The “Debate” between Alan Dershowitz and Dennis Prager

For decades, “The 92nd St. Y”—as in Young Men’s Hebrew Association—has been a bastion of progressive thought in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The community center describes itself as “a proudly Jewish institution that reaches out to people of every race, ethnicity, religion, age and economic class.”

Last fall, the Y featured a revealing discussion on “the Left, the Right, and Judaism” between the conservative moralist Dennis Prager and superlawyer, liberal activist, and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. David Frum joined them as moderator. It was a discussion between Jews, for Jews, and about Jewish interests, which is something Jews do quite a bit of. Highlights can be viewed here and here.

The turgid opinions on Zionism expressed by Prager and Dershowitz aren’t particularly unusual, and so we shouldn’t get caught up in, for instance, Prager’s claim, “There is something wrong with your moral barometer if you’re anti-Israel.”

The discussion ultimately amounted to a friendly debate over whether conservatives or liberals were Best For The Jews (that is, most supportive of Zionism and least prone to “anti-Semitism). What I found most striking was that each man stressed just how happy he was that there were so many Jews in the opposing camp—and how he only hoped there might be more some day.

This is a funny thing to argue. I’m not sure I could utter something like, “Ted Kennedy destroyed the American nation with the ’65 Immigration Act—long live his family!” Or “I disagree with most everything Keith Olbermann says on his show—I only wish there were more like him!”

I don’t have much affection for Kennedy and Olbermann, and a host of other non-Jews on the Left. I want to discredit them, defeat them. I generally wish they weren’t around, and I look forward to the day when their arguments will be invalid and ignored.

This sense of finality seems quite natural. And since Prager cites moral justifications for his political opinions (as opposed to, say, utilitarian or economic ones), it’s rather shocking that he’s so eager to tolerate the Alan Dershowitzs of the world—indeed, to express his hope that they go forth and multiply.

What becomes clear in discussions like this one is that Jews view Left and Right as static—as two components of a system they operate in. I don’t think Prager and Dershowitz are insincere in their beliefs and opinions. It’s simply a matter of issues like, say, abortion and social welfare policy being completely subordinated to the REAL issue (and you know what that is.) For this reason, they’re delighted to see more of their kind in prominent positions “on the other side.”

This metapolitics has obviously been successful for them. Note how in the second video, Prager says that the Jews ridiculed and attacked George W. Bush—but did so in full confidence that he would never stop standing up for Zionists and risking his political career on their behalf.

Europeans and European-Americans could do worse than learn something from a people whose political ideas are profoundly informed by racial consciousness.

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