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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Politico: Left could push pro-Israel voters to GOP

The Politico picks up on a trend we saw last summer of Israel's American supporters abandoning the Democratic party. The article is mostly about the Democratic leadership and spends very little time discussing numbers, but it notes that many of Israel's harshest critics in Congress are on the left:
A small but significant group of overwhelmingly Democratic members of Congress have consistently voted against efforts to support Israel in its continual struggle against terrorists and now an Islamist Hamas government in Gaza. These votes demonstrate that anti-Israel views are a minority in Congress -- but a minority composed primarily of the most left-leaning members of the Democratic Caucus.

A 2002 House resolution to express support of Israel against terrorism passed by a vote of 352-21, with 29 voting "present." Of the 21 votes against, 17 were Democrats; of the 29 voting "present," 26 were Democrats, one was independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and only two were Republicans.

During the Lebanon War in 2006, Congress voted to confirm its support of Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism. While the measure passed overwhelmingly in the then-GOP-majority House, 31 Democrats and only nine Republicans voted "no" or "present."

Some of the most liberal (and often powerful) members of Congress regularly appear on the "no" or "present" side of these and other Israel votes, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (Calif.), House National Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (W.Va.), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (Wis.), Democratic presidential candidate and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) and Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) and Jim McDermott (Wash.).
The anti-Israel sentiments have also spread to the Democratic party's leadership and to its grassroots supporters on the left:
Other leading Democratic figures have also been dismissive about U.S. efforts to support Israel. In 2003, presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean declared in a speech that "it's not our place to take sides" between Israel and the Palestinians, an apparent repudiation of our decades-long special relationship and security obligations with Israel. Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was widely criticized for these comments and subsequently argued he did not intend to alter the U.S.-Israel relationship.


Outside Congress, some of the most vociferous criticism of Israel comes from the hard-core left, including Cindy Sheehan ("You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine, and you'll stop the terrorism"). Other left-wing Iraq war critics have also taken aim at Israel.
One prominent Democrat who may embody the shifting support of Jewish voters is former New York City Mayor and Congressman Ed Koch. Koch, who has always been a straight shooter, says that the problem is not significant enough to endanger American support of Israel, but watch how he praises President Bush and note what he doesn't say: that Israel would have been as well off if Al Gore and John Kerry had been President for the last eight years:
"While there is anti-Semitism and radicals on the left (who voice anti-Semitic views), even more than any other group, it is minimal and we are living in a Golden Age" in which Jews and Israel enjoy unparalleled American support, said Koch, a Democrat.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has never been more pro-Israel, in part because of the influence of Christian evangelicals who are devoted to Israel and support its battle against terrorists. Koch credited President Bush as "magnificent" in his support of Israel and acknowledged that Christian conservatives are maybe "more supportive than some Jews who never understood or have forgotten the importance of Israel" as a refuge for oppressed Jews.
And the numbers confirm that among the rank and file, support for Israel is significantly higher among Republicans than among Democrats, although up to now that has not translated into the Republicans carrying the Jewish vote:
A Wall Street Journal poll taken in July 2006 confirmed these observations, recording that 84 percent of Republicans and only 43 percent of Democrats sympathized more with Israel than with the Arab states. Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said in an interview that he is "concerned about the trend" and "worried that young Democrats may be less identified" with Israel's cause, having not been alive when Israel came into being and being influenced by leftist rhetoric on college campuses.

[National Democratic Jewish Council Chairman Ira] Forman attempted to minimize the poll's importance, citing that anti-Bush sentiment may have influenced the results. But he did concede that, "at the margins, the base of the GOP is more pro-Israel than the base of the Democratic Party." Nevertheless, he notes that with 5-1 or 6-1 support of Israel and strong support from the Jewish community, Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "don't think twice" about supporting Israel.
Or visiting Syria.

One major liability to the Democrats' prospects of winning the Jewish vote is former President Dhimmi Carter. The Democrats continue to give him prominent play to spew his anti-Semitic venom:
Democrats' biggest problems on Israel may come from one of the party's most identifiable figures, former President Jimmy Carter. The 39th president has earned the enmity of Republicans and many Democrats through his stringent criticism of Israel over the decades, encapsulated in his recent book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

Dershowitz [who has been one of Carter's most outspoken critics. CiJ] said that Democrats "have to take the bull by the horns and say that (Carter) no longer speaks for the Democratic Party" and make clear that they view his efforts as "undercutting Democratic foreign policy." Dershowitz said the GOP would use Carter as a political wedge issue and would "bang (Democrats) over the head" if he were invited to speak at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Koch said he expected the Democratic nominee "to say they find repugnant and abhorrent his hostility to Israel."

The Republican Jewish Coalition has already seized on Carter as a political issue. It has elicited signatures from six former ambassadors on a letter to Dean seeking to remove the former president from his position as honorary chairman of Democrats Abroad because of Carter's recent comments that it is "criminal" not to recognize and negotiate with Hamas. (RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks says he has yet to receive a response.)
I don't think it's likely that the Democratic party will stand up and throw Carter out. There are two reasons for that. First, the party's most energetic activists are coming from the hard left and they love Carter. Cindy Sheehan and the denizens of hard leftist blogs like the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post are the core of Democratic party activism. They love Carter - and hate Israel. Second, it's not just that more Republicans than Democrats support Israel. It's that an increasing number of Republicans - especially among the activists - and a decreasing number of Democrats - especially among the activists - support Israel.

More than any other issue, support for Israel is the common denominator of political activism in the Jewish community. The trends to support or not support Israel haven't translated into a majority of Jews supporting a Republican Presidential candidate yet. But in 2008 they just might.


At 1:34 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

This is an issue that has plagued pundits for years. Why if the Reps are more pro Israel than the Dems and the trend lines show this only increasing, why don't more Jews vote Rep?
The answer is unfortunatly quite simple. Too many Jews don't give a shit about Judaism or other Jews. A community that produced Adam Shapiro, Chomsky and Finklestien, that vilified the Bergson Group is so concerned about Israel? There is a 72% intermarriage rate. There are more Jews that are liberal first and foremost than are concerned for Israel. One of the umbrella gouprs- AJC or whatever had a poll in 1984- only 17% of American Jews vote with Israel as a major concern. Perhaps that is the 17% that Bush got, but is shows the limit in the Reps appeal.
However there is a silver lining. That 17% is the segment that is growing, and while Jewish libs are the Waffen SS of the Dems, the fact that it is becoming known that the reps are better it may at least cut into Jewish Dem fundraising and geto out the vote efforts.

At 1:35 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

the poll was 2004 . sorry.

At 2:25 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Look at the birth rates for the Jews who vote Democratic and the Jews that vote Republican. How many Jewish Democrats do you know who have eight kids?

The trend is clear. Maybe not in 2008 but eventually.


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