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August 4, 2016 5:37 am

The Jewish Community and the 2016 Election

avatar by Isi Leibler

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton denounced the Tel Aviv terrorist attack. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Photos: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

The American presidential elections have created an unprecedented climate of political chaos. Both candidates are reviled by the bulk of the electorate, many of whom intimate that they intend to abstain from voting.

The polls originally predicted that Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide, but the odds have now dramatically narrowed and in this explosive environment, Donald Trump may well be elected.

American Jews are caught in this maelstrom. Regrettably, many of their leaders have seemingly hibernated and failed to speak out even when President Barack Obama maligned Israel. They justified their silence on the grounds that criticism of the president would shatter whatever still remains of bipartisanship. But these same constraints do not seem to apply when attacking the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. Nor were there any concerns of bipartisanship when liberal Jews correctly attacked the George H. W. Bush administration for open hostility to the conservative Shamir government.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee paved the way for the current situation by treating bipartisanship itself as the goal instead of utilizing it as a means of achieving the primary objective – promoting the case for Israel. This was outlined last month in a comprehensive article in the online Tablet magazine by Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon, titled: “The end of AIPAC’s Israel monopoly.” The article documents how AIPAC’s obsession of retaining the monopoly on Israel advocacy – in which, admittedly, it had achieved a tremendous track record of success – began to erode when it remained silent in response to Obama’s negative policies and biased condemnations of Israel. AIPAC also failed to speak out against J Street, which was undermining it with the assistance of the administration and falsely claiming to represent Jews at the grass-roots level.

AIPAC displayed its determination to retain bipartisanship at all costs. For example, AIPAC’s recent failure to persuade Congress to oppose the deal with Iran was a major blow to its standing. But far worse was AIPAC’s obsession not to rock the boat or undermine “bipartisanship” by making no distinction between congressmen who had supported or had opposed the Iran deal – effectively transforming itself into a paper tiger.

This is further complicated because, like most Jews, the bulk of AIPAC supporters are Democrats, backing the party that has a rapidly growing anti-Israel component. The AIPAC leadership should be actively encouraging its members to protest against efforts to distance the party from Israel. Instead, at the height of the debate over Iran, AIPAC’s Executive Director Howard Kohr said that AIPAC and Obama shared the same goals and only had “a difference in strategy,” thus reinforcing the denial of political reality that dominates most of them. Furthermore, AIPAC even sought to weaken the current Republican Declaration on Israel – including the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital – on the grounds that it would highlight the differences between Republicans and Democrats over Israel and expose the illusion of bipartisanship.

To exacerbate the situation, prominent members of the American Jewish leadership have formally become engaged in the election campaign, effectively supporting the Clinton candidacy.

This is unprecedented and may have a disastrous impact on future Jewish political influence, with the Democrats feeling assured of Jewish support and dismissing Jewish concerns regarding Israel. This is especially significant now because, if Clinton is elected, she has a growing constituency that, at best, is unsympathetic to Israel. Her choice of vice president, Tim Kaine, whom J Street adores and has been funding, must send a chill to supporters of Israel.

On the other hand, despite some recent reassuring words about Israel, many either remain uncertain of where Trump stands on many issues or consider him unsuitable for the role of president because of his aggressive and at times uncouth approach.

But for leaders of mainstream Jewish organizations to accuse him of being an antisemite is outrageous. Yes, he should have condemned David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan immediately when they supported him. But did these organizations accuse Obama of being an antisemite after listening to vile anti-Jewish sermons from his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, for over two decades, or for Hillary Clinton’s exchange of kisses with Suha Arafat after being told how Israelis were poisoning the wells or her kind remarks in response to the antisemitic ravings of Max Blumenthal?

There should surely be widespread condemnation when Jewish mainstream organizations indict as an antisemite a presidential candidate who has apparently never knowingly offended Jews and whose daughter has converted and observes a Jewish lifestyle.

The most irresponsible intervention emanated from Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who does not seem to realize that he is no longer employed by Obama but is heading a Jewish organization that raises over $50 million annually in order to combat antisemitism.

His pathetic attempt to suggest that Trump was employing antisemitic imagery by using a star symbol that resembled a Star of David in a political attack on his opponent, is too bizarre to warrant comment.

Greenblatt’s remarks about the Republican Convention were even more outrageous. The Republicans produced the most explicitly pro-Israel Declaration ever issued by any party, in which it referred to a united Jerusalem. Yet Greenblatt, on behalf of the ADL, bitterly condemned the Republican Party for deleting support for a two-state solution and thus allegedly undermining the policy of the Israeli government and “being anti-Zionist.”

This peculiar outburst can only be described as mind-boggling. This from the same person who considers that many BDS supporters are motivated by idealism and a desire for justice!

While every Jew and partisan Jewish body are entitled to express their opinion, ADL — a purportedly nonpartisan body — should be concentrating on combating antisemitism and has no mandate to condemn a party that is pro-Israel, especially in the context of a presidential election. This is an outrage and ADL supporters, whether they adore or despise Trump, should protest vigorously that the organization is actually contributing to antisemitism instead of combating it and, if left unchecked, will substantially undermine American Jewry’s political influence.

Jewish leaders today stand at the edge of an abyss. There are likely to be more upheavals and shockwaves before these elections take place.

Responsible Jewish leaders should unite and formulate a strategy to ensure that the official Jewish community remains neutral in the elections on all other than specifically Jewish policy-related issues.

Efforts should be made now to seek commitments from candidates. Above all, bodies like AIPAC must begin demonstrating to their Democratic members – even if this encourages some defections – that the Democratic Party is facing a determined campaign from internal elements hostile or indifferent to Israel. They should be encouraged to protest, and if that fails, make whatever choices are appropriate. Irrespective of who they ultimately support, Jews should exercise their vote even if the candidate of their choice is less than ideal.

There are still four months before the elections. Whatever new allies Israel gains, American political support remains crucial. Overall, the American people retain a deep friendship for Israel and, despite media distortions, the overwhelming majority of committed Jews also remain strongly supportive of the Jewish state.

On matters relating to Israeli concerns, AIPAC and other mainstream Jewish organizations should make it known that they will distinguish between genuine friends and those unwilling to stand by Israel when the going gets tough.

If they fail now, this period could become a crucial turning point in the decline of Jewish influence in America.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom and the Jerusalem Post.

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  • Ephraim

    I call this the wicked Wise syndrome. I understand the long-term devotion to the Democratic Party, and the revulsion about most GOP positions. I understand, because I have been part of it.

    However, Jews are known for being intelligent, and this self-destructive attitude belies the ‘intelligent’ cliche. Traditionally, the Democratic Party stood for fair dealings, individual rights, keeping religion out of the public debate, civil rights, and, naturally, support for Israel. Traditionally, the GOP has stood for big business. Currently, however, it has become the party of the reverse Robin Hood syndrome. It is doing all it can to suppress information on the food we eat, the water we drink, the safety of products we buy. It is amazingly anti-intellectual in its assault on science and education, both covert and overt. It is suppressing voter rights, killing Planned Parenthood, and working hard to outlaw not only abortion, but any form of birth control. BUT it is 100% pro Israel.

    It is difficult to leave a sinking (stinking) ship to go over to a party which is so at odds with Jewish ways of life. I understand the reluctance of many Jews to do so, and I cannot do so.

    This election, however, is different. Trump is NOT your average GOP troglodyte. Although addicted to foot-in-mouth disease, Trump is far closer to traditional liberal values than is the godmother of politically-coerced censorship, Hillary. As a result, he is the victim of one of the worst non-stop smear campaigns I have ever witnessed. Not one but BOTH parties are pulling out all the stops to stop him. The press twists stories about him (one would think he was Israel by the lies, slanders, and vitriol seen daily in the press).

    Unfortunately, Jewish ‘leadership’ is unwilling to see the obvious, the Democratic Party of today bears little if any relationship to the traditional Democratic Party. It has been hijacked by our jihadist-in-chief and his fellow terrorists, as is blatantly clear from the behavior of delegates and protesters at the recent convention. It has really turned from the progressive party to the left-wing fascist party. Even the record of our traitor-in-chief shows very little effort at progressive policies, because his obsession, ever since he first contemplated running, has been the triumph of jihad and the destruction of Israel. This is what matters to him, and he has made it matter to nearly the entire party.

    It is HARD to accept that, to a liberal and a progressive, we no longer have a voice in the current debate. While this is true, and the GOP is nearly 100% reprehensible, my fellow liberal Jews (if many of them can still be considered liberal) need to stop working actively against our own interests.

    Israel should be the most important issue to American Jews. However, even putting this issue aside for the moment, the unprecedented tsunami of antisemitism on US campuses should, in and of itself, be a reason to finally break the traditional bonds, even if no new bonds exist to replace them. This tsunami, like so much of the evil in today’s world, is the direct result of having our antisemite-in-chief on the throne. In addition to his encouraging and welcoming Islamic terrorists to infest the US, and US campuses, when their poison leads to a state of siege for American Jewish students on American campuses, his injustice department will not even accept legitimate civil rights cases from the victims of this tsunami.

    As difficult as it is to leave the benighted comforts of the Democratic umbrella (which now has a special Jewish section, complete with missing fabric), it is time for Jews to reclaim our leadership and unequivocally stand up for ourselves. Wise’s descendants need to step aside and their replacements renounce Jew hatred on all levels, both left and right wing.

    Whatever you think of Trump, Hillary will mean four more years of America’s war against the Jews.

  • This is sooooooo true!! I have been condemning AIPAC, which I’ve supported for many years, how weak and pathetic they’ve acted in their support of Israel!!It is disgraceful that they did not publicly oppose the Iran nuclea deal,in the weeks and months before the signing.AIPAC should have organized demonstrations and protests opposing obamas’s push for supporting Iran.THE LIBERAL AND DEMOCRATE JEWS OF THE US HAVE PIPS IN THEIR HEADS!! THEY FEAR OBAMA AND HIS HENCHMEN.

    • Sam

      Absolutely true!!
      The Jewish people who care about Israel and the Jewish people in the USA better wake up soooon!

      • Wakeup is happening at the grassroots in Rhode Island. Active support by groups within both the Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities enabled the passage during July of one of the few anti-BDS bills in the country. It is a grassroots model for pro-Israel groups in other states to consider. Info at stop.iran.now.ri@gmail.com.