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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Musings on Democrats, Republicans and the Jews

The questions are:
Aren't some of the most vocal anti-Israel Democrats Jewish?
Will the Republican party continue to support Israel, or will it go back to being the Republican party?
Bright wrote:
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").
There is not a word about either apartheid or suicide bombing on page 212 of "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," not in my hardcopy edition in any case, and as far as I can determine, Jimmy Carter does not ever say that Palestinian suicide bombing is justified anywhere in that book. )
Jimmy Carter has been disavowed by mainstream Democrats. Jim Baker III, a Republican has similar views about Israel. Maybe the problem is people named "Jim," not Republicans or Democrats. 

Democrats, Republicans and the Jews

Benjamin Bright

Posted: 2/1/07

As long as anyone can remember, American Jews have dutifully lined up in support of the Democratic Party. That may soon change. Currently number six on the New York Times bestseller list, Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" is the newest invective against Israel. But the former president is no rogue Democrat: Across the party, support for Israel is waning.

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.
© Copyright 2007 Brown Daily Herald

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


  • Yossi Beilin, a former minister and current member of Israel's parliament, has reviewed President Carter's book on the Palestinian-Israeli problem in "The Forward"

    "In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories — and perhaps no less important, how he says it — is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves."

    In the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, moreover, Carter has secured his place in history as the man who brokered the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation. The Camp David summit he convened in September 1978, which resulted in the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, was a historical watershed for the entire region. It inaugurated the Arab-Israeli peace process, without which the Oslo peace process would not have been possible, nor the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.

    In light of the failure of the second Camp David summit of July 2000, Carter’s successful mediation between such starkly different leaders as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat is all the more impressive, and his achievement — which was a truly personal achievement — all the more remarkable.

    Every Israeli, and every Jew to whom the destiny of Israel is important, is indebted to Carter for breaking the ring of hostility that had choked Israel for more than 30 years. No American president before him had dedicated himself so fully to the cause of Israel’s peace and security, and, with the exception of Bill Clinton, no American president has done so since.

    This is why the publication of Carter’s recent book, and perhaps more than anything else, the title it bears, has pained so many people. And I must admit that, on some deeply felt level, the title of the book has strained my heart, too. Harsh and awful as the conditions are in the West Bank, the suggestion that Israel is conducting a policy of apartheid in the occupied territories is simply unacceptable to me.

    But is this what Carter is saying? I have read his book, and I could not help but agree — however agonizingly so — with most if its contents. Where I disagreed was mostly with the choice of language, including his choice of the word “apartheid.”

    But if we are to be fair, and as any reading of the book makes clear, Carter’s use of the word “apartheid” is first and foremost metaphorical. Underlying Israel’s policy in the West Bank, he argues, is not a racist ideology but rather a nationalist drive for the acquisition of land. The resulting violence, and the segregationist policies that shape life in the West Bank, are the ill-intended consequences of that drive.

    Of course, there is no appropriate term in the political lexicon for what we in Israel are doing in the occupied territories. “Occupation” is too antiseptic a term, and does not capture the social, cultural and humanitarian dimensions of our actions. Given the Palestinians’ role in the impasse at which we have arrived, to say nothing of Arab states and, historically speaking, of the superpowers themselves, I would describe the reality of occupation as a march of folly — an Israeli one, certainly, but not exclusively so.

    But if we are to read Carter’s book for what it is, I think we would find in it an impassioned personal narrative of an American former president who is reflecting on the direction in which Israel and Palestine may be going if they fail to reach agreement soon. Somewhere down the line — and symbolically speaking, that line may be crossed the day that a minority of Jews will rule a majority of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — the destructive nature of occupation will turn Israel into a pariah state, not unlike South Africa under apartheid.

    By Blogger Robert Hume, At February 12, 2007 6:34:00 PM GMT+00:00  

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