In case you are not aware, Jews have long been drawn to and practiced humor. It is just a plain matter of fact that in any listing of top U.S. komikers (comics) over half of them are going to be Jewish. Think Bud Abbott, Woody Allen, Hank Azaria, Bea Arthur, Lewis Black, Mel Brooks, Lenny Bruce, George Burns, Billy Crystal, Al Franken, The Three Stooges, and The Marx Brothers, to name a very few.
So, as a duly certified member of the Chosen, allow me to explain what some of my fellow tribe members have been doing lately to bring comic relief to the American public. Please note that these are not the usual standup suspects we are accustomed to seeing on comedy clubs and late night talk shows.
No, these are a distinct subcategory of the Jocus Judaica species; otherwise known as Jewish neocons, a distinct, but voluble segment of the overall neocon community.
A bit over a month ago they were feeling rather morose about President Obama being reelected. But then, some of them were able to rally their spirits a bit by helping to oppose the possible nomination of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice as Secretary of State.
So now, emboldened by that, and having eaten their morning Wheaties, oops, I mean blintzes the heretofore predictable third string mediocrities, and now aspiring humorists, have slithered out from beneath their neocon rocks to give use the benefit of their particular, and admittedly peculiar, brand of humor.
Please note that unlike other comedians they are not merely content to make fun of others. No, like all truly great comedians -- think Jerry Lewis partnered with Dean Martin or starring in The Nutty Professor, they are willing to make idiots of themselves, for the sake of their art.
A case in point is the current contretemps concerning former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) who seems likely to be nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense. They oppose him because he is supposedly insufficiently supportive of Israel and even an anti-Semite.
First let's consider the point that he is not qualified to be Secretary of Defense. Yeah, right on. Who is this former Senator to think he is remotely qualified to head the Pentagon? After all he is only a Vietnam War veteran, having served in the United States Army infantry, attaining the rank of Sergeant, having served as an infantry squad leader in the 9th Infantry Division and while serving during received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
I mean, what meaningless credentials are those, compared to, say, neocon William Kristol, whose Emergency Committee for Israel has been slamming Hagel. Kristol proudly served in the -- oh wait, he never actually militarily served his country at all; too busy doing other things, like going to Harvard. But he did serve as chief of staff to Secretary of Education William Bennett during the Reagan administration, and then as Chief of Staff to the Vice President under Dan Quayle in the George H. W. Bush administration. I guess that counts as hazardous duty of some kind. At least he is a chicken hawk, if not an actual former fighting man.
By the way, Kristol was also a co-founder of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which advocated for the U.S. war on Iraq, a move that has, among other results, resulted in the an upsurge of Islamic extremist sentiment in numerous Middle Eastern countries, who have adopted more hostile attitudes towards Israel. So perhaps Kristol is really an Israel hater in drag.
Let's pause for a moment to deconstruct a few of the criticisms of Hagel and appreciate their absurdist content. You can read some of the more bizarre accusations by various unnamed sources in this Politico post.
Then there was this little gem in neocon broadsheet The Weekly Standard (Their motto: The only bad war is the one the United States is not fighting), "Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is."
Keep in mind that as comics often speak in code a little deconstruction is in order. When people use terms like "anti-Semitism" they should, properly speaking, be talking about someone who simply hates Jews. Back when the term was invented in the 19th century there wasn't even a state of Israel so it couldn't mean anything else. Of course, there is absolutely nothing in Hagel's record, not a photon of evidence, to indicate he has a problem with Jews.
But that is not what critics mean when they use the term. What they are intimating is that someone who is not unquestionably behind Israel one hundred percent. For them one is only pro-Israel if he or she sings My Country, Tis of Thee to the tune of the Hatikvah which as national anthems go, is the musical equivalent of drinking Manischewitz Mogen David [Mad Dog] 20/20.
As a case in point, consider Jennifer Rubin, a rising young comic and Washington Post blogger. Previously she has served as point woman on behalf of such august fighting units as Commentary Magazine, Pajamas Media, and Human Events.
Remember that part of being a good comic is being willing to make yourself ridiculous; something Ms. Rubin excels at. To quote from one of her past screeds:
"I'm a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator," Mr. Hagel told retired U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. "I'm a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I'll do that."
Read these staccato utterances again to better appreciate their insipid and insinuating qualities, all combining to cast the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty. Nobody questions Mr. Hagel's loyalty. He is only making those assertions to question the loyalty of others.
As James Fallows of Atlantic Magazine wrote, "Of course, that is what any United States senator should say -- whether the other country in question is Israel, Britain, Germany, Canada, Japan, or any other allied but different power. And any Israeli, British, German, etc official should and would put the interests of his or her country first."
Better yet, imagine a member of the Israeli Knesset, perhaps from the Gush Eminem party, saying:
I'm an Israeli MP, not a U.S. Senator. "I'm an Israeli MP. I support the United States. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Basic Laws of Israel. Not to a Prime Minister. Not a party. Not to United States. If I go run for Knesset in United States, I'll do that."
Do you really think that Israeli pundits would be excoriating him? Of course not; instead, they would be giving him a Medal of Valor. Nonetheless, give Ms. Rubin credit, to write what she does takes real chutzpah.
Some of the criticism of Hagel suggests he is soft on groups like Hezbollah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, supposedly voting against designating the Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, for example. Or even worse, comments he made in a book on the Middle East process, "The Much Too Promised Land," in which he seemed to refer to groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as the "Jewish lobby."
Yes, yes, bad Senator Hagel. All of us Jews, who always aced our vocabulary tests, understand that when referring to AIPAC, the American Jewish equivalent of the National Rifle Association, you should have said "Jewish American pro-Israel special interest group" aka JAPISIG.
Of course, as others have pointed out, Hagel has "voted for the Iran Nonproliferation Act, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act and the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act He co-sponsored resolutions opposing any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and praising Israel's efforts "in the face of terrorism, hostility and belligerence by many of her neighbors." He also co-sponsored legislation urging the international community "to avoid contact with and refrain from supporting the terrorist organization Hamas until it agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm and accept prior agreements."
If that is being insufficiently supportive of Israel, perhaps Israeli supporters would be more comfortable with someone who supports Israel because he believes in the Second Coming of Christ; you know, the heartwarming scenario where Christian Zionists support Israel because they believe continuation of the State of Israel is essential for the return of Jesus. At that time Jesus will descend from heaven, subdue all of Israel's enemies and take believers to heaven in what is known as the Rapture--literally, they will ascend to the clouds to be in heaven. Of course, at that point there won't be any more Israel, or Jews anywhere, for that matter but hey, details, details.
Reading between the not so thinly veiled lines (to paraphrase from the Wizard of Oz; pay no attention to the neocon hiding behind the accusation of anti-Semitism) the criticism of Hagel comes down to the fact that he may be reluctant, perhaps even unwilling, -Oh Dear Yahweh! - to attack another Middle Eastern country, like, oh say, Iran.
Speaking as both a Jew and American military veteran if that is the mark of an anti-Semite we need more of them.
What should we conclude from all this? First, neocons should stick to their day jobs as the whole humor thing is not working out for them, unless, or course, their object was to make themselves look ridiculous. If that is the case, well done, well done indeed. Second, to paraphrase famed Jewish comic Henny Youngman, take my neocon--please.