Israelis would like to believe that American support for the Jewish state is strong, bipartisan, and will ever remain thus. Contrary to that happy scenario, Israel definitely has a dog in next week’s American midterm elections.
Deep ambivalence toward Israel has infected the Democratic Party. A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll comparing voter attitudes on the war in Lebanon and toward Israel shows Republicans to be far more supportive of Israel than Democrats: 54% of Democrats advocate that the United States adopt a more neutral – i.e., less pro-Israel – stance to the Middle East, as opposed to only 29% of Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans felt the Israeli bombing in Lebanon was fully justified, as opposed to only 29% of Democrats. A recent Zogby poll showed that almost exactly the same number of Americans believe that an “Israel lobby” influenced America’s entry into the deeply unpopular war in Iraq.
Those who hold this view are found overwhelmingly in the Democratic Party. Key Democratic constituencies are deeply ambivalent about Israel. African Americans are three to four times as likely to hold anti-Semitic views as whites, and that may be reflected in the votes of the Congressional Black Caucus on Israel-related issues.
Past labor leaders, like Lane Kirkland, were strongly internationalist in outlook. Today, however, the union movement is primarily concerned with globalization, and has become increasingly isolationist in orientation, with a concomitant resentment of any military or foreign aid spending that reduces domestic spending.
The teachers’ unions provide much of the manpower in Democratic campaigns, and their membership – once heavily Jewish – increasingly shares the views of the college professorate, whose materials are seeping more and more into high school texts.
No mainstream Democratic spokesman or candidate would follow party senior statesman Jimmy Carter in labeling Israel an apartheid state or blaming it for most of the ills of the world, but such views are prominent in the Democratic blogo-sphere, which plays an ever-more prominent role in Democratic campaigns and candidate selection.
After spending several months campaigning for Senator Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut, Lanny Davis, former special counsel to president Bill Clinton, revised his lifelong view that intolerance and hate speech are more likely to be found on the Right. In a piece in The Wall Street Journal, Davis provided a sampler of the anti-Semitic attacks on Senator Lieberman posted on some of the most widely read and influential Democratic blog sites.
Lieberman was accused of supporting the war in Iraq so that American soldiers, not Israeli ones, would die. One post on Daily Kos, the most influential Democratic blog, read, “Jews only care about the welfare of other Jews… Ignore all the Jewish propaganda about participating in the civil rights movement of the ’60s.”
A reader at Huffington Post opined that Lieberman “cannot escape the religious bond he represents. His wife’s name is Haggadah or Diaspora or something you eat at Pesach.”
A post on MoveOn.org, which spearheaded the presidential campaign of Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, read: “(I)t’s those GREEDY PIGS who own our mainstream media who are placing RELIGION/POLITICS (ISRAEL) and CORPORATE GREED above the best interests of the American people (peace, democracy, clean air, healthcare, etc.). As we’ve already agreed, most of these GREEDY PIGS are Jewish.”
Fifty percent approved of this post. By contrast, only 21% agreed with a post pleading to eschew such “abhorrent anti-Semitic trash.”
MUCH MORE significant than the anti-Semitic rantings, however, are the congeries of attitudes that increasingly characterize party leaders, even as they profess strong support for Israel. Those attitudes might be summed up in one word: European.
In the recent Senate hearings on John Bolton’s nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic standard-bearer, repeatedly criticized Bolton for the fact that America is consistently the odd man out at the United Nations, and stands outside the consensus of our European “allies.”
One shudders to think where Israel would be if the United States ceased to be the “odd man out” at the UN. Recall that six of those so-called European allies, including France, voted in favor of a resolution of the UN Human Rights Commission specifically legitimizing terrorism against Israeli citizens to further Palestinian liberation.
The Democrats’ bible, The New York Times, editorialized during the Lebanon War that the Bush administration’s refusal to join the Europeans in calling for an immediate cease-fire gave the lie to its professed multilateralism. An early cease-fire would have handed Hizbullah a huge propaganda and moral victory.
Increasingly the American Left shares with its European counterparts a naive Enlightenment belief that all problems can be solved by rational men sitting around a conference table. In that view, all men are basically interested in increasing their allotment of material goods, and all conflicts can be resolved by slicing the pie slightly differently.
In this happy world, talk is always good, and military action, unless sanctioned by the UN, is always bad. Democrats have long ago cast off the UN skepticism of four-term Democratic Senator and former UN Ambassador Daniel Moynihan. So enamored are they with the idea of the UN that they forget it maintains an entire bureaucracy devoted specifically to anathematizing Israel and portraying the Palestinians as the world’s most oppressed people.
Republican Senator Rick Santorum, who seems headed for defeat next week, has taken the lead in labeling Islamofascism the primary threat to Western civilization. Democrats, like the French, disdain such talk of a conflict of civilizations as simplistic, just as they once found risible president Reagan’s “Evil Empire” and President Bush’s “Axis of Evil.”
For Israelis, however, Islamic fanaticism is no joke.
One final question: Which party is more likely to act to prevent Iran from testing the calculus that it can destroy Israel with one nuclear missile, while 15 million Iranians will survive Israel’s counter-strike? The Republicans under George W. Bush, or the Democrats?
First published in the Jerusalem Post, Nov. 3.