Israel and the Midterms
While strolling down 5th Avenue on Sunday in New York’s Upper East Side I was browsing through the wares of various sidewalk vendors and as I passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art I noticed one that really stood out. It was busier than all the others, surrounded by throngs of passersby.
“What you are doing is disgusting” spat an older woman as she walked on. To which the stocky vendor snapped back “now now, be nice.” I then caught sight of what was causing the stir; rows and rows of political buttons, all of which were emblazoned with seriously conservative anti Obama slogans such as “Could someone please put The Constitution on his teleprompter” and “I’d rather be waterboarding.”
I asked the stall owner, who later revealed that he was a very secular Jew of Italian descent, what prompted him to be selling these pins in the Upper East Side of all places. He responded that for him this was just a Sunday hobby that he had started last year, but whilst in 2009 nobody looked at him, now business is brisk, and he has now even launched a website; thepolitickle.com.
As the pins continued to sell like hot cakes I realized that there was no better gauge of overall public sentiment than to observe this scene and was left with no doubt that the pundits are spot on; voters are angry with the current administration.
On November 2nd Americans will be back to the ballot, in what is widely projected to result in a Republican sweep, and whilst there is widespread disappointment on a host of domestic issues, candidates’ positions on Israel have taken center stage in a host of electoral races throughout the country.
It first became clear that Israel was going to be a weak spot for the Democrats several months ago, when Congressman Henry Waxman, undoubtedly the senior and most powerful Jewish lawmaker in the House of Representatives, published a piece in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal denying that the president had mistreated the Jewish state.
He was prompted, he said, by the unprecedented number of phone calls and emails from Jewish voters, all expressing concern at President Obama’s attitude to Israel.
So, on the subject of Israel and the November 2nd elections, I would like to make two points.
Firstly, for all those observers and commentators who are wondering why the issue of Israel is such a central political topic when American Jews only constitute a fraction of the population, the answer is as follows:
Support for Israel is not exclusively a Jewish cause, it is an American cause.
When detractors speak of the great ‘Israel lobby,’ they must understand that organizations like AIPAC and Christians United for Israel are grassroots based organizations that represent public sentiment. Support for Israel is as American as McDonalds, as it strongly appeals to the collective American sense of justice, morality and reason.
The second point is that in America it is virtually impossible for any would be politician to make it into congress without claiming to be an Israel supporter. It is for this reason that there are no mainstream politicians in any corner of the political spectrum that will admit to representing an anti-Israel stance. Of course this is completely unique in all electoral matters, as there are politicians that are pro abortion, and anti abortion, pro big government and anti big government, pro medicare and anti medicare, pro the war or anti the war, but all are pro Israel and none anti.
Of course there are a number of politicians that in reality are not friends, but because American support for Israel is so deep, they will never publicly admit it, and as a consequence they have redefined what they consider to be in the best interests of the Jewish State, this enables them to vote for positions that are detrimental to Israeli security and still be able to claim that they are friends. This is precisely the reason d’Ãªtre of an organization like J-Street, that allows anti Israel policies to pass by redefining what they feel is best for the Jewish State on their own terms.
If Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wanted to run for congress he would claim to be a supporter and then go on to qualify that in his opinion it is in Israel’s best interest to self destruct.
Voting pro Israel is less about the claims of politicians and more about our own feelings on what is good for the Holyland. When assessing our local leadership options, and preparing ourselves to vote we should strive to be savvy in assessing the positions of the politicians on the ballot and keep in mind that pro Israel is not something that is just said, it is something that is done.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org