessed with Jews, stewing in negative feelings, never hesitating to use the crudest of slurs. But if talk alone is the true measure of a man, Harry Truman – who habitually made derogatory remarks about Jews and whose home in Independence, Missouri, was off-limits to them – would have to be considered an anti-Semite of the first order. It’s a safe bet that those who complain the loudest about Nixon’s anti-Semitic statements say nary a word about Truman’s Jewish problem.

Obviously, what really bothered the critics was the reference to the anti-Semitism of the Democratic icon Harry Truman, who, like Nixon, was a product of his time and environment and yet rose above his prejudices to do the right thing with respect to Israel.

Confusing the personal with the political is not confined to readers of any one party or ideology. Though the Monitor has, over the years, been excoriated by partisans of Bill Clinton for writing derisively of the 42nd president’s Middle East policies, much nastier still were the responses from anti-Clinton diehards when your congenial correspondent wrote a long article on the Clinton presidency that included the following passage:

One other important factor explains Clinton’s standing in the Jewish community: his obvious high regard for Jews – his comfort level with them, his appointment of them to key positions throughout his administration, the fact that he picked Jews to fill the only two Supreme Court vacancies during his first few years in office. There is no question that in his feelings toward Jews, Clinton was beyond reproach.

The Clinton-haters conveniently chose to ignore what immediately followed – an observation that encapsulates the Monitor’s general view: “But if anything can be learned from the record of Clinton’s predecessors in the White House, it is that a nice disposition toward Jews does not necessarily make a president good for Israel, while being uncomfortable with – or even prejudiced against – Jews does not preclude a president from coming through for Israel when it matters most.”

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Writing About Presidents”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu to Release Frozen Palestinian Authority Tax Revenue
Latest Indepth Stories
Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

More Articles from Jason Maoz
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both outspokenly critical of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Congress, were wowed by him in 2011.

Note also the response to the speech by the top Democrats in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both of whom have been outspoken in their criticism of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit.

Comptroller DiNapoli celebrates Sukkot with Crown Heights Jewish community leaders at the sukkah of Rabbi Chanina Sperlin of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

When you grow up in a home where your parents went through what my parents went through, you realize that life has to be meaningful. You have to be there for other people.

“It’s a lousy column and a dishonest one,” Halberstam wrote. “So close it. Or you will end up just as shabby as Safire.”

Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state

These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.

The Clintonan “engagement” liberals remember with such fondness did nothing but embolden Arafat and Hamas and Hizbullah as they witnessed Israel’s only real ally elevate process ahead of policy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/writing-about-presidents/2008/08/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: