In thinking about when this primary season is over, I’ve wondered if some of the debates fought and attitudes expressed will find new footing — like the non-interventionist foreign policy from the candidate who inspires the most loyal Technorati hunters. In my Los Angeles Daily News column today, I sit down with Eran Lerman, Israel/Middle East director for the American Jewish Committee, a super-smart and funny guy whose comments on such policy really, really need to be heard.
“…We spoke mostly about regional politics, but I was eager to get the Israeli perspective of the increasingly popular anti-Israel rhetoric.
Does it, I wondered aloud, mean that a new, latent form of anti-Semitism is also taking root?
‘I would keep anti-Semitism out of this particular debate,’ Lerman said, backdropped by a city view off Pico Boulevard. ‘I wouldn’t necessarily paint Ron Paul as an anti-Semite. However - and it’s a different language that people have forgotten to use in this context - he’s an America Firster.
‘That sounds very nice until you remember the associations,’ he continued, rewinding to the 1930s and 1940s to illustrate the impact of the America Firsters. ‘People speaking the name of peace and in the name of reducing the American commitment: What they actually meant is let the Nazis burn the world and we will just sit here and warm ourselves next to the flames.
‘America Firsters have been out there and the world has paid a terrible price. So that’s the argument. I would leave Israel out of it, I would leave the Jews out of it, although we have been as a people the worst victims of these attitudes in the ’20s and ’30s. No people paid a higher price in more ways than one than the Jewish people because of American attitudes during that period …
‘What happened to Jews here and to Jews in Europe at the hands of the likes of Breckinridge Long - which most people have forgotten, but in my mind he ranks with the worst offenders,’ Lerman said, referring to the FDR administration official who obstructed the admittance of refugees into America during World War II.
‘Now to return to America Firsters in 2008 - after 9-11, after the lessons that have been learned after World War II, that to me is an unsustainable position. But the argument is not necessarily about Israel or about any narrow interests. It’s global, it’s a global question…’”