I will gladly accept this man's support rather than defend the party of a former president who erroneously believes that "apartheid" describes the conditions in the West Bank and that Palestinian suicide bombing is therefore justified (see page 213 of "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid").
Democrats, Republicans and the Jews
It is no great assumption that for many Americans - Jews, Muslims, Arabs, evangelicals, leftists - policies towards Israel determine how they vote. As such, the changing policies of the Republican and Democratic parties will radically alter the political alignment of these populations.
Moreover, there is the problem of tackling the issue of conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The line between the two can often be difficult to discern. But I will suggest that members of the Democratic Party and the liberal movement in general often cross that line.
A few statistics will demonstrate the new Democratic apathy, and even antipathy, toward the state of Israel. Juxtapose Republican and Democratic support for Israel during the war last summer with Hezbollah. A Los Angeles Times poll found that, overall, 59 percent of Americans believe Israel's actions were justified. Only 49 percent of Democrats think so. Republicans on the other hand, believe Israel's actions were justified by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1.
In the same poll, 50 percent of those asked said the United States should continue to align with Israel, with 44 percent backing a neutral position. However, Democrats support neutrality by a margin of 54 to 39 percent, while Republicans support aligning with Israel 64 to 29 percent.
A recent Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans express more sympathy for the Palestinians than they do for Israelis. Indeed, conservative Republicans are more likely than liberal Democrats to be sympathetic to Israel by a ratio of 5-to-1.
The party alignments weren't always like this. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Democrats emphasized the spiritual bonds that linked the interests of Israel and the United States. Indeed, not too long ago it was possible to be both communist and radically pro-Israel, and that includes members of my own family.
The Republicans were cooler and more realistic, seeing Israel as a weak state and a liability during the Cold War. After Israel's victory during the 1967 war, Republicans became more enthusiastic about the little state that could. In 1985, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes concluded that "liberals and conservatives support Israel versus the Arabs in similar proportions.
However, since the end of the Cold War, Democratic sympathies have increasingly swung to the Palestinian Arab cause, characterized by outbursts against both Israel and the Jews by Democratic Party luminaries.
For example, Jesse Jackson referred to New York as "Hymietown" in a 1984 interview and said he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust." Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., ran a stridently anti-Semitic campaign in 2002, blaming the Jews for her eventual defeat. Rep. James Moran, D-Va., made clear in a 2003 speech that the Jewish community sent America into Iraq for the benefit of Israel. Rep. Earl Hilliard's, D-Ala., campaign slogan against opponent Artur Davis was "Davis and the Jews, bad for the black belt."
Of course, the Democratic Party is neither fundamentally anti-Zionist nor anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, there is a growing trend of lefty hatred and vitriol towards Israel and the Jews, the most extreme examples of which can be found on the liberal blogosphere and sometimes even university campuses. Many decried the blatant anti-Semitism directed at Joseph Lieberman by Ned Lamont's supporters this summer, including former special White House counsel to President Clinton Lanny Davis in an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal.
Conversely, spurred on by the rise of the Christian right and its 70 million evangelicals, the Republican Party has never been more welcoming to the Jews nor supportive of Israel. Indeed, many Christian Republicans are more Zionist than their counterparts in the American Jewish community.
Take this gem from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oka., delivered from the Senate floor in December 2001: "The Bible says that (Abraham) removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron. It is at this place where God appeared to Abram and said, 'I am giving you this land' This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true."
Don't get me wrong, I find this kind of God-speak absurd. But I will gladly accept this man's support rather than defend the party of a former president who erroneously believes that "apartheid" describes the conditions in the West Bank and that Palestinian suicide bombing is therefore justified (see page 213 of "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"). While I would not say that Carter is an anti-Semite, the former president has revealed his true colors: A naive leftist who is quick to internalize anti-Semitic myths (e.g., the Jewish lobby controls everything).
As a person who strongly associates Jewish interests with Israel's, supporting the Democratic Party is becoming more and more difficult. Though I may have been raised in a strongly liberal household, voting Republican might not be nearly as distressing as voting for a candidate either opposed to the state of Israel or perhaps even anti-Semitic. Jewish fealty to the Democratic Party is no longer appreciated or reciprocated. As such, the time has come to consider a move to the other side of the aisle.
Benjamin Bright '07 lives on a tropical aisle.
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