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PORTSIDE  August 2010, Week 5

PORTSIDE August 2010, Week 5

Subject:

Obama's Silent Jewish Majority

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 29 Aug 2010 22:58:29 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (175 lines)

Obama's Silent Jewish Majority
by Eric Alterman
The Daily Beast
August 22, 2010
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-22/obamas-silent-jewish-majority/

Times columnist Charles M. Blow was apparently light on
ideas for his weekly column the other day and so he
decided to wade into the "Is Obama Good for the Jews"
waters. He should have stayed on dry land.

The thing about Jews is that you can find one willing to
say just about anything. Do Jews support the Park51
Community center? Yes, they do. Do they oppose it? Sure.
Do they oppose Israel's settlement policy? Absolutely.
Do they support it? Damn straight they do.

On what authority does Blow have it that most American
Jews decide their vote purely on the issue of Israel, or
that Obama's policies toward Israel are particularly
unpopular with Jews?

To make his case, Blow turns to John Bolton, one of the
most radical members of the Bush administration who has
called for an Israeli attack on Iran the day before
yesterday at the latest. When Bolton calls Obama's June
2009 Cairo speech "most radical anti-Israel speech I can
recall any president making," he is probably not trying
very hard. George H.W. Bush and James Baker were much
tougher on Israel than Obama was, or could imagine
being. And Ed Koch, well, come now. The former New York
City mayor is so crazy in matters relating to the Tribe,
he once demanded that the U.S. boycott France (and Woody
Allen). And is it really news that Rep. Mike Pence, the
Republican Conference chairman, told the Christian
Broadcasting Network, "I believe the Obama
administration is the most anti-Israel administration in
the modern history of the state of Israel and our
relationship with her." I think it would be news if he
didn't. The people who are complaining about Obama at
the top of their lungs are, like Bolton, largely the
ones who didn't want him elected in the first place. You
can find 31 or so of them collected here.

Casting a slightly wider net, Blow cites the Pew
Foundation's recent survey that Jewish Republican
support now "stands at the highest level since the data
have been kept," though he doesn't say when that was.
The figures presented only go back to 2006, when
everybody's support for Democrats was way higher than it
is today. Blow insists that "This is no doubt a
reaction, at least in part, to the Obama administration
having taken a hard rhetorical stance with Israel, while
taking special time and care on our relationship with
the Muslim world.'"

Oh, really? Well, I doubt it. Barack Obama, like pretty
much every Democrat before him, remains more popular
with Jews than with just about any other ethnic group in
America, save blacks. His approval rating among Jews,
steady in the low 60s, is about 15 percent higher than
it is with the goyim. Neoconservatives have been
predicting a Jewish turn toward the Republicans since
George McGovern only got about two-thirds of the Jewish
vote-that's right, only two-thirds-and yet it never
happens. (See for instance, "Milton Himmelfarb, "Are
Jews Becoming Republicans?" Commentary, August 1981.
Having lost patience, they started complaining about
what Irving Kristol not so fondly called "The Political
Stupidity of the Jews.") Even so, on what authority does
Blow have it that most American Jews decide their vote
purely on the issue of Israel, or that Obama's policies
toward Israel are particularly unpopular with Jews? Blow
may be without doubt on these points, but he is also
without any reliable evidence.

According to a spring 2010 survey conducted for J
Street, the "pro-peace, pro-Israel" American Jewish
lobby, American Jews support the policies undertaken by
the Obama administration on Middle East peace by margins
of three or four to one, depending on how the question
is asked. They are pretty much evenly divided about
whether it's a good idea for the U.S. to openly
criticize Israel-as Obama has done in response to the
Netanyahu government deliberate thumbing its nose in
America's eye over settlement policy-with a small
plurality of 40 to 44 percent agreeing "that the United
States should publicly express our disagreements and
request Israel to change certain policies."

Blow falls back on the columnist crutch, leaning on
Times reporter Helene Cooper, who noted, "It remains
unclear whether Mr. Obama's latest outreach will
reassure American Jews and the general public in Israel,
where Mr. Obama's approval ratings have plummeted." Yes,
all things futuristic "remain unclear," particularly
when one refuses to define one's terms. Amazingly, Blow,
like Cooper, does not appear to distinguish between
American Jews and "the general public in Israel" even
though the two are citizens of two entirely different
countries, only one of which Obama is president. Second,
Blow pretends that the issue at stake is Jewish votes,
but adds, cryptically, that "their influence outweighs
their proportion." Interestingly, Blow does not bother
stating why. I don't disagree, of course, but I don't
see the point of playing footsie about it either, unless
you happen to work for Abe Foxman.

The fact is one can make a case that Obama is a great
president for Israel and for American Jews just as
easily as one can make the opposite case. One can even
do it on the very terms these "pro-Israel Jews" use to
define the terms of the debate. He was just about the
only world leader anywhere to go along with Israel's
crazy argument for why it had to raid a peaceful aid
mission to Gaza and ended up killing nine people, for
one. And as The Wall Street Journal reported last week,
"U.S. military aid to Israel has increased markedly this
year. Top-ranking U.S. and Israeli soldiers have
shuttled between Tel Aviv and Washington with unusual
frequency in recent months. A series of joint military
exercises in Israel over the past months has included a
record number of American troops." Even AIPAC is on
board, at least when asked a direct question. Asked for
a comment by Think Progress, spokesman Josh Block said,
"Clearly the Obama administration remains deeply
committed to the U.S.-Israel alliance, and supporting
aid to Israel and deepening our military cooperation is
just one aspect of that." Does Charles Blow really want
to go to his grave being more "pro-Israel" than AIPAC?

Look, it's Obama's job to prod and push Israel toward
peace, no matter how recalcitrant the right-wing
government there might be. It's good for Israel, which
needs peace more than anything, and it's good for
America. As Gen. David Petraeus told Congress in March,
the continuing conflict is a key driver of instability
and anti-Americanism in the region. It is therefore in
the interest of U.S. national security that the conflict
be resolved.

Last week Obama succeeded, somehow, in convincing the
Palestinian Authority to agree to restart peace talks
without agreeing to any of their demands whatever.
Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, told the
Times: "Abbas wanted a clear reference to the 1967
lines; instead he was given 12 months to continue making
his case in the hopes that the Americans will intervene
decisively."

Far more worrisome for all of Israel's well-wishers than
this alleged conflict with Obama is the fact that, as
Blow accurately (this time) notes, "Recently, the
Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Israel
Project, a nonprofit in Washington, conducted a poll
that they said found American support of Israel was
dropping like a rock." Maybe the problem is less in
Washington than in Jerusalem. After all, it's Israel
that needs America's support to survive, not the other
way around, boychick.

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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