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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why Israel's Left is gung-ho on Obama

Some of you may be wondering why a blog about Israel is devoting so much time to the US Presidential race. There are four reasons for this:

1. With the Knesset not in session, a week-long holiday in Israel and a government in 'transition' mode, there is not a lot of news taking place in Israel right now.

2. The United States is our most important ally, and everyone in Israel knows that how 'pro-Israel' the next US administration is has a great impact on all of us.

3. Many Israelis hold dual citizenship and have the right to vote in the US elections. I will be heading for the US in the next few days and will likely be carrying around ten absentee ballots to drop in the mail. This is not unusual.

4. Israel's mainstream media is obsessed with the American contest and with supporting Democratic candidate Barack Hussein Obama.

Regarding that last reason, I can only ask why and try to answer for you. But first, let me give you an example of how wall-to-wall the Israeli media support for Obama is. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that there are four main English-language web sites here. From left to right they are Haaretz, YNet, the Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva (Israel National News). Arutz Sheva is not part of the mainstream media - the leftist government made sure of that a few years ago by denying them a broadcast license. But even the Jerusalem Post has been going all out in support of Obama despite the fact that its editors wrote a scathing editorial about him three months ago. Take, for example, this article published in Friday's editions about something called the 'Bradley effect.'
There is extensive media speculation about how the so-called Bradley effect will influence Sen. Barack Obama's chances of winning the US presidential election. We must remember that the Bradley effect, properly understood, should go beyond the relationship between pre-election polling and actual electoral outcomes.

The Bradley effect involves white voters dishonestly reporting their intentions to pollsters as regards voting for a black political candidate. Its name derives from the late Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley's 1982 campaign to become the first African-American governor since the days of Reconstruction. Pre-election polling suggested that Bradley would roundly defeat his white opponent, George Deukmejian, California's then attorney-general. Despite Bradley's consistent lead in the polls, however, many Californians changed their intentions, resulting in his losing of the election by a mere 100,000 votes, 1.2 percent of the total 7.5 million cast.

Similar concerns are being raised about Obama's current lead in the polls over Sen. John McCain. Given what happened to Bradley, the Bradley-effect, broadly defined, must surely be taken to mean more than a mere reluctance by white voters to report their electoral intentions accurately. Bradley endured a number of racially-inspired campaign attacks, highlighting his ethnic-racial identity, similar to those used against Obama. That is, Bradley, similarly to other black political candidates, by virtue of his or her ethnic (racial) identification, was sometimes accused of being unpatriotic, disruptive or even an enemy of the state.
In three paragraphs, the writer (a former Bradley aide) manages to assume that there is a widespread phenomenon called the 'Bradley effect,' that many Americans are likely lying to the pollsters and that John McCain and Sarah Palin and their campaign are racists. The conclusion that the Israeli who has the right to vote in the US is meant to draw is that we'd better go vote for Obama because there are a lot of people who say they're going to vote for Obama who really won't. Given that 23% of all Americans residing abroad reside in Israel and that most Americans living in Israel have the right to vote in 'swing states' (my wife and I and our three oldest children all vote in New Jersey - the last state in which we lived), it's clear from this and many other articles that have appeared in the Post over the last month that someone is trying to influence our votes in the US elections.

The questions are who and why.

I have two theories about this. One is that Israel's leftist media has its own agenda for the country - which is not that different from that of their counterparts in the US - and they believe that Obama will promote that agenda. While some of the Post's writers (Caroline Glick, Jonathan Rosenblum) are clearly in the right-wing camp, and while others are more in the center (David Horovitz), still others are very definitely in the left-wing camp (David Kimche, Larry Derfner, Naomi Chazan, Douglas Bloomfield). I don't know who makes the decisions as to what gets published at the Post (and an email inquiry I sent to Caroline Glick asking why the Post is supporting Obama went unanswered), but it's clear to me that there are an awful lot of people behind the paper who support Obama's candidacy, albeit not necessarily its most senior or prominent writers.

My other theory is that it's the politicians. With the Left currently trying to form a new government to freeze the right out of power for another two years, the last thing they want is an American government whom they're going to have to beg to 'force' them into 'concessions.' Tzipi Livni, who has spent the last two and a half years trying to give as much of the country as possible away at the 'negotiating table,' is tired of having to lead the American government along in 'forcing' Israel to make 'concessions' (as was the case until last November at Annapolis). She'd rather have an Obama administration that is going to force Israel to the wall than a McCain administration that is not going to make Israeli 'concessions' the centerpiece of its foreign policy.

Those are my theories. I regard myself as a participant in this election in the US (and I will be in the US on Election Day and as a result will be unable to vote in Jerusalem's Mayoral and City Council elections! There are no absentee ballots here!), and that's why I write about it.


At 9:55 AM, Blogger nachtwache said...

Wow, I hope a lot of polled people lied, in that case!


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