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I maintain that the massive, ongoing, enthusiastic and predictable Jewish vote for liberal Democrats is an example of one of the most foolish voting records by any ethnic group in the history of the American republic. The black vote along the same lines is self-destructive and foolish, but there are some bona fide explanations—especially in the last election. On the other hand, as I will show in this article, the sustained allegiance by American Jews to the Left is not only self-destructive and foolish, it is also short-sighted, naïve, ineffective, harmful and ultimately inexcusable.
Individuals vote for candidates for all sorts of reasons. But often, a large number of members of an ethnic community might cast ballots of a similar nature. This is not surprising. People have touchstone issues that can easily affect which lever they pull (or which tab they press on their computer screen) and it is not unusual for common feelings on such issues to be shared among the members of an ethnic community. In the case of the Jewish community what might those touchstone issues be? For example, any individual Jewish voter might care deeply about abortion or taxes or judicial activism. But so might any other voter. What are the issues that touch him deeply as a Jew, perhaps enough to sway his vote for President? I will discuss three here:
* The security and well-being of the State of Israel and its Jewish population.
* The security and well-being of the American Jewish community.
* The fundamental purpose of the Jewish people's continued existence, especially in America.
There are other issues, like separation of church and state, school vouchers or affirmative action, about which some Jews feel strongly, and those feelings might be connected to their Jewish identity. But I maintain that none of those are as fundamental as the above three, which are at the heart of how most Jews see themselves as Jews, and as American citizens. So I will restrict my attention to the three in the bulleted list.
Support for Israel. Although most American Jews have chosen not to relocate to Israel, and they see their family's destiny continuing to unfold in the United States, nevertheless, they care deeply about Israel. Many have relatives or close acquaintances who live there. Others have visited, many times in some instances. They feel a kinship with the Jews of Israel, a pride in their accomplishments and a concern for their precarious situation. Unless they are totally cynical, they recognize the miracle of the creation of the Jewish State on the ashes of the Holocaust, and the equally wondrous miracle of its survival in the face of unremitting and murderous hostility on the part of its Arab neighbors and the Muslim world. They are grateful for the support their country, the US, has shown for Israel and they are determined that said support shall not waiver.
But here are some undeniable facts. In the Western World today, the main hostility to Israel comes from the Left. In Western Europe, Canada, even the United States, Israel is routinely slandered as an Apartheid State and a Nazi-like occupier by politicians, academics and media-types on the Left—almost exclusively on the Left. While there remain a few lunatic, fringe figures on the Right who engage in such calumny, their numbers pale in comparison to those on the extreme Left. Worse, many in the mainstream Left are equally virulent in their denunciations of Israel. People like Jesse Jackson, Ramsay Clark, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, so-called mainstream liberals, are fervent in their condemnations of Israel and in advocating policies that would sunder the Israel-US alliance and align America more with Israel's enemies. The bias even extends to the White House. While Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were great friends and admirers of Israel, Lyndon Johnson virtually abandoned the Israelis prior to the Six-Day War, Bill Clinton's favorite White House guest was the terrorist Arafat who had Jewish blood on his hands, and you cannot convince me that Jimmy Carter is not an anti-Semite.
Yet American Jews keep voting for these people. What are they thinking? It is totally clear that there are many on the Left, usually in the Democratic Party, who do not wish Israel well, who if they get the chance will reorient US policy away from the support and defense of Israel, and who turn a blind eye to the genocidal rage of the Holocaust-denier and Jew-hater, Ahmadinejad, and his proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas. Why are American Jews voting for those people? Are they blind? How could they be so foolish?
Support for the American Jewish Community. Well, maybe the American Jewish voter is not all that fixated on Israel anymore. Perhaps his concerns lie closer to home—with the protection and support of the Jewish community in America. Sorry, fellow members of the tribe, but hostility to Jews in America is just as much concentrated on the Left as is hostility to Israel. The list of well-known leftist anti-Semites is too long to contemplate, and any that I name here would be quick to deny it and condemn me. So let me just explain how some of the favorite policies of liberal Democrats are poisonous to the American Jewish community.
Where to begin? Liberals love to tax the rich. But which is one of the richest ethnic communities in the United States? Duh! Liberal philosophy leads to economic policies that penalize the business community, especially small businessmen. Well, which ethnic community is entrepreneurial in spirit and heavily represented in the small business community? Duh again! Liberal philosophy is definitely anti-military, demanding that international conflicts always be resolved by negotiation and that war is to be avoided at all costs. At the moment the liberals who are running the country are throwing money at every federal agency except the Defense Department. They are decimating our military and our intelligence agencies. And exactly how is that going to enable the US to help protect Israel from its genocidal neighbors in the Middle East? For that matter, how will we protect ourselves from the same genocidal maniacs? Unilateral disarmament (no missile defense, cut the defense budget, don't modernize our nuclear arsenal, delay or postpone development of new weapons systems) can do nothing but harm to the Jewish communities in both the US and Israel. But Jews love the loony liberals who are intent on doing it.
The list goes on. Liberal Democrats are thrilled by the human invasion of our shores that is underway from Latin America and other third world venues. They claim that the invaders will enrich our culture and improve our prosperity, and that welcoming them is an appropriate way to deal with the oppression in the countries from which the hordes are fleeing. Of course, it is just coincidental that liberals expect these "new Americans" to be overwhelmingly left-leaning voters. Now in the last half-century, the Jewish component of the US population has shrunk from 4% to less than 2%. As our numbers dwindle, so will our clout. Exactly how is mass immigration—legal or otherwise—by groups of people who are immediately classified as underrepresented minorities and thereby entitled to special privileges that Jews are denied, exactly how is that going to improve our well-being in the US?
The Left wants to build a very high, impenetrable wall between church and state. That is only one part of their plan to convert America from a country in which religion has played a fundamental role to one in which religion is marginalized, hidden and eventually banished. Jews favor this approach because of memories of poor treatment at the hands of Christians over the centuries. Well, in which secular or pagan societies have we fared better? Nazi Germany? Soviet Russia? France? (In the latter, anti-Semitism is rampant again today.) The strongly Christian society that America was, and which Jewish voters are helping to destroy, laid out the greatest welcome mat ever seen in world history for the Jewish people. Today, evangelical Christians constitute arguably the community most supportive of Israel in the US or the Western World. But we spurn them and vote for "friends of Israel" like Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama. I cannot imagine anything more foolish.
The issue of group rights versus individual rights is another particularly thorny one for American Jews. In the pall-mall rush to identify groups in America that are to be accorded special rights, "civil rights" advocates have settled on blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, occasionally Asians, but more frequently homosexuals and the disabled, and let us not forget females. The Jews rarely if ever make the cut. You would think that, constituting a shrinking percentage of the population, and not favored for any special status in the group rights game, Jews would be falling all over themselves to support individual rights. Not the case. Jews are amongst the biggest promoters of group rights. And from which political corner does the mantra of group rights originate? The Left!
This may be a case of political philosophy trumping ethnicity and self-interest. It is a well-known fact that in fields like education, business, science, literature and the arts, the millennia-old traditions of Jewish scholarship and study have produced a people who can compete extraordinarily well. Given a level playing field, we do indeed compete exceedingly well. The long roster of achievements by Jews in these areas: Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, selections for membership in the National Academy of Sciences, even Oscars, attests to that success. Why in heaven's name would we want to support rules that tilt the playing field to our disadvantage, impede our brethren from competing on even terms, and thereby diminish the chances of our continuing these stellar achievements? Why indeed! Because the lure of Leftist ideology blinds too many Jews to the folly and self-destructiveness of their devotion to group rights. Indeed, Jews and Jewish organizations are routinely found among the strongest advocates of group rights. For example, they fervently support diversity programs that have had the direct and documented effect of denying qualified Jewish applicants seats in medical and law schools. This is done in the name of atoning for sins committed by white Americans against black Americans—real though those sins were—at a time when the Jewish applicant's ancestors were peasants in Europe. Furthermore, the beneficiaries of those affirmative action programs often have no ethnic connection to those who suffered the outrage of slavery. So A is paying B to atone for sins committed by C against D. Is this wise? Is it just? Or even compassionate? I think not. But it is certainly foolish.
Moving on, it is also not surprising that many Jews support multiculturalism. They harbor a deep-seated suspicion of the classic WASP culture and its Christian origins and emphasis. The Jewish people have a very problematic relationship with Christianity and although things are pretty good now, one can never be too secure. Multiculturalism has the potential to loosen the grip that a Christian-oriented culture has had on America and this is a good thing for the Jews—or so the thinking goes. Thus you will find Jews lined up squarely in the multicultural ranks. That is, squarely on the Left.
But as with other aspects of the Jewish political agenda, the commitment to multiculturalism is short-sighted. The overwhelming majority of the Jews of America, those alive today and those who have lived in the republic since its birth, would categorize the US as the warmest haven the Jewish people have encountered outside Israel in the last three thousand years. Well, things were pretty comfy in Persia 2500 years ago, and in Babylon about 1500 years ago, and in Spain some 600 years ago, but it is understandably hard to compare the levels of comfort in those societies to life in America during its existence. In any event, I note that the environment in America that offered the Jews such great comfort was dominated, for most of that existence, by the WASP culture that we are so anxious to denigrate. Is there some kind of disconnect here? Yes, I had to sing a few Christmas carols when I was in public school. That does not change the fact that from the arrival of my grandparents in this country about a century ago through the arrival of my grandchildren about a decade ago, my family has lived a good life, free to pursue our Jewish religion, culture and traditions as much or as little as we wished. The non-WASP cultures that the multiculturalists are so keen to graft onto the American scene emanate from countries and regions where my fellow Jews have not had such a cozy existence. Again, I question whether a commitment to multiculturalism by Jews is not self-defeating. It is certifiably foolish. Finally, to conclude this section, I note that the good gentile people of America began in the last generation to refer to the religious component of Western Civilization as the Judeo-Christian heritage. And we are going to turn our backs on that!
Purpose of the Jewish People in America. The third core "issue" on which Jews cast their votes is more nebulous than the previous two and somewhat trickier to discuss. Whereas the first two issues were easily and unambiguously stated, this one is less so. The goal of improving the lot of the Jews in Israel, or in America, is explicit and understood by those who profess it—as well as those who oppose it. Whether policies adopted by politicians supported by the Jews act in furtherance of those goals—or thwart them—is a matter of opinion. And it has been my thesis above that large segments of the Jewish community foolishly support policies which, in fact, have negative consequences toward the attainment of the two goals.
Now for the third. Jewish people are unlike say Swedes or the Swiss in that they constantly ruminate about their role in world history. Conscious of their survival over thousands of years against enormous odds, they think about their contributions to mankind during that period and just as importantly, they ponder how they should contribute to the betterment of humanity in the future. This is a complicated issue, but at the risk of oversimplification, let me say that the thinking generally runs down one of two tracks—which might be summarized by the well-known Hebrew phrases: Or l'Goyim and Tikkun Ha Olam, a Light Unto the Nations and Fix (or Perfect) the World. Along the former track, the Jewish American, who is usually, but not necessarily, religiously observant, takes on his role in a biblical sense. Specifically, the intent is to live his life according to the ancient precepts of his religion and in doing so he leads a moral, ethical and holy life that sets a shining example for the peoples of the world. His ultimate goal is to encourage all of mankind to live a righteous life for the betterment of the world. Although he does this in the context of a supportive Jewish community, he comes to the decision to live this way, to highlight his Jewish way of behavior as a beacon to mankind, as an intensely personal decision, made of his own free will.
On the second track, the Jewish American takes his lead more from the prophets than from rabbinical tradition. He sees his role as one of the vanguard who, having identified the flaws of man and his stewardship of society and the environment, sets about to "fix" it, that is, to improve, even perfect, mankind and the world. He will do this not so much by leading an exemplary life that sets a good example but more by joining with those gentiles who desire the same objective, in order to enlighten everyone else about the true path and then to enact rules that all will follow for the betterment, indeed perfection of mankind and the world.
Now to put the above two tracks in an American context, I will choose in each case a classic American phrase that encapsulates the fundamental animating idea to which the individual is devoted in his quest for his "Jewish purpose." For the former, I offer up individual liberty and for the latter, social justice. That said, what I observe is that when your average American Jewish voter thinks about his role as a Jew in the unfolding American drama, it appears to me that the pursuit of social justice comes to mind a lot more frequently than does individual liberty. And as with the two previous issues, I maintain that the choice the majority of American Jews are making on this issue is foolish. Part of my belief stems from my overall assessment of the relative values of the agendas of the Left and Right in America today. Without going too far astray, let me just say that I believe that the statist, collectivist, big government, anti-free market, counter cultural policies that the Left is pursuing—and increasingly successfully I might add—will lead to the ruination of America. The quest for social justice, which is no more than a euphemism for socialism, will at best turn the US into a clone of the socialist states in Western Europe that are decaying before our eyes, or at worst into a despotic tyranny that our forefathers foretold would emerge if we could not maintain the limited government, republican form of government that they set up for us. It is a sad fact that the majority of American Jews have lined up foolishly on the wrong side of this monumental battle.
To conclude my discussion of this issue, let me make an ironic observation about our foolish preference for social justice over individual liberty. Life for Jews has been precarious in exile, where we spent the better part of the last two millennia. Centuries of dealing with oppressors have caused us to develop defensive mechanisms. Clearly a society committed to social justice—which to many Jews suggests a fair and equitable society—would provide a safer environment, and it makes sense to work for that rather than grandstanding about the rights of the individual, rights that most societies have not accorded him. Well, despite the freedom the US grants to exercise these rights, the Galut mentality dies hard.
The ironies connected with this last issue are as poignant as the previous. The Jewish people of America have a remarkable record of individual success. Through hard work, dedication and perseverance, Jews have climbed to the top in many professions, in business, science and the arts. Moreover they did it without affirmative action or other artificial governmental mechanisms to prop up their efforts. They constitute a true testament to individual liberty, or as some conservatives are wont to express it, to rugged individualism—even if more of the cerebral than physical kind. Yet they remain committed to social justice in the form of government set asides, group preferences in college admissions, special loans for minority businesses and the whole plethora of welfare-like programs which scream out that this or that individual from certain groups cannot succeed on his own without special assistance. The Jewish experience in America is proof of the fallacy of that thesis. But why should Jews deal in reality when their dreams of social justice are so much more enticing.
The question remains: Why? Why do we behave so foolishly? Why do we make political choices and pursue policies that run counter to our own self-interests? I have demonstrated here that this is exactly what the Jewish community in the US is doing. Why do we do so? Well, Jews might be foolish, but they are hardly stupid. Therefore, what is the explanation? That will be a topic for a future column.
College Park, MD
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Professor of Mathematics
Former Senior Associate Dean
College of Computer, Math & Physical Sciences
University of Maryland
ph: (301) 405-7061 (o), 301-538-8381 (c)
Author of: Liberal Hearts and Conservative Brains
Jewish World Review July 31, 2009 / 10 Menachem- Av 5769
Large and growing chasm separates leftist US Jews from leftist Israelis
By Caroline B. Glick
Israel's leftists are lonely these days. This was the central thrust of an opinion column in Tuesday's New York Times authored Aluf Benn, editor-at-large of the left-wing Ha'aretz newspaper.
Benn's article, "Why won't Obama Talk to Israel?" was a plaintive call
for US President Barack Obama to woo the Israeli public. As Benn put
it, "Next time you're in the neighborhood, Mr. President, speak to us
Benn's article has been touted by Obama supporters and detractors
alike as evidence that the President has a credibility problem with
Israelis. Jewish Obama supporters sought to soften the impact of
Benn's article on their fellow Jewish leftists by claiming that Obama
is listening to the likes of Benn. For instance, the Atlantic's
Jeffrey Goldberg reported without irony that administration officials
defend Obama's silence towards Israel by arguing that his June 4
speech to the Muslim world in Cairo was also geared towards Israelis.
The June 4 address of course was the one where Obama compared Israel's
treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi Holocaust of European Jewry
and to black slavery in the antebellum American South. It was also the
speech where he embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim
that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust and not to the Jewish
people's legitimate right to self-determination in our homeland.
Benn's piece is an interesting read, but not for the reasons that have
been widely cited. It is interesting for what it says about the
Israeli Left on the one hand, and what it says about Obama and his
American Jewish supporters on the other.
Although Benn gives a long bill of particulars on why Israelis
mistrust Obama, the general thrust of the article is supportive of the
administration. Far from an attack on Obama, it is a cry for help.
Benn and his fellow Israeli leftists want the administration to help
them by changing the tenor of its policies, not the policies themselves.
Whereas the American Left was triumphant in the 2008 elections, the
Israeli Left was decimated in Israel's general elections in February.
Its two standard bearers -- Meretz and Labor -- were effectively wiped
out. Its new flagship Kadima failed to win the support of any other
party in its bid to form a governing coalition. Worse still,
consistent polling shows that the general public rejects every one of
the Israeli Left's central policies. From the swift establishment of a
Palestinian state, to the mass expulsion of Jews from Judea and
Samaria and Jerusalem, to unilateral land giveaways to the
Palestinians, the Israeli Left today speaks for a but a small minority
Benn cited last month's Jerusalem Post poll which showed that a mere
six percent of Israeli Jews view Obama as pro-Israel while some fifty
percent of Israeli Jews perceive the President as more pro-Palestinian
than pro-Israel. As he sees it, Obama's failure to win the trust of
the Israeli public will make it impossible for him to coerce the
Netanyahu government into freezing Jewish construction in Judea,
Samaria and Jerusalem. This is a disaster for Benn and his colleagues.
For unless the US can force the government's hand, there is no chance
that they will be able to see their radical policies implemented.
It is in his attempt to convince Obama to help the Israeli Left that
Benn makes his most consequential critique of the US leader. As he
puts it, Obama "seems to have confused American Jews with Israelis."
Benn points out that Obama's repeated attacks on Holocaust denial
resonate more strongly with US Jews than with Israelis and that the
two Jewish populations have "different historical narratives."
Benn is onto something when he notes the differences between Israeli
and American Jews. But he fails to grasp the real significance of what
Obama is doing and what is actually happening in relations between the
It isn't that Obama is confusing the two groups. Through both his
rhetoric and his actions, Obama is demonstrating his priorities and
Obama cares about securing the support of American Jews. He does not
care about gaining the support of Israeli Jews. Moreover, Obama feels
comfortable wooing the former while alienating the latter because he
recognizes something that Benn has apparently missed: Today a large
and growing chasm separates leftist US Jews from leftist Israeli Jews.
During his recent meeting at the White House with hand-picked American
Jewish leftist activists and centrist American Jewish leaders, Obama
explained that he welcomes open disputes with Israel. As he put it,
during the Bush presidency, there was "no daylight [between the US and
Israel] and no progress."
Whereas Obama's goal of openly distancing the US from Israel is a
source of anxiety and frustration for Israeli leftists who believe
that US pressure should be a means to the end of compelling Israel to
give away land to the Palestinians, it is a positive development for
American Jewish Leftists. Led by the new anti-Israel Jewish lobby J
Street, and supported by groups like Americans for Peace Now, the
Union for Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and
the National Jewish Democratic Council, the American Jewish Left
supports the White House's hostile positions on Israel as an ends unto
J Street ? a creation of Democratic fundraiser and anti-Israel
activist George Soros ? was established ahead of the 2008 elections in
order to lobby the White House and Congress to foment breaches in the
US-Israel strategic relationship.
When Soros first raised the prospect of a Jewish anti-Israel lobby in
October 2006, he argued that there was a need to institutionalize what
had until then been ad-hoc anti-Israel lobbying efforts by American
Jewish groups in order to scuttle Congressional support for Israel and
undermine mainstream American Jewish organizations.
True to their mandates, today J Street and its fellow leftist Jewish
groups Americans for Peace Now, and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom lobby
Congress to adopt positions that place the US in direct confrontation
with Israel. The three groups are presently lobbying Congress to
oppose an AIPAC initiative calling on Obama to pressure Arab
governments to normalize relations with Israel. In their view, the
move is objectionable because it doesn't contain a demand that Israel
stop building homes for Jews in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. J Street
similarly opposed Operation Cast Lead claiming that Israel's actions
to defend its citizens from rocket and mortar attacks from
Hamas-controlled Gaza were contrary to the interests of peace.
Although attacking Israel on the Palestinian issue is the central
pillar of these groups' missions, they are also involved in defending
Iran's nuclear weapons program and championing Syria in Washington. In
late May, J Street lobbied Congress not to place new sanctions on Iran
claiming, "On Iran, the president is promoting tough, direct
diplomacy?but the chances of [his] success won't be helped by Congress
imposing tight timelines or a new round of sanctions."
The group has similarly supported ending sanctions against Syria and
pressuring Israel to relinquish the Golan Heights to Syrian control.
In short, through their full throated support for all of the Obama
administration's anti-Israel policies, the organized American Jewish
Left has made clear that today it does not share a common goal with
the Israeli Left. It does not view US pressure on Israel as a means to
achieve peace and normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Rather, like Obama, it views pressure on Israel as a means to weaken
US ties to Israel in the interest of pursuing closer ties with the
The current split between the Israeli and American Jewish Left, as
well as the Obama administration's disparate treatment of both groups
have policy implications for the Netanyahu government in its dealings
with all three.
According to a number of American Jewish leaders, Obama's decision to
meet with a hand-picked audience American Jews at the White House on
July 13 was a direct response to the Jerusalem Post poll. Obama's
senior advisors feared that the massive Israeli mistrust of Obama the
poll exposed was liable to spill over into the American Jewish
To date, in contending with the White House, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu has been careful to minimize the significance of the White
House initiated crisis in relations. Fearing a domestic backlash,
Netanyahu and his advisors have even gone so far as to leak reports of
imminent agreements between the Obama administration and Israel on the
issue of home construction for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
What the White House's distress over the Post's poll shows however, is
that today - with a domestic consensus now backing Netanyahu against
Obama - Netanyahu has less call to minimize the breach than Obama
does. Indeed, doing only advances Obama's fortunes among American Jews
and so strengthens the position of anti-Israel Jewish organizations
that support him. Rather than leak stories about an impending deal,
Netanyahu's advisors should leak stories about American intransigence
Moreover, given the administration's overarching desire to put
"daylight" between the US and Israel, reaching an agreement with
Washington will bring no relief. Since it is the administration's goal
to weaken US ties to the Jewish state, clearly any deal that Israel
could obtain would either be antithetical to Israel's national
interests or breached by the administration.
Perhaps in response to J Street's ever-expanding media presence,
Ambassador Michael Oren intimated last month that he intends to reach
out to far Left American Jewish groups. To the extent that this is a
serious initiative, it should be dropped immediately.
Through their actions, J Street and its allies have made clear that
their institutional interests are served by weakening Israel. Their
mission is to harm Israel's standing in Washington and weaken the
influence the mainstream American Jewish community that supports Israel.
Rather than empower these anti-Israel groups by legitimizing them, the
government should take a page out of Obama's playbook. Obama gave the
perception of hosting a big tent for American Jews by inviting both
friendly far Left groups, and friendly centrist groups to meet with
him on July 13. He legitimized his friends at J Street and Americans
for Peace Now by treating them as equals of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
By the same token, Israel's embassy should act as a big tent by
reaching out to Israel's supporters on both the political Right and
the center. All groups that support Israel should be welcome.
As to the Israeli Left, to date, Netanyahu has successfully built a
strong, stable center-right coalition by going over its head and
forming a national consensus around support for defensible borders, a
united Jerusalem and rejecting unreciprocated concessions of any kind.
While Netanyahu arguably made an unnecessary and potentially
disastrous mistake in announcing his support for a demilitarized
Palestinian state, by and large, he has successfully marginalized the
Benn's anguished plea for help from the Obama administration shows
that Netanyahu's policies are having the desired effect. His political
opponents are descending into the depths of political irrelevance.
Netanyahu should leave them to their richly deserved fate.