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Limbaugh slammed for comparing Democrats to Nazis

 
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WASHINGTON – Rush Limbaugh’s remarks comparing Democrats to Nazis drew swift condemnation from many corners of the Jewish community — and also sparked a fight between Jewish Democrats and Republicans over which side isn’t doing enough to stop the use of such analogies.

Several non-partisan Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, slammed Limbaugh’s comments. Some Democrats also pointed a finger at the only Jewish Republican in Congress, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, insisting that he condemn Limbaugh’s remarks.

In response, some Jewish GOPers criticized Limbaugh but attempted to turn the tables, noting that while Limbaugh was just a talk-show host, a Democratic lawmaker had generally avoided criticism over his use of a Nazi-related comparison.

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Rush Limbaugh on his radio show said the similarities between the Obama health care logo and the Nazi logo were “overwhelming.” Palm Beach County Sherif's Office

The controversy underscores the degree to which Jewish organizations continue to lose ground in their fight to keep partisans on all sides from demonizing their political opponents as Nazis.

The latest flap erupted last week with Limbaugh’s remarks on his nationally syndicated radio show. He was upset that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had noted that some of those protesting the Obama health-care plan at town meetings across the country had carried signs bearing swastikas.

Limbaugh responded that the similarities between the Obama health-care logo and the Nazi logo were “overwhelming,” then launched into a lengthy comparison of “the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany.”

“Well, the Nazis were against big business,” Limbaugh said. “They hated big business and, of course, we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years of mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn.”

Jewish groups criticized the remarks, saying they not only were insensitive to Holocaust victims but also undermined American democracy.

The comments “are grossly offensive and intolerable,” the AJCongress said in its statement. “They reflect a nasty and hyperbolic tendency in our political culture, one which makes reasoned discourse impossible, confuses disagreement with evil, and which makes it impossible to distinguish evil from ordinary politics. It is not acceptable from either the right or the left, both of which have in recent memory used such analyses.”

The ADL and Simon Wiesenthal Center hammered home similar messages, though the latter stopped short of criticizing Limbaugh directly by name.

Democrats seemed almost as interested in shining a spotlight on Cantor as on Limbaugh, demanding that the Virginia Republican denounce the comments. They noted that just days earlier, Cantor had insisted that Limbaugh had a place in the GOP when he said, “My sense is that we need the Sarah Palins, Dick Cheneys, Rush Limbaughs, the Colin Powells. We need all of them.”

Cantor, who was traveling in Israel last week, had not commented as of midday Monday. Multiple JTA requests to his office seeking comment were not returned.

The National Jewish Democratic Council took aim at Cantor.

In a statement, President David Harris said Cantor “is wrong; we do not need anyone who abuses the memory of the Holocaust in our political discourse, period. It is incumbent upon Cantor and the Republican Party to condemn Limbaugh and these utterly contemptible tactics.”

Several prominent Republican Jews did slam the Limbaugh analogy, but also stressed that Limbaugh was a radio talk-show host and not an officeholder. For example, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, called Limbaugh’s comments “outrageous” and “not appropriate,” but said more attention and condemnation should be directed at a Nazi-related comment made by a Democratic lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird of Washington.

The congressman said he’d be holding “telephone town halls” instead of in-person meetings with constituents because he feared “an ambush.”

“What we’re seeing right now is close to brown-shirt tactics,” Baird reportedly said. “I mean that very seriously.”

“Rush Limbaugh is a talk-radio host,” Brooks said. “To try to hold him to the same level of accountability” as an elected official like Baird “is ludicrous.”

Fred Zeidman, a top Jewish Republican activist and chairman of the council that oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that “Rush is in the entertainment business, and so much of what he does” is meant to be “provocative.”

Still, Zeidman added, “any comparison to Nazism is offensive to the survivors and the victims, and I wish he wouldn’t do it.”

Harris agreed that Baird’s language was wrong, but asserted that such comparisons come more often from the right.

“We think all Holocaust comparisons used in politics are wrong and unfortunate on both sides of the aisle,” the NJDC leader said. “We’ve been careful to say over the years that nobody should be engaging in Hitler comparisons, Nazi comparisons.”

JTA

 
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The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

Noted chef to help raise funds for ELEM

Organization for at-risk Israeli teens raises consciousness in Bergen County

In 1982, a group of professionals and volunteers took note of the fact that Israel’s population of at-risk preteens and teens was not only growing but also sorely underserved.

In response, that group — Israelis and Americans — created ELEM/Youth in Distress.

Efrat Shafrut, the group’s executive director in Israel, said the organization now works with at least 20,000 kids each year. She estimates that there are more than 200,000 at-risk 12- to 18-year-olds in Israel.

“We work with immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia who moved here over the last 10 or 20 years, single-parent families, the poor, people with drug problems, prostitutes, Arabs, Bedouins, ultra-Orthodox religious kids, whoever needs help,” Ms. Shafrut said. The goal is to “extract them from their situation and help them find their place in society.”

 

Billionaire debutantes

Russian philanthropists take Bloomberg to the ball

JERUSALEM — There were ballerinas, a full dance ensemble, soloists, a harpist, a video tribute to Jewish luminaries in many fields, a multimedia orchestra performance celebrating the enduring light of creation, a speech from the prime minister, stand-up from Jay Leno, and an audience packed with top Jewish communal movers and shakers from both sides of the Atlantic.

Officially, it was a night at the Jerusalem Theater to honor former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with the first $1 million Genesis Prize for embodying Jewish values in achieving excellence in the spheres of business, politics, and philanthropy. Mr. Bloomberg made a day of it, appearing with Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat to discuss urban innovation and holding a briefing with the media before showing up for the grandiose ceremony to take home what some are calling the Jewish Nobel.

 

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Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

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Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.

 

Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

 

Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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