Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Republican Blasts Israel's Kibbutz Roots

Republicans have been throwing everything at Barack Obama in the hope that something will stick. The facts that many of the charges are contradictory and absurd on their face have not served to deter this assault on reason. Here's an attack you may find interesting. Republican blogger Mark Finkelstein has claimed that Obama's support for Israel's historic commitment to social justice as exemplified by the kibbutz movement indicates a secret affinity for Marxism! Finkelstein, in his ardor to paint Obama red, has applied a very broad brush to Israel's founders as well.

Finkelstein has a problem with the following excerpt of a speech Obama gave in a Boca Raton, Florida synagogue in May, which he quotes as follows:

I found I had a deep affinity with the idea of social justice that was embodied in the Jewish faith. There was a notion–tikkun–that you could repair the breach of the past. There was a notion, embodied in the kibbutz, that we all had a responsibility to each other. That we're all in this together. That hope can persevere even against the longest odds.

For one Republican, this is just too much. Clearly, "social justice", "tikkun" and "kibbutz" are just code words for Communism! Here's what Finkelstein has to say:

Let's deconstruct. "Social justice": classic left-wing code for redistributive economics. Tikkun, or tikkun olam, is the favorite term of the Jewish left. It means "repairing the world," and is interpreted by liberal Jews as a mandate for big government. Ironically, it was Hillary Clinton who brought the phrase into American political currency via her erstwhile spiritual advisor Michael Lerner, he of "the politics of meaning," and publisher of a left-wing journal named . . . Tikkun.

Finally, just what is the kibbutz, with which notion Obama claims "deep affinity?" It was nothing less than an explicit experiment in utopian socialism, of communal living in which not only property, but also child-rearing, were shared. Kids were raised in communal dorms, with parents granted only a limited number of hours per week of individual interaction with their children. Recent years have seen a crisis for the kibbutzim, in which they have been forced to embrace some market reforms in order to survive. But Obama clearly seemed to be referring to the original, romanticized version of the collectivist kibbutz in which "we're all in this together."

Will the MSM pick up on Obama's salute to socialism? Not holding breath...

Catching his breath, Finkelstein then gives his thumbnail sketch of an essential part of Israel's history:

The kibbutz movement has its roots in the fertile soil of nineteenth century Eastern European socialism, inspired by the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883), aligned with the notion of righting the inverted pyramid of European Jewish society, top-heavy as it was with luftmenschen and lacking a significant working class at its base. The early kibbutzim that followed the establishment of Degania Alef in 1909 had in common a collective approach to decision making, an economy based on agriculture and a co-operative attitude to work. Working the land was ... elevated to a quasi-religion...

Since those days, the kibbutzim ... lost their ideological reference point with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991...

It seems that some among the Republicans are more than happy to smear Obama as a crypto-communist, even if that involves characterizing Israel's Labor Zionist roots, as well as Judaism's view of tzedakah, as communist. I feel sorry for anyone who, in their ideological fervor, sees Lenin lurking behind terms like social justice, tikkun olam and kibbutz.

Read more here: Oy Vey: Obama's Salute to Israeli Socialism |

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