Democrats Go European

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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.

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10 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    Not only have I never been a Democrat, but never understood why Jews vote Democrat. The matter to me seems so obvious. Compare, for example, the presidencies of Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton, against the presidencies of Richard Nixon/Ronald Reagan/George Bush. Carter and Clinton were a total disaster for Israel, while Nixon/Reagan/Bush have been wonderful for Israel. The Christian Right is an extension of the historical Puritans, who sought to purify Christianity to bring it closer to the original teachings of the Torah. Is it therefore any wonder that they are Israel’s best friends? Even in England, which is America’s main cultural ancestor, it was the conservative Oliver Cromwell who let the Jews back into England after 400 years; it was the conservatives Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher who were friends of the Jews. The Republicans proudly promote free-market capitalism, which generates economic prosperity, which in turn significantly reduces the chances of the non-Jewish world turning against us in times of an economic downswing. With the notable exceptions of Mel Gibson and Pat Buchanan, virtually all antisemites in America today are on the left, from Cindy Sheehan to Michael Moore to Jesse Jackson to Naom Chomsky to Vanessa Redgrave and so on. Many of the anti-war rallies end up being anti-Israel rallies. The Republicans believe in ridding the world of Islamic terrorists, while the Democrats believe in placating our murderous enemies. It is time for Jews to get used to the reality that the Democratic party ever since George McGovern has become so radicalized that Harry Truman and John F Kennedy would find it difficult to fit into it. Just look at how that party has ostracized Senator Joseph Lieberman.

  2. Reb Yid says:

    The results of this election actually disprove JR’s thesis. The Democrats, if anything, have moved somewhat to the ‘right’ overall. That’s what enabled them to win many of their new Congressional seats.

    And Charles B. Hall is on point–there will now be many longtime pro-Israel Dems who will be in leadership positions.

  3. Joe Fisher says:

    Really this is such Republican breast beating, Rabbi Rosenblum.

    It was George Bush who claimed “A Democrat (sic) win means the terrorists win.” That was a week before his party was pummeled into the ground in the elections. Why keep beating this drum?

    The Democratic party, indeed, would also stand up to Iran. Maybe not with the breast-beating Bush treated the world to in Iraq (Bring’em on!), but certainly with more likelihood of real success.

    Bush’s policies, like Rosenblums, which are the same, have failed in Iraq, nearly failed in Afghanistan, failed in North Korea, are failing in Iran, and so on. Bluster is no match for intelligence. It’s just easier.

    Rabbi Rosenblum’s column today reminds me of that Japanese soldier who was found on an island four years after the war ended, still fighting for the emperor!

  4. L.Oberstein says:

    Every so often, I am asked how can the orthodox Jews be Republicans, when being a Democrat is an article of faith for most Jews. I explain in two ways, the one you will like and one you will find ofensive. First of all, the positions of the Republicans on school vouchers alone make them a favorite choice. the unquestioning support of Israel is another. But there is a seemier side to the Republican message, a disdain for the poor, a feeling that “if I can make it, then those who don’t are lazy and deserve to be poor”. These Jews delude themselves that the right wing loves them, they will never be members of the Republican country club. The republicans opposed every social welfare change such as social security, child labor laws, ecology. The party is for the richer element and its interests cater to the rich and the intolerant, as shown by their unfair tax cuts while cutting support for vital needs. Then there is the anti-democsratic nature of the “Conservatives Without A Conscience” who own George Bush II and whose hubris got us into an unwinable quagmire in Iraq. The cheir true nature is shown by the fact that rather than raise taxes on the rich to pay for this folly, they keep taxes on the rich low and borrow on the backs of America’s future generations.
    Also, Bush’s support for Israel is directly related to the Christian Right that believes we have to go back to Israel and die at Armegeddon so that the Savior can return. They love us to death.
    True, there are elements of current Democratic Party doctrine that we find offensive, like ” a woman’s right to choose’ and support for gay marriage by some but by no means all Democratic politicians (mostly depending on who lives in their district).
    So, if your guys win tonight, you can prance around deluding yourself by finding common cause with those who really are using gullible Jews. If the Democrats win big, then you can all mourn, but the ruth is that that is where our Jewish values of chesed and love thy neighbor are found. Some of my best friends are Rewpublicans, nebech. As a Jewish fellow said about 2,000 years ago, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.

  5. YM says:

    One dimension of this issue that is not discussed above is that there are two distinct Jewish voting blocks – Orthodox and Non. Evidence for this is the recent attempt by George Soros, the Reform Movement and others on the left to create a new organization as an alternative to AIPAC, as well as the number of calls by Jews against a proposal in Congress to limit the ability of the US to fund a Hamas-led PA government. Many “Non” Jews hold opinions on the Israel/Arab conflict similar to non-Jewish leftists, and, has unfortunately been the case throughout Jewish history, may only come to identify with a Jewish position when Anti-Semitism raises its head.

  6. mycroft says:

    Jews should not be in the pockets of either the Democratic party or the Republican one. Certainly, a frum blog should not be seen as favoring one party qua party over the other one.

  7. Charles B. Hall says:

    While the labor movement is indeed more isolationist than in the past, it is mostly members of the Republican party that has recently been taking the lead in promoting nativism here in the US. Senator Moynihan, of righteous blessed memory was not “cast off” but retired. His successor, Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, has just as strong a pro-Israel record and received the endorsement of the *Jewish Press* among others. The overwhelming majority of Jewish and non-Jewish Democrats at least here in New York support the kind of foreign policy of which Sen. Moynihan would have approved. Meanwhile, outside of New York, the overwhelming majority of elected officials in both parties continue to support Israel.

    And if the Democrats do gain control of the House of Representatives tomorrow, a lot of pro-Israel Jewish Democrats will be chairing important committees. And the support is not just from Jews: Charles Rangel, a non-Jewish Democrat who will chair an important committee, attended both the Agudath Israel of American convention and the Salute to Israel parade. How many Jews attend both? And Nancy Pelosi, also non-Jewish, who would become Speaker, has remained pro-Israel despite having probably the largest number of nutty anti-Zionists leftists in her district than any other in the US.

    I’m not saying that the Republicans are bad for Israel, although there are indeed a few bad apples on that side of the fence as well, and neither the Road Map nor the recent statements of President Bush’s Secretary of State provide total confidence in them doing the right thing. But to extrapolate from a single poll, and unrepresentative internet comments, is unwarranted. And making support for Israel into a partisan issue will not be good for Israel in the long run. This essay invites all pro-Israel voters to support only one party. Suppose that happens. The other party would then become the anti-Israel party, and eventually will come to power. Much better to keep support for Israel bipartisan, and to keep opposition to Israel on the fringe.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Unfortunately, in NY, the Republicans failed to offer a serious alternative to either Elliot Spitzer or Hillary Clinton-despite the fact that all polls showed that many Orthodox Jews voted Republican in 2004. It remains to be seen whether Spitzer of Clinton have a strategy of “run right of center, but govern from the left.”

  9. Reb Yid says:

    A few more questions:

    Which party’s candidate for the Florida Senate seat said, “If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin”?

    Which party’s candidate for the Virginia Senate seat has made “macaca” into a household name and cast aspersions upon a reporter who suggested (correctly) that his mother was, in fact, Jewish?

    Which party’s Congressmen have been instrumental in supporting proselytzing efforts against Jews in the Air Force Academy by evangelical Christians?

    And which party has given a free ride to GWB and Iraqgate with no sense of accountability?

  1. November 7, 2006

    […] In Jonathan Rosenblum’s post, he quotes extensively from Lanny Davis, who in turn quotes from a series of blogs in an attempt to prove that the Left in this country has gone anti-Semitic. His examples, however, are not good ones. As this post demonstrates, the quotation from Daily Kos was taken badly out of context—it was a sarcastic response to another comment which was roundly condemned as “troll rated.” Similarly, the comment buried in the Huffington Post really isn’t picking on Lieberman for being Jewish, but for being religious. It begins with “Good men, Daniel Webster and Faust would attest, sell their souls to the Devil. Is selling your soul to a god any worse?”—and later adds a swipe at the President: “George Bush thinks he is doing God’s work. Well, so do others.” As for the third blog mentioned, I was unable to find any comment on MoveOn.org containing both “Jewish” and “greedy.” […]