Former Democratic chair Howard Dean: ‘Israel’s government has lost its soul’


(JTA) — Howard Dean, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and ex-governor of Vermont, said Israel’s government has “lost its soul and purpose.”

Predictably, Dean’s tweet from Friday, which was inspired by an Israeli Cabinet minister’s endorsement of conversion treatment for gay people and his support of annexing the West Bank, set off a Twitter storm.

Much of the rebuke, however, was over what Dean wrote after his Israel zinger — he seemed to suggest that Jews were made noble because of anti-Semitism.

Here’s his full tweet: “Israel’s government has lost its soul and its purpose. The nobility of the Jewish people conferred by their terrible suffering is being squandered by cheap bigoted political crooks. The result will ultimately be the loss of a Jewish homeland which would be an unspeakable tragedy.”

Dean’s criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is fairly standard stuff on the pro-Israel left, which fears the demise of the two-state solution. One critic referred Dean to Netanyahu’s statement rebuking the comments on conversion therapy by a minister in his government. (The Cabinet member has since walked back his statement about conversion treatments.).

But many critics – the tweet had nearly 500 comments — took issue with his broader remarks about the Jewish people’s history.

Ben Lorber, a left-leaning Jewish writer from Chicago, provided one of the most sharp-worded comebacks.

“The idea that there is a ‘nobility of the Jewish people conferred by their terrible suffering’ is a gross projection of Christian hegemony that needs to stop,” he wrote. “We are beautiful because of our spirit, culture, texts, traditions, laughter, life. Not because we suffered for your sins.”

Dean, a regular contributor to MSNBC since his retirement from politics, has not replied to the debate about the tweet.

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