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  • Questions For Our Jewish Readers

    Posted by Dan from Madison on March 25th, 2010 (All posts by )

    So this meetup between Obama and Netanyahu didn’t go…er…so well, from what I am reading. Some things I read tell me that this may alienate Jewish voters from Obama in the next election, or from the Democrats in the midterms.

    I don’t have a lot of contact with many Jewish folks here in the wilds of Wisconsin, so I would like to ask those who may have more daily interaction with those of the Jewish faith a few questions.

    If you are Jewish, does this latest episode make you not want to vote for Obama/Democrats if you voted for them before? If you have friends that are Jewish, is this what you are hearing from them?

    I think that relations will keep souring with Israel as Obama’s term goes on – do you think that this will affect him in the 2012 presidential election?

    Thanks!

     

    25 Responses to “Questions For Our Jewish Readers”

    1. anon Says:

      Bibi made horrible political blunder, then, goes to WH and does it again. Either he favors a two-state solution or he remains the old Bibi that just talks the talk. I am Jewish but support a two-state solution and that does not mean expanding (why would one live in Arab neighborhood)while US trying to bring about peace.

      Many middole of the road and liberal jews feel this way. We are Americans first, politically, and we have subsidized Israel for many years, but he who pays the piper calls the tune. Period

    2. newrouter Says:

      commentary’s contentions blog is on this subject

      link

    3. Dan from Madison Says:

      Anon – would it be possible for you to answer a couple of my questions? I am genuinely interested. Tx.

    4. Jessica Says:

      In my experience, American Jews, even if liberal overall, are generally supportive of Israel. However, their main identity is that of “progressive”, which they tend to equate with being Jewish. Attending Shabbat services at a Reform temple is less a religious experience than a progressive consciousness-raising exercise with Hebrew.

      Since the defining features of liberalism are an apparent lack of imagination (unless it involves nefarious plots by Christian fundamentalists/Dick Cheney/Karl Rove) and a desire to share a Coke and a smile with the whole world, even Israel-supporting American Jews probably can’t imagine Israel truly being endangered. If your world-view consists of a fervent belief that every problem has a solution, generally implemented by earnest discussions and one-sided compromise, how likely are you to really believe that the Palestinians don’t want peace or that Iran wouldn’t nuke Jerusalem?

      I mean, if liberals had the ability to anticipate the *actual* results of their policies, instead of relying upon wishful thinking, they’d be conservatives or libertarians.

      So, as far as support for Obama and the Democrats goes, I don’t think liberal-leaning American Jews are close to ending the love affair. If they’re happy with Dem policies domestically, and Israel isn’t a smoking crater, why should they worry? I don’t think they have a clue what damage a hostile American administration can do to Israel’s security (and the Middle East situation in general).

    5. david foster Says:

      A good source on this topic is Robert Avrech’s excellent blog…see, for example, this post.

    6. Jonathan Says:

      -Agree with Jessica.

      -Many American Jews are not religious. They tend to be leftists first. Legalized abortion is more important to them than Israel or US national security. Religious Jews tend to be politically conservative.

      -They are stupid.

      -They overvalue words. A relative of mine said that he voted for Obama in part because Obama “said the right things” about Israel. It’s true, Obama said the right things. But anyone who looked carefully at what was known about his history and about the kinds of people he associated with knew that he was going to be hostile to Jewish interests.

      -Many leftist Jews think that Christian evangelicals are their enemies and the Democratic Party is their friend (see “stupid” above).

      -Many American Jews are just not that into Israel any more. This tends to be more true as one moves to the Left along the gamut of American Jewish political opinion.

    7. renminbi Says:

      As a secular Jew living in NY I am completely unable to understand other secular Jews. The very few that I know are very bright (and competent intellectuals) and very sensible and they easily saw Obama for what he was ,but they are not typical.If they were,I certainly would have nothing to with them.I can’t waste my time on fools. Most Jews see themselves as intellectual,and such people whether Jewish or not,make the mistake of thinking themselves superior to those who are not. They think that because they have noble thoughts, they should have more power and worldly goods than those who actually do something constructive in this world,and they resent a system that doesn’t value them at their own assessment.
      My wife ,who knows a number of this type through her volunteer work, sees no sign that they are capable of learning anything-they are avid Kool-Ade drinkers.Sorry I can’t offer more insight,but this has long bothered me.

    8. Tatyana Says:

      “Religious Jews tend to be more conservative”.

      Not necessarily, or at least not in NY. Or if “conservative” means “against abortions” – yeah, they do. Seems they don’t demand anything else from conservative agenda from their candidate.

      Borough Park, Bensonhurst and Midwood (44th district) just elected another Democrat in City Council, after they bowed to Dov Hikind (D) for 28 years (and they are stupidly call him a Jewish Scott Brown. He is a Dem, you idiots! And what is his program? No mention of substance, just praise of his ambition and friends in high places (Bloomberg. What a mess.)

      OK, I know – City Council has nothing to do with relations with Israel. Still, an orthodox and hasidic communities who for several decades elect Dems…I don’t understand this.

      To answer Dan’s questions:
      sorry, I can’t speak for liberal Jews; I have only 2 friends who nominally can be called such, and I avoid politics while talking to them. There is no point.
      Instead, I’ll offer this post by Neoneocon; good overview of the problem.

    9. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I agree with Jonathan.

    10. Dan from Madison Says:

      I think I need to read the Podhoretz book to understand this a little better. Thanks all for the comments.

    11. DHL Says:

      Jonathan’s third point is the operative one for most American Jews.

      Whatever drives them (I am a Jew, but not amongst the herd of dem voters), be it guilt, faulty analysis, wishful thinking or simple inertia, it is tremendously destructive. American Jews, like American Blacks, have ceded their votes to the left. It is assumed, it is taken for granted, and it is the basis for the contempt that the left has for Jews and for Israel.

    12. Jonathan Says:

      Any group that ignores one party while allowing the other party to take its votes for granted is going to get screwed. In the USA blacks and Jews are the obvious examples of this kind of self-defeating behavior, and both groups pay heavily for it.

    13. david foster Says:

      The degree to which an individual/group follows Leftist ideas is a function of the degree to which that individual/group lives within the ideological force field that is centered on academia and is transmitted and amplified by academia’s auxilliary institutions (NYT, PBS, NPR, etc). The demographic groups of which Evangelicals are typically members, for example, are entirely outside that force field…hence, theological considerations aside, they would likely be strongly pro-Israel. Jews, OTOH, have traditionally had a very strong respect, bordering on reverence, for education…this was once a *good* thing, but as education became less substantive and more about political indoctrination and building verbal castles in the air, not so much.

      If you attend 6 or 8 years of college, the academic worldview is likely to influence you much more than if you attend 2 years or 4 years or none at all.

    14. methinks Says:

      I agree with Jonathan too.

    15. sol vason Says:

      Obama’s policy is to reduce the defense budget close to zero so that he has more money to create a Socialist State. To this end he has signed a Start treaty that forbids modernizing nuclear weapons, he has abandoned our alliances with the countries in the Soviet Sphere, and he has promised not to interfere with Soviet internal matters. To demonstrate US commitment to Soviet hegemony American troops will march in Red Square shoulder to shoulder with their Soviet comrades in May. They will not march on May Day. This is a day precious to the Soviets and the US is not worthy of that honor. The US is allowed to march respectfully behind the Soviet troops on Sunday, May 9. The White House is proud of this triumph in diplomacy which will permit massive cuts in men and equipment stationed overseas. This will allow bringing combat troops home to the USA in case they are needed here.

      Because of the insult to the Vice President, the US will no longer blindly defend Israel but remains committed to the vision of lasting peace through out the world.

    16. Ginny Says:

      Foster,
      I am not so sure about your causes.

      I don’t doubt that the strange hierarchical nature of academic circles, the need to “fit in” to gain tenure and promotion, the softness of life after tenure all have a deleterious effect on thinking. And this is long term – the amount of Marxist sentiment in thirties and forties American literary criticism is dramatic. This tradition may have strongly influenced Jews who are disproportionately academic (and disproportionately gifted academically). but I suspect Jews have traditionally strongly influenced that approach as well. I wouldn’t say that post-modernism is a Jewish conspiracy within academic – it isn’t. But I also have trouble seeing some of academia’s most gifted scholars as the molded rather than the molders – though I’m sure as in all social situations, the result is circular reinforcement. Of course, when much of this tone was set Jews were sometimes denied positions they deserved, but my impression is that in the early years of the Left’s turn to the left (and even hard left), Jews made their share of arguments for that left.

      It is true that the most observant Jew within my husband’s department has pretty much isolated himself from that department – and is a strong (often published) neocon. The other observant Jew is also alienated from the department, but married a red diaper husband and is busily teaching their children Yiddish (an indication of their desire to keep their culture alive that is hardly defeatist). The more secular Jews in the department are more committed to the left than these theories – indeed, more committed than most.

    17. Allen R Says:

      Norman Podhoretz recently published a book on why Jews are liberals. When I interviewed him (see http://www.Onejerusalem.org)he admitted that he was not 100% certain why Jews often vote against their own interests.

      Candidate Obama received more support from Jewish voters than he did from any other group of voters, except the Black community. During the health care debate, as his favorable ratings decreased his favorables among Jews still remained abnormally high.

      Now the question is will a fight with Israel’s Prime Minister move the Jewish vote away from him. History tells us that there likely will be a softening of the Obama Jewish vote but not a dramatic break. While Israel is important to Jewish people Obama has cleverly picked the fight with Netanyahu. He has deliberately personalized it — and Netanyahu is not as popular as Israel is among Jewish voters.

      Polling suggests that Jewish voters are more hawkish than the general population when it comes to denying Iran nuclear weapons. Jews clearly believe Iran’s threat to nuke Israel. If Obama is seen as failing to stop Iran from attained nuclear weapons then you are likely to see a further decrease in Jewish support.

    18. anon Says:

      Dan–want to chat? reach me at stroker349[at]yahoo.com

      Clearly, if you call those who are annoyed at a land grab, lefties, then many American Jews are in that category; those (the real Jews?) who believe Israel can and should grab disputed and conquered land, then you are aligning yourself with the religious
      right of Israel. I don’t see any useful purpose served in working toward a two-state solution to throw gasoline on the incendiary situation that exists at present, as Time magazine p[oints out today, and demographics suggests that the sooner a two state
      solution the better for the future of Israel. I have no illusions about Hamas, but even the peace-making Jordanian king today warned of the Israeli moves.

      I hardly find myself in a minority among American Jews, and support, once given without question, is no longer so readily extended by Americans who still love Israel and what it stands for. ps: my son, graduating an American college in two months will be serving in the Israeli army, and he has my blessing for so doing.

    19. david foster Says:

      Ginny…I might not have been very clear…my main point was about the influence of academia on the larger society and on students, rather than about the pressures for conformity within the professoriate itself.

      Re the first point, some might argue that the esoteric discussions and posturing within (let’s say) a Post-Modern English department have no real influence. I disagree. There’s an old Royal Navy saying: “Today’s wardroom roast beef is tomorrow’s lower-deck stew,” meaning that what is discussed today among the officers will probably be discussed tomorrow among the enlisted men, albeit probably with a certain amount of added confusion. Similarly, today’s weird academic ideas will tomorrow be a staple assumption on Oprah and Dr Phil.

    20. Seerov Says:

      I’m pretty sure the current rift between the Obama administration and Israel is purely show; which would be for two possible reasons.

      1) Israel may be preparing to bomb Iran? In the event of this happening, the US may wish to appear as if we’re experiencing “relationship problems” with Israel? Israel can make the argument that Israel is “all alone” and that they have no choice but to bomb Iran(since the US is offering no solutions or support). This also will take the heat off the so called “Israel lobby” which will set up and support arguments about how “the Israeli lobby must not be that powerful since the Obama administration is condemning the bombing and didn’t bomb Iran to begin with.”

      2) The other reason may be related to Obama’s Leftwing base? To the American Left, Jews are just white people who wear different hats. Israel is just another white colonizer and oppressor of “people of color.” Obama may need to separate from Israel a little to keep the Democratic base happy.

      As far as Jewish American voters are concerned, there will be no major shift to the Right. The Left sometimes scolds Israel over settlements, but regardless of which party is in power, the polices towards Israel never change. And no matter how much Right-wing Evangelicals suck up to Israel, Jews feel extreme paranoia and fear towards middle America. The Democrat party serves as a vehicle to neutralize (through mass immigration, affirmative action, speech codes, and forced integration) the potential threat that Middle Americans may pose. Since both parties support the same polices towards Israel, its better for Jews to support the Left.

    21. DG Lesvic Says:

      As a boy, Steven Spielberg never read books. He didn’t have to. His own imagination and pranks were enough to keep himself entertained and his mother scared half to death.

      We are of the same background. This is what it was like.

      Long before William F. Buckley, Jr., and TV’s Firing Line, there was George V. Denny, Jr., and radio’s Town Hall. It was the 1940s, and the big ongoing issue was America vs. its wartime ally, Russia. My parents and their friends would take turns hosting one another for the broadcasts and discussions to follow. They were a remarkable bunch, first and second generation Jews of Cleveland, by way of Russia, most of them rich, and at least the most vocal of them Communist, with my father probably the poorest and certainly most staunchly anti-Communist. At first he stood alone against the Red Tide, but, little by little, took on some allies. It could get quite heated, of course, and one time I stood up and admonished my elders to mind their manners and give reason a chance. This was met by delight and approval all around, and, of course, promptly forgotten. It nearly came to a final blow-up when one of them called my father a sonofabitch. But they were all old friends, and eventually settled into the Cold War and Détente even in Cleveland.

      I asked my father how he had managed to resist the spell of Communism, while so many others succumbed to it. Rather than crediting a superior native intelligence, which may have had something to do with it, he attributed it to a classical education in Greek and Latin, which was largely a study of tyranny, and leaving no illusions about it. But what was most puzzling to me was how anyone, with or without a classical education, could fall for Communism, and, least of all, Jews. For, why did they flee Russia, to get away from freedom?

      From Why It’s Hard To Be a Jew at http://econotrashtalk.org/

    22. Jonathan Says:

      Anon wrote:
      Clearly, if you call those who are annoyed at a land grab, lefties, then many American Jews are in that category;those (the real Jews?) who believe Israel can and should grab disputed and conquered land, then you are aligning yourself with the religious right of Israel.

      What land grab. Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since the mid-19th Century. Jordan, a country whose own boundaries are recent and arbitrary, held Jerusalem and the “West Bank” illegally, expelled the Jews, destroyed and desecrated Jewish property and holy sites. Israel recaptured the city in a defensive war and has administered it fairly WRT non-Jews. It’s now bigger, freer and more prosperous than it’s ever been. Israel has relinquished the Sinai and Gaza and offered multiple times to give most of Judea and Samaria to a new Arab state. That little has come of Israel’s many attempts to reach a negotiated settlement in which the untenable armistice lines of 1949 are redrawn in a way acceptable to both sides is due almost entirely to the intransigent hostility of Israel’s neighbors, a fact that used to be widely accepted by American Jews. If some American Jews now use terms like “land grab” to characterize Israel’s actions it’s because these Jews have moved to the Left along with the rest of American “liberal”/”progressive” opinion, rather than anything that Israel has done or failed to do. Your comment supports my assertion that many American Jews are leftists first.

    23. Dan from Madison Says:

      Well, I have learned a couple of things.

      I need to read the Podheretz book to try to understand why Jews in America seem to lean left.

      Also it seems that I need to try to understand the concept that American Jews don’t seem to care too much about Israel – does that seem correct? I guess I have a hard time believing that.

      I was raised a Baptist (I don’t claim any affiliation now) and we were always taught to respect and befriend Jews, that they were the chosen ones and that we were just along for the ride – and above all to support Israel. I feel at this point that maybe Evangelicals in America are more of an ally to Israel than American Jews but that American Jews don’t trust and may even fear American Evangelicals. My brain has a hard time wrapping itself around these ideas but maybe it is the truth and I need to get used to it. Sigh.

    24. Tatyana Says:

      Yesterday I started writing a reply to Anon (stroker349), then decided – just like talking to my left-leaning Jewish friends – it will be futile, and stopped.

      Glad Jonathan did it.

      There is still a chance it will reach someone, if not *stroker349*, and might change their mind.

    25. mishu Says:

      Ginny…I might not have been very clear…my main point was about the influence of academia on the larger society and on students, rather than about the pressures for conformity within the professoriate itself.

      Jeff Goldstein posts an all-to-personal account of that concept here.