As a sign of the times, the upcoming primary race in the Greater Miami metro area is not the most encouraging. It won’t be a close race, but sometimes the mere entry of a certain type of candidate tells you where a not-insignificant number of people think the winds are blowing.

Jen Perelman is challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz for the Democratic nod in Florida’s 25th District. Perelman ran against Wasserman Schultz in 2020, losing to the veteran Democrat by about 45 points. Since then, she’s been retooling her campaign to take another shot.

The value of a primary challenger’s campaign is usually in seeing what they think their party faithful wants to hear. This time around, Perelman appears to believe her party’s voters want to hear a heap of Jewish self-flagellation.

A recent ad begins with somber music and the candidate holding up an old photo. “This is me, at 16 years old, in Israel, on a high-school trip, holding an assault rifle,” she narrates as if confessing her sins at a Stalinist show trial. “And this is the definition of indoctrination.”

Later in the ad, she says, eyes welling up with tears: “To me, atonement is really taking accountability for your participation in something that you now realize was not correct in some way, and wronged people in some way. I participated in an ethnic cleansing state.”

Let’s not be so dramatic. Here I must divulge that I, too, once held a gun as a teenager in Israel on a trip. And neither I nor Jen Perelman did so as anything other than tourists. Israel does not take 16-year-old American goofballs and send them on top-secret missions to infiltrate Iranian nuclear facilities. I must also confess that despite all my trips to the zoo, I am neither a lion tamer nor a lion.

These trips are, instead, tours that seek to deepen our connection with our Jewish heritage. And that is what Perelman is really apologizing for. “I grew up in North Miami Beach,” she explains. “I grew up in a very insulated, very Jewish community.” This meant that the “indoctrination” was coming from inside the house. “My great-grandmother, my grandmother were raised with this fear mentality that without the state of Israel, Jews around the world will not be safe. True history was kept from us. We were propagandized.”

The true history, you see—the one where Jews lived safely and securely under the warm wings of 2,000 years’ worth of governments—was kept from Jen Perelman. She was propagandized.

This particular idea has become standard fare among American Jews seeking acceptance from their peers. A few years ago, the actor Seth Rogen complained about being “fed a huge amount of lies” about Israel at Jewish schools and camps in Vancouver, that hotbed of militant Zionist indoctrination. This is apparently the consensus talking point among the AsAJews who are sorry for being Jewish: They were fooled by their terrible family and terrible friends.

This nonsense is much worse than if they would just say “I have changed my mind.” Because these cowards paint a picture of Jews as a clannish, deceitful people by nature who cannot safely be trusted with the care of children. For the rest of the world, it’s taken as a confirmation of all the classic tropes about Jews.

There is a certain consistency to this, at least. To such people the Palestinians have no agency and also they, the Jews, have no agency. They’re all puppets of some master conspiracy, probably being controlled by someone in Vancouver.

Of course plenty of American Jews feel this way, but rarely is it the basis for a congressional candidacy. Also: The 25th District is one of the most Jewish congressional districts in the country. Perelman’s decision to bet the farm on self-loathing seems a shaky strategy to say the least.

And yet, of course, it must be pointed out that sometimes Jew-baiting works in the strangest of places. After all, in 2020 Jamaal Bowman unseated Eliot Engel in a New York Democratic primary.

Still, Perelman’s campaign is a long shot by any reasonable estimation. Running on the theme that the people of her district are evil probably won’t get her very far this time either.

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