A Florida politics blog has published an audio of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, speaking to a Jewish audience in Florida last month right after the French terror attacks. It’s getting pick-up because of Wasserman Schultz’s comments on Jewish assimilation and intermarriage, Islamic radicalism, and MSNBC’s allegedly-biased coverage in favor of Palestine.
Here’s the audio:
After mentioning her 24-year-marriage and her three children, Wasserman Schultz says:
We have the problem of assimilation, we have the problem of intermarriage, we have a problem that too many generations of Jews don’t realize the importance of our institutions, strengthening our community, particularly with the rise of anti-Semitism and global intolerance, which obviously we saw in horrific technicolor in just the last week in Paris.
Every time we think that we can maybe ease back a bit and there has been progress, we are reminded that people hate us because of who we are.
And I don’t want to say that we are never safe, because I don’t believe that’s true, but… unfortunately what happens particularly with the global war on terror, and the Islamic fundamentalists that are combatting it, and leading it, we are the crux of the reason that they are engaged in that fight.
The comments have become an issue. Not at the level that in the 2000 Republican presidential campaign season, candidates’ visits to a school that barred dating between Catholics and non-Catholics became an issue. But an issue. And Wasserman Schultz has now walked back the comments. NBC News:
“At an annual Jewish community event in my congressional district, I spoke about my personal connection to Judaism and in a larger context about the loss of Jewish identity and the importance of connecting younger generations to the institutions and values that make up our community. I do not oppose intermarriage; in fact, members of my family, including my husband, are a product of it,” the Florida Democrat said in a statement.
More from the audio. Wasserman Schultz spoke of turning on the television before coming to the event, and seeing MSNBC covering Gaza:
What was troubling to me was that the segment that was on was a panoramic view of the results of the war in Gaza from the Palestinian perspective. Not that there isn’t horror that went on there. But the way it was promoted, the way it was talked about… Clearly they were highlighting what Israel had done to Gaza and the plight of Palestinians. My first thought was where is the balance, where is the spotlight on what Jewish children in Israel go through from being victims of rocket attacks?
The media’s coverage — and it’s not just MSNBC — I’ve seen it on CNN and even in the broadcast media as well. We have work to do. We have work to do to educate and to make sure that people understand there’s a very simple solution to this. It’s called recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and Democratic state. Let’s make sure that we can adopt a two-state solution.
Wasserman Schultz concluded by saying that we have to makes sure that people “in communities around the world” stop “raising their children to hate us, to hate Israel and hate Jews simply because of who we are.”
I think Wasserman Schultz touched on a very important issue, the role of assimilation in ethnic friction. Just yesterday in the Washington Post, Richard Cohen, another big supporter of Israel, wrote that anti-Semitism is on the rise because Muslims are not assimilating:
The remedy — the cure [to anti-Semitism] — is education and assimilation. In the United States, high levels of anti-Semitism in the Hispanic population dissipate with assimilation. The Anti-Defamation League tells us that, while 12 percent of all Americans are anti-Semites, the figure for foreign-born Hispanics is an astounding 36 percent. But for Hispanics born in the United States, the figure is only 14 percent. America is adept at assimilation. Europe is lousy at it. Europe needs work.
And meantime Wasserman Schultz wants Jews not to assimilate but strengthen Jewish institutions– which support Israel no matter what, ethnocentric actions that foster rage toward Jews for being contemptuous of Palestinian human rights.
But the chair of the Democratic National Committee doesn’t see any problem in Israel’s conduct. The reason she’s the Democratic chair, by the way, is surely because this “fierce ally of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)” can raise money from the Jewish community. And the Democratic Party’s reliance on such funds is the reason that President Obama helped quash a grassroots effort at the Democratic convention to remove the plank from the party platform in 2012 saying that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That grassroots criticism of Israel inside the Democratic Party is sure to build.