The Mystery of the American Jewish Voter

Richard N. Weltz
It's been noted more than a few times here and in other places that a large proportion of the American Jewish electorate who are otherwise thoroughly supportive of Israel will still cast their presidential ballots for candidates who are not exactly friends of the Jewish State.

In other words, their "progressive" politics trumps their feelings of Zionism. It is a phenomenon which has never been adequately explained; and, frankly, I have come away scratching my head from many an argument with highly educated and successful friends who are staunch Zionists but still boosting Obama and his administration, downplaying his unfairness to the Jewish State and covering up for his partiality toward Israel-hating Muslim nations and bigots the likes of Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

This anomalous practice has now spread, for the first time, to several major Jewish organizations. The very groups who should be defending Israel against Obama are, instead, deniers and protectors of his antagonistic attitudes towards Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular and Israel in general.

The situation is described quite clearly in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed by Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense (2001 - 2005) and now a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

As Feith explains, "...two venerable Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), are saying that it is improper to do this in the case of President Obama.  They have taken the initiative to shield Mr. Obama from the political consequences of his cold treatment of Israel."

"The AJC and ADL," Feith states, "are jointly promoting a 'national pledge for unity on Israel.' Its essence is that 'America's friendship with Israel . . . has always transcended politics' and that 'U.S.-Israel friendship should never be used as a political wedge issue'."

But that isn't true, as Feith notes: "In 1984, pro-Israel groups exerted themselves to block the re-election of Illinois Republican Sen. Charles Percy, the prominent chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was an outspoken critic of Israel and champion of U.S. engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization.  Percy lost and, in an election night interview, attributed his defeat to the Israel lobby.  Other politicians who met a similar fate include Reps. Paul Findley (R., Ill.) and Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.)."

Feith points out,

"Obama came into office determined to distance the U.S. from Israel and to portray Israel as the impediment to Middle East peace" and that he "also orchestrated a public imbroglio with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, walking out of a White House meeting with him in 2010 and refusing to be photographed with him."

The two organizations could argue for Obama, Feith notes, by emphasizing some areas in which he has taken pro-Israel action such as in military cooperation and sales of advanced fighter planes. But, he cautions, these would be weak arguments in face of the other actions by which this administration continues to throw Israel under the bus; and, thus the ADL and AJC instead are trying to cover for Obama by inventing "traditions" that would preclude any criticism of the president regarding his actions and attitudes toward Israel.

Strangely enough, this is apparently reflective of a great many, perhaps most, of the Jewish voters out there. Leaving out, for the moment, the outspoken anti-Zionist faction, polls continue to show that even the most pro-Israel among them are highly likely to allow their left/liberal politics to trump their devotion to Israel.

Why they should cling to this "progressivism," a leftover socialist reaction from the decades-ago tyrannies of Old Europe -- and, indeed, considering the Jewish experiences of more recent decades -- allow it to overshadow an honest and much needed solidarity with our strongest regional ally in the Middle East is beyond the ken of this humble writer.

It's been noted more than a few times here and in other places that a large proportion of the American Jewish electorate who are otherwise thoroughly supportive of Israel will still cast their presidential ballots for candidates who are not exactly friends of the Jewish State.

In other words, their "progressive" politics trumps their feelings of Zionism. It is a phenomenon which has never been adequately explained; and, frankly, I have come away scratching my head from many an argument with highly educated and successful friends who are staunch Zionists but still boosting Obama and his administration, downplaying his unfairness to the Jewish State and covering up for his partiality toward Israel-hating Muslim nations and bigots the likes of Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

This anomalous practice has now spread, for the first time, to several major Jewish organizations. The very groups who should be defending Israel against Obama are, instead, deniers and protectors of his antagonistic attitudes towards Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular and Israel in general.

The situation is described quite clearly in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed by Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense (2001 - 2005) and now a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

As Feith explains, "...two venerable Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), are saying that it is improper to do this in the case of President Obama.  They have taken the initiative to shield Mr. Obama from the political consequences of his cold treatment of Israel."

"The AJC and ADL," Feith states, "are jointly promoting a 'national pledge for unity on Israel.' Its essence is that 'America's friendship with Israel . . . has always transcended politics' and that 'U.S.-Israel friendship should never be used as a political wedge issue'."

But that isn't true, as Feith notes: "In 1984, pro-Israel groups exerted themselves to block the re-election of Illinois Republican Sen. Charles Percy, the prominent chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was an outspoken critic of Israel and champion of U.S. engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization.  Percy lost and, in an election night interview, attributed his defeat to the Israel lobby.  Other politicians who met a similar fate include Reps. Paul Findley (R., Ill.) and Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.)."

Feith points out,

"Obama came into office determined to distance the U.S. from Israel and to portray Israel as the impediment to Middle East peace" and that he "also orchestrated a public imbroglio with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, walking out of a White House meeting with him in 2010 and refusing to be photographed with him."

The two organizations could argue for Obama, Feith notes, by emphasizing some areas in which he has taken pro-Israel action such as in military cooperation and sales of advanced fighter planes. But, he cautions, these would be weak arguments in face of the other actions by which this administration continues to throw Israel under the bus; and, thus the ADL and AJC instead are trying to cover for Obama by inventing "traditions" that would preclude any criticism of the president regarding his actions and attitudes toward Israel.

Strangely enough, this is apparently reflective of a great many, perhaps most, of the Jewish voters out there. Leaving out, for the moment, the outspoken anti-Zionist faction, polls continue to show that even the most pro-Israel among them are highly likely to allow their left/liberal politics to trump their devotion to Israel.

Why they should cling to this "progressivism," a leftover socialist reaction from the decades-ago tyrannies of Old Europe -- and, indeed, considering the Jewish experiences of more recent decades -- allow it to overshadow an honest and much needed solidarity with our strongest regional ally in the Middle East is beyond the ken of this humble writer.