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April 21, 2008

The Politics of Passover
Posted by Michael Cohen

Until today I didn't know there was a way to politicize Passover . . . but thanks to the New York op-ed page, Bill Kristol figures out a way to do it. Today, Kristol analyzes the Passover greetings of the three remaining candidates for President and here's a shocker he really likes what John McCain has to say -- and is not too crazy about Obama and Clinton. Stunning!

Hillary Clinton's greeting is derided as "liberal" because it says that Passover reminds us to "to stand up to oppression, tyranny and discrimination β€” wherever they are found." That sounds about right to me and is eerily reminiscent of a certain President's inaugural address.

What about Obama, he's a "new-agey and multicultural" because he tells us to "engage in dialogue, and to ask ourselves and each other how the Passover story challenges us to question the world as it is, and to seek a future that is more just and more peaceful for all.” That sounds to me like something a Jew might have written. "Questioning the world" - what could be more Jewish than that!

And what about John McCain. According to Kristol, he understands that Passover is "a time for reflection about sacrifice: 'As families gather together for Seders, members of the Jewish faith reflect upon the painful sacrifices made by their ancestors, the joys of freedom, and the triumph of inherent goodness over evil."

Kristol praises McCain for mentioning current assaults on Jews and referencing three Israelis who remain kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah and notes with approval that McCain would probably enjoy this passage from the Passover Seder β€œIn all ages they rise up against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.”

Now Kristol tells us that these varying perspectives on Passover tell us a lot about the worldviews of the three candidates. He's right. While Obama and Clinton prefer dialogue, diplomacy and understanding, McCain sees dangers lurking around every corner and views strength - preferably military -- as the best way to safeguard freedom. For Kristol, who seems to believe that the best way to solve any international problem is to bomb it, one can hardly be surprised that he responds with such approval to McCain's language.

Indeed among a certain segment of the American Jewish population, which views Jewish identity primarily through the prism of victimology and perceived threats to Israel, I'm sure McCain's words ring true and reinforce an already bleak world view.

From my perspective Passover is a time of renewal and rebirth and like all Jewish holidays, a celebration of family and friendship. From that perspective, Clinton and Obama's words provide far better guidance - and frankly are much more in the tradition of Judaism.  While constant vigilance is certainly a necessary element of freedom, it is certainly not -- and never should be -- the only element.


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