Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Richard Dawkins and "the Jewish Lobby"

Bacon Eating Atheist Jew (or BEAJ for short!) has a post up reacting to a quote from Richard Dawkins in an article in The Guardian. In talking about the kind of influence he would like atheists to achieve, Dawkins said as follows:

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place."

It was clearly meant to be a compliment, but in suggesting that Jews "monopolize" American foreign policy, Dawkins sounds like Bill O'Reilly expressing amazement that Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem is no different than any restaurant in suburban white America. The compliment itself reveals a prejudicial mindset. The image conveyed is that of the United States being little more than a puppet with its strings being pulled by the Jews.

It is of course no secret that politically active Jewish-American voters do help to influence how some elected officials vote on issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East. However, they are certainly not the only group in America that has some measure of influence on our government's foreign policy. Cuban emigres, particularly in Florida, are probably much more influential in promoting a hardline policy towards Castro's Cuba than American Jews in promoting a unified policy towards Israel. No candidate for statewide office in Florida can hope to win if he or she campaigns on a platform to end the embargo on Cuba or to loosen travel restrictions to the island nation. I have read though that the Cuban-American community is showing signs of becoming less monolithic, particularly with the younger generations who were born in the last two or three decades. On the other hand, I remember how much flack Hillary Clinton received when she first declared public support for a Palestinian state, and yet she still managed to win a Senate seat in New York where the Jewish-American vote is strong.

However pro-Israel American foreign policy may tilt, as BEAJ notes, our government is constrained by geopolitical realities vis-a-vis the Arab Muslim states and the oil that many of them sit atop.

But back to Richard Dawkins, BEAJ does not believe that Dawkins is an anti-semite, though he does consider Dawkins' remarks to be anti-semitic. I don't know if I would go quite that far, though his remarks clearly were biased, albeit unintentionally.

Dawkins himself is clearly aware of the Jewish conspiracy mindset that afflicts so many. On page 311 of his book The God Delusion, Dawkins writes about the plight of Edgardo Mortara. Mortara was a six year old child of Jewish parents in Bologna, Italy, who was seized from them in 1858 by the Inquisition. The reason for this was because the Catholic nursemaid hired by the Mortaras secretly baptized Edgardo when he had become ill and she feared he might die and his soul doomed to an eternity in hell. Upon hearing of the baptism, the Catholic Church considered Edgardo Mortara to be legally a Christian, and that it was unthinkable for a Christian child to be raised by Jewish parents.

The worldwide outrage that arose from this incident, notes Dawkins, "was dismissed by the Catholic newspaper Civilta Cattolica as due to the international power of rich Jews - sounds familiar, doesn't it?" (Bold type mine). From that line, I take it that Dawkins, as any other right thinking person, has no use for anti-semitic conspiracy theories. What is likely the case with respect to his remarks in The Guardian, is that he views the Israeli/Palestinian dispute through a prism which leads him to conclude that the Jewish vote prevents the United States from acting as what he believes should be a fair broker in the dispute. I certainly doubt Dawkins believes that the "Jewish lobby" monopolizes America's foreign policy towards China, India or Myanmar. Here's to hoping that Dawkins learns to choose his words a little better in the future.

1 comment:

BEAJ said...

This article that I linked, which you may or may not have read might explain the reason for the quote.