Years ago, Frank Rich, the legendary New York Times columnist, wrote a piece — channeling his grandmother — on the first question her generation used to ask when big news broke: Is it good for the Jews? Or (more often) is it bad for the Jews?
You could hardly blame them. Living through the Holocaust makes the question painfully relevant.
But a habit is a habit.
I will never forget my mother's first words when John Kennedy was shot: "Thank God it wasn't a Jew." And young as I was, I understood. After all, I had already been told in kindergarten that I couldn't play Mary in the school play (even though I had the longest hair, the usual qualification) because I was Jewish. I wasn't old enough — or brave enough — to point out that so was Mary.
As I got older, I adopted my own refrains. Was it good for the Democrats? Good for women?
There was a time — albeit a very brief one — when I even wondered if my children would ever appreciate the fear and uncertainty my mother lived with and I grew up with.
I need not have worried.
No one stood on the morning of 9/11 and wondered if Canadian separatists had taken over the skies.
That year, the High holidays has almost as many security guards as Jews.
Hate crimes are on the rise.
Anti-Semites sit in the United States Congress (oh, I know, they just love Jews. They just hate the only Jewish state in the world, even though most of the states they admire do things like dismember journalists, deny human rights and kill judges. But at least they're not Jewish).
Trump knows a publicity stunt when he sees one. Who better? Rep. Rashida Tlaib was so desperate to see her grandmother (not) that she changed her travel plans to Israel because she couldn't play politics on her trip.
Sorry, but I would give Heaven and Earth to see my mother again — or my grandmother — without a word of politics.
Does she really expect sympathy from anybody?
These women could play a valuable role in bringing peace to the Middle East. Instead, they'd rather bring war and suffering. Fine. Don't go. We already have enough of that.
But don't blame the Israelis. This was a Trump deal, first and foremost. This wasn't about protecting Israel. This was about painting Jewish Democrats as a bunch of cowards for not standing up to the boycott of Israel. Far from improving Israel's standing as the only democracy in the Middle East, Trump put the screws on Prime Minister Netanyahu, leaving Netanyahu little choice but to ban the Israel haters and earn the enmity of the world for denying access to elected members of Congress.
Tlaib got all the publicity she wanted without ever stepping foot on the airplane. Am I the only one who thinks she could have accomplished far more for the cause of humanitarian aid by actually bringing the press to see her grandmother, maybe even bringing her medicine or food she might need?
Am I so wrong to wonder whether this whole thing was about politics or love?
Make no mistake: There are many American Jews who are deeply troubled by the suffering of Palestinians in the Middle East. War serves nobody but the other Arab nations who want to keep the Palestinians out. But members of Congress who refuse to accept Israel's right to exist in peace are, like Trump, part of the problem, not the solution. And I can't help but wonder if that's what they really want.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)