“Before the creation of the welfare state, immigrants who came to this country were for the most part attracted by America’s reputation as a land of freedom and opportunity. Laws and customs that then prevailed required immigrants to carve out their individual destinies by their own labor, perseverance, intelligence, and determination.” — James Thornton
Ebola may not be a widespread health crisis in the United States just yet, but it is creating a crisis of another kind — a crisis of confidence in the competence of the federal government.
Many Americans were shocked to learn that when Ebola-infected doctor Craig Spencer returned to New York City from Guinea, took a three-mile run, visited a coffee stand, ate at a meatball restaurant, traveled on three New York subway lines, met friends at a Brooklyn bowling alley and used an Uber sedan to return home, he was not violating the U.S. government’s Ebola protocols.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructs health workers returning from West Africa to monitor their health for 21 days and that “during the time that you are monitoring your health, you can continue your normal activities.” Only after a health worker’s temperature reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit does the CDC advise that he or she go to a doctor, “limit your contact with other people” and “avoid public transportation.”
Continue your normal activities? It is simply unbelievable that this remains the official federal guidance for people who were exposed to the Ebola virus — especially after the CDC just came under fire for telling Dallas nurse Amber Vinson (who had been exposed to Ebola and had a 99.5-degree fever) that she was safe to fly on a plane with 134 passengers aboard because her temperature had not yet reached 100.4 degrees.
So bad has the CDC’s handling of Ebola been that the governors of New York and New Jersey had to step in and impose their own mandatory 21-day quarantine on health-care workers returning to their states from West Africa after treating Ebola patients.
The sad part is that the CDC was one of the last federal agencies that still enjoyed the confidence of the American people. In May 2013, 60 percent of Americans said the CDC was doing a good or excellent job. Today, that number has dropped to 37 percent, placing the CDC only a few points ahead of the scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans Affairs.
That’s bad news for the country — and bad news for President Obama. Even before Ebola reached our shores, trust in Obama’s stewardship of the country was plummeting. Thanks to the botched Obamacare rollout, the border crisis, the VA scandal, IRS scandal, the General Services Administration scandal, the Syria “red-line” debacle and the implosion of Iraq, among other disasters at home and abroad, a July poll by Fox News found that a stunning 58 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Obama was incompetent in managing the federal government (including one-third of Democrats).
Now, his administration’s mishandling of Ebola threatens to permanently cement that public perception of incompetence in the collective American mind.
The wound is entirely self-inflicted. From the start, the president has treated Ebola like a public relations crisis rather than a health crisis — offering Americans multiple assurances that turned out to be false.
On Sept. 16, Obama promised Americans that his administration was “taking the necessary precautions . . . so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.” Four days later, on Sept. 20, an Ebola-infected Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, flew to Dallas, where he later died in a Texas hospital.
Obama further assured Americans that “In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home.” A few weeks later, two Dallas nurses contracted Ebola because, as a nurses union put it, there was “no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient, there was no protocol, there was no system.” And now, a month later, an American doctor with Ebola was taking the subway and bowling in New York — all while following federal safety guidelines.
The Ebola crisis is sapping the last vestiges of trust in the basic competence of this administration. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola now has a 70 percent death rate. When a doctor infected with Ebola is allowed to ride the New York subway with the federal government’s blessing, Americans are right to be angry. And when their president refuses to restrict U.S. travel visas for residents of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — and pressures New York and New Jersey to weaken their quarantine policy — Americans don’t believe that he is doing everything in his power to protect them.
From the Islamic State to Ebola, the world appears to be spinning out of control — and Americans sense that their president is completely out of his depth.
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The decision by the most prestigious opera house in America to produce an opera that mainstreams Jew-hatred and anti-Jewish terrorism is a great victory for elitist anti-Semitism. In the world of elite anti-Semitism, Jews are told that truth is but a narrative. Jewish history and rights have no more merit – indeed less merit – than the lies of Jew-haters. And if Jews dare to object to the propagation of lies against them, they open themselves to the easy accusation that they seek to stifle free speech.
The goal of elitist anti-Semitism is to erode the right of Jews to have and promote Jewish rights and interests. This is done by demonizing those who defend Jewish rights and advance Jewish interests, while elevating and romanticizing the lives and largely false narratives of those who seek to destroy Israel.
The Met’s singular contribution to the cause of elitist anti-Semitism is the prestige its production of “The Death of Klinghoffer” confers on the cause.
Another dam has been breached. Another safe zone has become a no-go zone.
On the other hand, at the end of the day, as bad as elitist anti-Semitism is, over the past decade or so, American Jews have developed tools to deal with it.
In the weeks that preceded the opera’s opening last Monday night, much – although not all – of the Jewish community in New York was able to unify in opposing it. Politicians and luminaries joined with more than a thousand protesters on opening night to express their revulsion at the opera.
And the Met has already paid a price for its elevation of anti-Semitism to high art.
Far from living up to its reputation as a leader in the arts, on Monday, due to the massive protest against the production, the Met lost its artistic credibility. The crowd that gave the opera a standing ovation didn’t do so because they had just experienced a musical masterpiece. They stood and cheered because they were happy the Met elevated murderous, Jew-hating terrorists, whom they support.
One of the novel aspects of the opposition to the production was an action taken Monday by the Zionist Organization of America. Hours before the opera began, the ZOA issued a press release demanding that major Jewish donors to the Met, including the Michael Bloomberg LP company, the Annenberg Foundation, the Neubauer Family Foundation and the Toll Brothers Foundation, account for their decision not to revoke their multi-million dollar support for the opera house.
The ZOA’s move is important because as Jews see more and more public support for the denial of Jewish rights and interests, it will become increasingly important to call to account those backing institutions that advance this growing trend toward Jewish disenfranchisement.
The ZOA’s move was important as well because it points us in a useful direction for dealing with a second and increasingly prominent form of anti-Semitism in the US and Canada. That form is violent anti-Semitism.
Increasingly, anti-Semites in the US are adopting brownshirt tactics to violently advance their goal of removing Jews from the public square and intimidating others into boycotting Israel and those who support it.
Take just a few examples in recent weeks. In late September, several hundred anti-Semitic rioters at the Port of Oakland prevented longshoremen from unloading cargo from the Israeli cargo ship Zim Shanghai. According to media reports, there were 50 policemen from the Oakland police force on the scene, but their presence did not stop the rioters or enable the longshoremen to offload the cargo.
None of the anti-Semites were arrested. Zim Shanghai was forced to leave the port with its cargo and sail on to Los Angeles.
The group that organized the assault on the Zim ship calls itself Block the Boat for Gaza. It operates through its Facebook page where it openly organizes violent assaults on Israeli shipping. Another assault is planned, according to its Facebook page, for October 25.
A previous assault in August, during Operation Protective Edge, also took place with police presence and nonintervention. The Zim Piraeus was forced as well to pull anchor with its cargo and sail on to Los Angeles.
Block the Boat for Gaza is supported by another group called Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
On October 8, the Brooklyn Nets played an exhibition game against Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Barclay Center in downtown Brooklyn. The event was a benefit for Friends of the IDF. Twelve IDF soldiers wounded during Operation Protective Edge were guests at the event.
About a hundred anti-Semitic rioters organized outside the event. They were members of variety of organizations reportedly including Jewish Voices for Peace, Adalah – New York, and the Direct Action for Palestine.
After the event, a number of the rioters accosted Leonard Petlakh, the director of a local Jewish community center, as he was leaving the arena with his two young sons. According to The Forward, they shouted, “Free Palestine,” and, “Your people are murderers.” And then one of them punched him in the face, breaking his nose.
The assailant was arrested. But strangely, he was not charged with committing a hate crime despite the clear anti-Semitic character of his crime.
On October 5, hours after the end of Yom Kippur, swastikas were painted on the walls of AEPi Jewish fraternity at Emory University near Atlanta. Swastikas were also painted at the Yale University campus. In July, mailboxes of AEPi members at University of Oregon were defaced with swastikas.
In August, a Jewish student at Temple University was assaulted by a member of Students for Justice for Palestine.
In a video filmed at the national convention of AEPi and posted on YouTube two weeks ago, members of AEPi from campuses around the US and Canada shared the stories of anti-Semitic assaults they and their friends suffer regularly on their campuses. The attacks described included, among other things, violent assaults.
Gideon Rafal, the president of AEPi at University of Arizona, described how he was assaulted while trying to prevent a group of 20 Jew-hating thugs from forcing their way into his fraternity house.
Rafal said he was struck from behind and lost consciousness.
The injuries he sustained during the assault included a skull fracture, bleeding in the brain, a concussion and a lower back fracture. He says that he was hospitalized for three weeks, spending 10 days in the intensive care unit.
Rafal did not say who the assailants were or what legal measures were taken against them or what organization if any, they were associated with.
Other students described threats against Jewish students manning a table for Birthright Israel programs at Loyola University in Chicago, and the assault of a Jewish female student at University of California at Santa Cruz.
Shane, a student at University of Calgary, described how he, his mother and sister were violently assaulted for counter-protesting at an anti-Israel protest. The group that sponsored the anti-Israel protest and whose members attacked him and his family is an official campus organization.
Shane said he fears for his life as he walks through campus.
In recent years it has become apparent that university campuses have become breeding grounds for anti-Semitism. The incidents described by the Jewish students who attended the AEPi convention indicate that the anti-Israel propaganda taught in the classrooms is increasingly being translated into anti-Jewish violence outside of them.
The major American Jewish organizations were incompetent to contend with anti-Israel incitement as it became a major force in university classrooms some 15 years ago. Jewish students found themselves with few communal resources to rely on when they suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves at the front lines of the anti-Semitic battle against Jewish rights.
New groups like Stand with Us and Hasbara Fellowships were formed to fill the vacuum. CAMERA, ZOA and other major groups have in recent years invested massive efforts into empowering students to stand up to this incitement.
But today, as anti-Semites on and off campus increasingly resort to brownshirt tactics, the American Jewish community again finds itself without the means to contend with a new challenge.
And this brings us back to the ZOA’s naming the names of Jewish philanthropists still supporting the Met.
The organizations involved in intimidating Jews and assaulting Jews on and off campus who support Israel are not interested in dialogue. Groups that organize to prevent the conduct of normal commercial relations between Israel and the US are not concerned with whether or not they are considered mainstream. The goal of these groups is to intimidate and terrorize the American and Canadian publics into silence as they make it impossible for Israel and its supporters to have a place in the public square.
Educational efforts are of little value in contending with thugs. But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be done. Groups like Block the Boat for Gaza, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, Adalah, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and Direct Action for Palestine need to be investigated.
Where does their money come from? Who are their leaders? What are their ties to terrorist groups? What are their ties to organized labor? What are their ties to politicians? What is their tax status and what do their tax returns say?
If members of various groups are intimidating Jewish students then there should be restraining orders against them. Criminal complaints should be filed against them. Their tax-exempt status should be challenged.
Jewish students should be demanding that Students for Justice in Palestine be expelled from their campuses along with other hate groups, like Jewish Voices for Peace.
Jewish alumni should be organizing to withhold all donations from universities that permit anti-Semitic groups to operate on campus. And Jewish lawyers should be filing lawsuits against universities and other institutions that enable the operation of anti-Semitic groups on their premises.
If Jewish students complain that they feel threatened on campus, then lawsuits should filed against the universities for engendering a threatening atmosphere against them.
Politicians who support or, when asked, fail to condemn these groups, individuals and their actions as racist and bigoted should be called out for their behavior. Police departments like the Oakland police department that do nothing to stop rioters from preventing the lawful, unfettered operation of a major US port should be subjected to public and legal scrutiny.
The challenge of anti-Semitism in North America is growing and mutating by the day. Jews in America and Canada need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Reasonably, American Jews have no interest in aping the hateful tactics of anti-Semites to fight them. But an aggressive campaign of legal, political, social and financial opposition to those who seek to demonize Jews and deny Jews civil rights as Jews as well as those who enable them can go a long way toward making members of these hate groups and their supporters rue the day they decided to go after the Jews.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.