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Monday, January 01, 2007

American Jewish political influence waning

At Commentary Magazine, Gabriel Schoenfeld makes the case that American Jewish influence on the American political scene is waning, because American Jews overwhelmingly see themselves as one-party voters who have no alternative: they are knee-jerk Democrats.

Hat Tip: The American Thinker

Schoenfeld makes his argument despite the fact that there are now thirteen Jewish US Senators (eleven of whom are Democrats) and thirty Jewish Congresscritters (twenty-nine of them Democrats). So what's wrong with that? Plenty:
even as Jewish voters remain unwaveringly loyal to the Democrats, and even as Jewish representation in national office, almost entirely Democratic in color, has risen to an all-time high, the Democratic party itself is becoming demonstrably less hospitable to Jewish interests. Indeed, on at least one matter of central concern—the safety and security of the state of Israel—the party and the American Jewish community may be heading toward a slow-motion collision.
Schoenfeld looks at this fall's election of Louis Farrakhan's Congressman, Keith Ellison, as being part of a larger trend:
Both the ease with which Ellison was able to glide through this controversy and the remarkable lack of discomfort his candidacy appeared to cause among his fellow Democrats point to the larger significance of his election. For the simple fact is that in certain respects he is not alone: the past decade or so has seen the formation of a group of 40 to 50 Democratic Congressmen who, in varying degrees of intensity, have felt free to express an uninhibited hostility toward the Jewish state.

A coarse index of this group’s membership was on display last May when Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist terror organization pledged to Israel’s destruction, won elections in Gaza and the West Bank and assumed control of the Palestinian Authority. In response, Congress took up the Palestinian Anti-Terror Act of 2006—legislation aimed at denying U.S. financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless and until the President could certify that terror groups were not among its recipients, that the new Palestinian regime recognized Israel’s right to exist, and that it remained committed to agreements with Israel signed by its predecessors. The bill passed the Senate unanimously. In the House, a similar but slightly tougher version also passed handily—but not without drawing 37 nay votes and 9 votes of “present” only. Of the 46 representatives either actively opposing the bill or unwilling to vote for it, 41 were Democrats.

To be fair, not every Congressman who failed to support the legislation could automatically be counted as unsympathetic to Israel; the State Department had expressed its own reservations about the House version on the grounds that it unduly limited American flexibility. Still, the number of Democrats ready to oppose so straightforward an anti-terror measure was striking, and all the more so in light of the Democrats’ long record as the party friendlier to Israel than the Republicans.
And it's only getting worse. Schoenfeld concludes:
Much has been written and spoken in recent months about the so-called “Israel lobby” in American politics, a movement allegedly made up of influential American Jewish organizations and individuals who cumulatively exercise a “stranglehold” over the U.S. Congress, skewing our foreign policy in directions inimical to the nation’s proper aims and interests. As I and others have tried to show, this notion is a pernicious slander, and a lie.4 The truth is that, for a variety of historical reasons, the degree of influence exercised by American Jews in the political arena has always been limited; when it comes to Israel in particular, American governments have acted in different ways at different times, but always out of their sense of the American national interest and with the backing of the American people.

At any rate, and thanks in part to the stubbornly lopsided Jewish allegiance to the Democratic party, the influence wielded by the Jewish community has not been increasing but receding, even while the numerical representation of Jews in public office has grown. Not only is the Democratic party of today farther than ever from the Democratic party of Jewish memory, but the steadfast lack of interest shown by American Jews in the Republican party has robbed them of any possibility of being courted by either party as a potentially valuable swing vote. Worst of all is that this reality continues to be denied by Jewish spokesmen who most need to recognize and confront it.

“When it comes to Israel, Democrats and Republicans are pretty much indistinguishable,” wrote the executive director of the Israel Policy Forum, a left-wing Jewish advocacy group, in the aftermath of this November’s election. “If there are members of Congress who are truly antagonistic toward Israel,” he continued, “they keep their views secret.” But this is just so much eyewash, designed to soothe political consciences and keep increasingly distasteful facts from view.

Muslim-Americans have become a group avidly sought after by both parties, a group whose numbers are growing and whose group preferences, strongly expressed, are and will continue to be taken into account. In the foreseeable future, it is highly unlikely that American Jews, whose numbers are in any case hardly increasing, can play such a role. They can certainly not do so as long as they remain unthinkingly wedded to a party that is paying them ever less heed.
Read it all.


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