Although I am not American, I must confess that I was glued to the screen watching the Kavanaugh hearings in the U.S. Senate.
With the hindsight of time, I will attempt to provide a retrospective analysis, including the role of Jews.
Let me first state emphatically that I am not ambivalent about rape, which I consider almost equivalent to murder, and those violators must be punished mercilessly with the full rigor of the law.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh is a conservative whose elevation to the Supreme Court was understandably resented and opposed by all liberals, especially as they assumed that the result of his appointment was likely to be a more conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
However, the American system allows the president to nominate his recommendation for the position of Supreme Court justice, and as a rule, especially when his party has a majority, Senate approval is almost assured. The Democrats were therefore powerless to block the appointment unless they could persuade some Republicans to agree that Kavanaugh was either too conservative or unfit for the office.
Whether one approves or disapproves of Kavanaugh’s outlook, there is no disputing that he is a stellar personality. He has been an outstanding jurist and his public life as a judge and White House staff secretary in the George W. Bush administration has been exemplary. He passed six FBI background checks into all areas of his life. On the personal side, Kavanaugh is a devout Christian, married with two daughters; his mother had been a judge; he lectured at universities and coached schoolchildren. He had hundreds of references of good character from his friends, including those who studied with him in Yale.
Just four days prior to a planned preliminary vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Kavanaugh’s appointment, The Washington Post revealed that Professor Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist, had accused him of molesting her 36 years previously, during their high school days. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein had a letter containing this allegation from Ford in her possession two weeks earlier, but to make maximum impact, it was deliberately leaked just prior to his confirmation.
The Democrats demanded an investigation and Ford was permitted to address the Senate. She gave an impressive and impassioned address describing what she had endured 36 years ago. But she was vague on details, location and exact date. She did, however, name four people who she alleged had witnessed the incident, but all of whom either refuted or failed to confirm what she said. Not even one charge could be corroborated.
Sceptics concluded that if the molestation had taken place, she was misguided and was either confusing Kavanaugh with another person or engaged in a smear campaign.
The Democrats demanded that Kavanaugh be rejected. Then several other women emerged to lodge additional sexual misconduct allegations, and one woman – with a proven record of lying – even accused him of indulging in repeated drug-induced gang rapes. There were calls for a further FBI investigation, which was granted. Kavanaugh was cleared and his appointment finally confirmed by a narrow 50-48 vote in the Senate.
But the Democrats are still unhappy and have repeated the unsubstantiated libels, called for further investigations, including the possibility of initiating criminal charges, and threatened that if they gained a majority in the forthcoming congressional elections, they would demand Kavanaugh’s impeachment (a somewhat hollow threat as a two-thirds majority in the Senate would be required to remove him from office).
The Me Too campaign is a grass-roots movement that has made a major contribution in exposing the outrageous behavior of some powerful men who have committed sexual harassment and sexual assault. But the organized hysterical demonstrations accusing Kavanaugh of being a rapist, without the slightest shred of evidence aside from a woman’s hazy recollections of 36 years earlier, were disgusting and unconscionable.
Destroying the reputation of an honest man based on hearsay and presumption of guilt without an iota of corroboration is inexcusable. And those howling for Kavanaugh’s ouster outside and inside the Senate were reminiscent of the accusers in the Salem witch trials.
If such an attitude continues to prevail, anyone accused – without corroboration – of molesting a woman, would be presumed guilty. Even if it transpired to be malicious slander, the accused would be irrevocably defamed. It would encourage vindictive women to blackmail or slander men they disliked. Engaging in such behavior does not benefit “Me Too” and undermines its important, legitimate objectives and the beneficial strides the movement has achieved in encouraging genuinely aggrieved women to speak up.
Law professor Alan Dershowitz, a liberal and traditional Democratic voter, described the defamation of Kavanaugh as reminiscent of the days of McCarthyism, when anyone accused of being a communist sympathizer was automatically smeared and treated like a leper.
Most liberal Jews predictably but legitimately opposed Kavanaugh’s conservative views. But a substantial proportion of them were also in the forefront of the defamatory smear campaign.
The Jewish community – liberal and Orthodox – which in the past assiduously avoided becoming involved in non-Jewish partisan issues, should never have become engaged in this fracas. But many leaders have dragged the community into this nasty brawl.
Worse, many progressive rabbis who should have known better became involved at both levels. For example, Reconstructionist Rabbi Mira Wasserman, director of the of the Center for Jewish Ethics, distorts a passage in the Talmud to reach the conclusion that “serious allegations – even in the absence of evidence – suffice to exclude the accused from a respected office of leadership.”
There is no disputing that liberal Jews were concerned that Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court represented a threat to their cherished interests. They were concerned that he would oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration and other issues to which most were passionately committed.
But why make this a formal Jewish issue? More and more Orthodox communities are justly accommodating gays and lesbians and seeking to engage them in the community. But Jewish tradition would certainly be intractably opposed to same-sex marriages.
In addition, although 80% of American Jews are said to support a right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, Jewish tradition frowns on such behavior and opposes abortion unless the fetus endangers the mother.
Finally, Jews favoring open borders who compare Muslims seeking refuge today to Jews during the Shoah are making abhorrent analogies. They should consider the impact Muslim immigration has had on the quality of life in Europe and particularly on Jews. In contrast to Shoah survivors, a substantial proportion of these Muslims hold anti-democratic and anti-Semitic views and refuse to integrate into their host communities. A few of the immigrants and their children have even become terrorists.
It is perfectly legitimate for liberal Jews to disagree with the attitudes of traditional Judaism and to oppose restrictions on immigration. But they should promote their views as American citizens and not on behalf of the Jewish community. It is sad that not many of them are vocal in their support of Israel which no one would dispute has the greatest relevance for Jews.
But the worst aspect of Jewish behavior is the ongoing involvement of many liberals in this unsubstantiated defamation of Kavanaugh in order to disqualify him. They should know better.
I must confess to have been disgusted when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Dianne Feinstein, both Jews, continued to defame Kavanaugh even after the seventh FBI inquiry found absolutely no incriminating evidence. Feinstein went so far as to say that Kavanaugh’s appointment “undermines the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”
They and others engaged in this hysteria should remember that, as Jews, we are obliged to display a vested interest in the rule of law and the presumption of innocence. For over 1,000 years, Jews were burned at the stake and faced murderous pogroms because of blood libels circulated by hearsay. The traditionally vocal Jewish media should have highlighted this but remained silent, neutral or anti-Kavanaugh because they feared the wrath of the powerful liberals.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom