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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Do the Democrats Have the Jewish Vote in Their Pocket?

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American Jews find themselves in an increasingly precarious position, politically adrift amid shifting allegiances and ideological battles. Traditionally loyal to the Democratic Party, many liberal Jewish voters have considered President Biden a steadfast ally. However, recent developments have sparked growing discontent and concern. The Democratic Party’s apparent drift toward anti-Israel sentiments, coupled with President Biden’s policies and actions that seem to capitulate to radical fringes, have left many American Jews feeling politically homeless.

President Biden’s longstanding relationship with the Jewish community and his support for Israel have been foundational to his appeal among liberal Jewish voters. Yet, his administration’s decision to freeze the delivery of certain weapons to Israel has been seen as a troubling concession to anti-Israel forces within the Democratic Party. This move, perceived as a capitulation to radical elements such as “The Squad” have caused significant unease among American Jews who view Israel’s security as paramount.

Senator Chuck Schumer’s recent speech urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and call for new elections has further exacerbated these concerns. Schumer’s call for the removal of a democratically elected leader of an ally in the midst of a war is unprecedented. This action appears driven by a need to appease the hard left within his party, raising questions about the Democratic Party’s commitment to Israel and its democratic processes.

For the vast majority of American Jews, Israel is more than just a foreign nation; it is a core component of their identity. Support for Israel is overwhelming within the American Jewish community, distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies from outright hatred of the Jewish state. Contrary to media portrayals, anti-Zionist Jews represent a marginal and unrepresentative segment of the American Jewish population.

Judaism’s ethical teachings deeply influence American Jews’ perspectives on conflict and war. The tradition emphasizes a profound respect for human life, even admonishing against rejoicing in the deaths of enemy combatants. This moral framework shapes their concern for Palestinian civilians and their horror at civilian casualties. However, it also informs their understanding of the broader context of the conflict.

Senator Chuck Schumer’s recent speech urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and call for new elections has further exacerbated these concerns. Schumer’s call for the removal of a democratically elected leader of an ally in the midst of a war is unprecedented. Photo Credit: AP

The current conflict, initiated by Hamas with the aim of Israel’s destruction, starkly reveals the existential threats faced by the Jewish state. The atrocities committed on October 7 call attention to the genocidal intentions of Hamas and its supporters. Most American Jews recognize that Israel’s struggle is not just a national issue but a front line one in a broader battle against Islamist extremism that threatens not only Israel but also Europe and America.

The nearly exclusive focus on Palestinian casualties by the West, often without the context of the violence initiated by Hamas, distorts the reality of the situation. It fails to acknowledge that this war was imposed on Israel by forces committed to its annihilation. Understanding this broader context is crucial. Hamas’s victory over Israel would embolden Islamist extremists globally, posing a direct threat to Western nations, including the United States.

Compounding the political challenges is the alarming rise of anti-Semitism on university campuses, which is of grave concern to American Jews. Simplistic binary categorizations of entire groups of people—oppressor or oppressed, racist or antiracist, colonialist or ant colonialist—have taken root among many professors and students. These illiberal and regressive attitudes undermine the principles of the liberal order, which have historically been protective of Jewish communities. The abandonment of these principles often places Jews on the wrong side of such binary distinctions.

American Jews strongly support Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a society that judges people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. While some campus protesters genuinely care about Palestinian casualties, their leaders frequently advocate for Israel’s destruction, not coexistence. Calls for a cease-fire would be more credible if they also demanded the return of Israeli hostages, condemned Hamas’s savagery, and urged Hamas to lay down its arms for the good of the Palestinian people. Notably, there was a cease-fire in place on October 6, which Hamas violated.

Criticism of Israeli policies is not inherently anti-Semitic. However, since October 7, American Jews have become more acutely aware of the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Most American Jews do not blame Israel for the surge in anti-Semitism in America. On the contrary, they understand more clearly why Israel’s existence is essential. There is no doubt that anti-Zionism constitutes or leads inevitably to anti-Semitism.

American politicians seeking the support of the Jewish community must recognize these realities. Michigan will not be the only state that matters in upcoming elections, and even within Michigan, there are diverse constituencies. Ignoring American Jews and their concerns about Israel and anti-Semitism is politically perilous. Acknowledging and addressing these issues is crucial for maintaining the support of this vital constituency.

The political homelessness felt by many American Jews stems from a complex interplay of loyalty, identity, and concern for Israel’s security. The Biden administration’s policies, coupled with the Democratic Party’s internal struggles, have created an environment where many Jewish voters feel alienated and concerned for the future. The alarming rise of anti-Semitism on university campuses adds another layer of distress. While the quest for peace and security in the Middle East is paramount, it must not come at the expense of Israel’s right to defend itself against existential threats. American Jews, and indeed all supporters of democracy and peace, must navigate these challenging times with a clear understanding of the broader implications of the conflict and a steadfast commitment to the security and well-being of Israel.

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