Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israel and the American Jewish Voter
By Lawrence Davidson
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 1, 2011
Lawrence Davidson analyses the bizarre phenomenon of a
Democratic and a Republican candidate fighting a congressional election in a
New York district not over national or local issues, but over which of the
two is more loyal to Israel.
The 27 July 2011 the New York
Times had a front
page article about the upcoming 13 September special election for New
York Cityís Ninth Congressional District seat.
The article opens a
window on the political use of Israel as a campaign touchstone. The Ninth
District, the most heavily Jewish District in the nation, is the one
recently vacated by Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner who was, of
course, a loyal supporter of Israel. Alas, he was also a man with a strong
libido and no discretion. He was forced to step down after electronically
sharing obscene pictures of himself with at least six women.
Campaigning for Israel, not New York
The Democratic and Republican candidates who seek to fill this seat are
not known for gross indiscretion in their private lives (though who knows
what skeletons lurk in which closets), yet in their public pursuit of this
congressional seat they seem to be drawn, as by an irresistible political
force, to follow Weinerís lead and do obeisance at the alter of Zionism. Is
this yet another form of folly?
Both candidates, Democratic
Assemblyman David I. Weprin and his Republican opponent, Bob Turner (a
retired cable television executive), are involved in a process of
"one-upmanship on who is more pro-Israel".
One would think that
Turner would have no chance in such a competition seeing as how Weprin is an
"Orthodox Jew who keeps a kosher home, observes the Sabbath and has
been to Israel at least eight times." Nonetheless, he is playing this game
with some serious support.
ďYou would think that this obsession with Israel and its
1967 borders is pretty crazy... And arenít there numerous
other issues, vital to the health of the nation, such as the
federal budget and deficit, the fate of Medicare and social
security, etc. that ought to hold votersí attention?
"On Monday [25 July], former Mayor Edward Koch, [a Jew and] a Democrat,
endorsed the Republican candidate" on the basis that a Democrat, even one
who is a strong supporter of Israel, cannot be strong enough as long as
President Barack Obama holds the White House. Koch argues that only the
election of a strong Republican supporter of Israel will "rebuke" the
president for saying "that Israelís pre-1967 border should be the basis for
a peace agreement." Former Mayor Koch, apparently not just physically but
also mentally 87 years old, seems not to care that a Republican candidate
may end up supporting domestic positions that can ruin the United States. He
is obsessed with a single issue, Israel.
You would think that this obsession with Israel and its 1967 borders is
pretty crazy in an election for someone to represent the interests of parts
of New York City that have names like Queens, Kew Gardens, Flatbush and
Sheepshead Bay. And arenít there numerous other issues, vital to the health
of the nation, such as the federal budget and deficit, the fate of Medicare
and social security, etc. that ought to hold votersí attention? So who cares
about some foreign country approximately 6,000 miles away?
Well, according to Cynthia Zalisky, the executive director of the Queens
Jewish Community Council, it is not only Ed Koch who is obsessed. She tells
us that "how the candidates feel about Israel and the presidentís concept of
the pre-1967 borders is going to resonate in this district". Donald
Schwartz, an Orthodox Jewish activist from Kew Gardens, agrees. He says that
the Democratic candidate is not a sufficiently "fierce advocate" for Israel
and his election would allow President Obama to "take the Jewish vote for
All of this should raise eyebrows. Just how many Jewish
voters are we talking about? And, how do we know that most care about what
the Zionist activists care about? Why should it always be assumed that the
Jewish vote turns on the question of Israel?
The New York Times
article answers the first of the these questions. The Jewish voters in the
Ninth district are numerous. Almost half of the population is Jewish, many
of them observant, and a significant number of them, 30 to 35 per cent,
regularly turn out to vote. Thus, as political consultant Jerry Skurnik puts
it, "you canít get wiped out in the Jewish vote and expect to win a district
But why assume most of those 30 to 35 per cent of Jewish
voters prioritize Israel when they vote, or are dissatisfied with President
Obama on the issue of Israeli borders? You know, Mr Weprin did
endorse same sex
marriage and that has upset some of the Orthodox community. Yet the
New York Times really has its focus on the question of loyalty to
Israel and takes it for granted that those Zionist activists who shout
loudest know what the silent majority is thinking. On the other hand, maybe
the Ninth is somehow special. Maybe Israeli settlements do top social
security. It is depressing to think so, but it is possible.
Countering Zionist activists
Just for argument sake, letís go with the notion that the Ninth District
is indeed special. So lets say that the candidates do have to cater to
specifically Jewish opinion to win this district, and that enough Jewish
votes turn on the issue of Israelís 1967 borders that candidates have to
play the Zionist card to win. What should those who oppose kowtowing to
Zionist influence (and there are organizations of anti-Zionist Jews out
there) do about this? Here are three possible approaches:
1. Find a way to increase the non-Jewish voter turnout. The political
party that can do this can probably destroy the formula set forth above by
2. Find a way to get as many of the Jewish voters as
possible to shed the single issue picture painted of them by the Zionists.
There is probably an undercurrent of resentment about this one dimensional
representation. Someone should tap into it. To this end, we proceed to
3. Find a way to form a Jewish, but non-Zionist, political
cadre to compete for Jewish voter support within the Democratic Party in the
Ninth District and others like it. Give the Democratic Jewish voters a
Number one is the least volatile of these efforts. The consequences of
pushing numbers 2 and 3 really depend on just how deep the Zionist "Jewish
activists" are entrenched.
Depending on that question, one of two
things could happen. If the Israeli obsession is in fact only skin deep,
that is only an issue for a relatively small, albeit vocal, minority of
Jewish voters, it should be overcome pretty easily by insisting on the
greater importance of domestic concerns. Those issues, closer to home, will
then come to the fore as candidate touchstones and Israel will recede to the
lower end of the list of important factors.
If, however, a notable
percentage of the Ninth Districtís Jewish voters are obsessed with Israel,
then concerted efforts as described in 2 and 3 above could result in blood
in the streets.
The perils-in-waiting of identifying with
ď...my bet is that both political parties donít really
scramble for Jewish votes which, except for rare places like
the Ninth District, are minuscule. What they scramble for is
Jewish lobby money.Ē
Either way, something really should be done to challenge the prevailing
assumption that Israel is the touchstone political issue for American Jewish
voters. Whatever might be the case in the Ninth District, this level of
concern for Israel is probably not true of Jews nationally.
national level most US Jews vote Democratic and probably do so regardless of
the candidates position on Israel. In fact, my bet is that both political
parties donít really scramble for Jewish votes which, except for rare places
like the Ninth District, are minuscule. What they scramble for is Jewish
lobby money. And the Jewish lobby is not only obsessed with Israel; for all
intents and purposes it functions as unregistered agent of that country. So
to get the money you have to do your obeisance at the alter of Zionism.
This situation is potentially more dangerous then most American Jews
realize. The Zionist hold over US foreign policy in the Middle East has
already cost the country dearly. It was at least part of the reason we were
attacked on 9/11 and why we subsequently invaded Iraq. The Israel connection
has alienated America from the entire Muslim world and helped encourage
domestic racism in the form of Islamophobia.
What happens if this
orientation continues and results in more wars, more terrorist attacks and
greater debilitation of the domestic budget? At some point the American
public, looking for reasons for these disasters, may well focus on lobby
influence and the prioritizing of the interests of a foreign land 6,000
miles away. At that point it will not be just the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that will pay the price. The Zionist insistence
that all Jews support Israel, as untrue as it is, will have stereotyped
American Jewry and anti-Semitism will quickly become a serious issue.
Therefore, it is in the best interests of the American Jewish community
to shed the image of the single issue voter, to consciously begin to hold
those Zionist activists at arms length, and to join with those groups, such
as Jewish Voices for Peace, that reject any demand that they do obeisance at
the alter of Zionism.
Quite frankly, the leaders of Israel are
fanatics, the true believers of the American Zionist lobbies are fanatics,
and Ed Koch is a fanatic. Most American Jews are not fanatics and it is time
they let the rest of the country know it.