Still Not Getting Passover.

Continuing with the theme of right-wingers simply not getting Passover, Jon Chait catches Jennifer Rubin taking umbrage at the president's holiday message. Here's Obama's statement:

The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all.

Rubin says:

No, he didn’t have the nerve to recite the emphatic exhortation “Next year in Jerusalem.” And frankly, it sounds like Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers drafted it. Is Passover really about discrimination? Or is it about the deliverance of God’s Chosen People by God from bondage to the land of Israel?

As I wrote yesterday, if the only message you take from Passover is that Jews have the right to stomp all over anyone in their way then the ritual itself is meaningless. Exodus says explicitly, "And a stranger shalt thou not oppress; for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." That is obviously, but not exclusively, about discrimination. The Torah says one of the lessons Jews were supposed to learn about being slaves in Egypt is how much it sucks to be "the stranger." The noble history of American Jews in the Civil Rights Movement makes
Rubin sneering at "Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers" all the
more pathetic, but it's of a piece with Rubin's odd hostility
toward other Jews for her view that they're not enough like Real
Americans.

Clearly, that's very hard to square with a politics that emphasizes indifference towards Palestinian suffering, rejection of due process for Muslims accused of terrorism, and support for torture. Maybe right-wing Jews can develop some sort of activist Hagaddah that replaces all the Torah excerpts with blurbs from AIPAC brochures and Politico interviews with Dick Cheney, but that sounds pretty miserable to me. 

There's no getting around the fact that part of Passover has to do with reminding ourselves of the importance of fighting for justice on behalf of people who do not also happen to be Jewish. The divide between the vast majority of American Jews who happen to be liberal and the small number of right-wing Jews falls very much along the lines of the debate over American exceptionalism, where liberal Jews think being "Chosen" means we have an obligation to behave in a certain way, and some right-wing Jews think we can do whatever we want regardless of how much suffering it causes, because we're "Chosen." I'm proud of the fact that so few American Jews find themselves in the latter category.

-- A. Serwer

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