Category Archives: Obama

Chuck Hagel And Israel: The Wrong Question

by Mitchell Plitnick

Chuck Hagel is not exactly my kind of guy. Hagel is an old-school Conservative Republican and his voting record in the Senate lines up pretty well with that image. He was poor on civil rights, favored the rich in economic matters, generally opposed abortion, voted against campaign finance reform, and, despite later opposition, he voted for the Iraq War. Yet the dominant question around his still-only-rumored nomination for Secretary of Defense is how pro-Israel he is. Continue reading

Only Tina Fey and SNL call out the pandering? You’ll never believe the one place McCain is leading.

This presidential campaign seems to be so far beyond any hope for authentic discussion about the peace process and the disastrous 8 years of BushCo, that we are now simply reduced to pointing out cases of bald-faced pandering. While both presidential candidates have assiduously sought to avoid the topic of Israel and Palestine–Obama’s in particular disastrous AIPAC flip flop on sharing Jerusalem aside–the VPs did have a chance last Friday to nearly come to blows over who loves Israel more. (This kind of “love”– unconditional support for settlement expansion and militarism, the ultimate barriers to peace, is the original love that dare not speak its name. It’s the kind of love to nowhere that Israeli friends would respond to with a “thanks, but no thanks.”)

There is no small irony that the discourse here becomes increasingly jingoistic, kind of like a Palin rally, just as Israel’s outgoing prime minister Olmert “declared that Israel must give up control of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and virtually the entire West Bank if it hopes to achieve peace with its neighbors.”

Amen.

As many commentators have pointed out, leave it to the comedy shows to say what no one else will. In case you’re one of the 3 people who haven’t yet seen Tina Fey’s most recent Oct 4 Sarah Palin imitation, SNL did call out Palin, though not Biden, for superficial pandering.

Forward to 2:48 on embedded video:
Latifah/Ifill: Governor Pailin? What is your position on health care regulation?
Fey/Palin: I’m going to ignore that question and instead talk about Israel.
I love Israel so much, bless its heart.
There’s a special place for Israel in heaven.
And I know some people are going to say that I’m only saying that to pander to Florida voters, but from a very young age, my two greatest loves were always Jews and Cuban food. (blows a kiss)

Bernard Avishai on Obama’s Jews: why tolerate old-guard leadership?

October’s Harpers has an excellent piece by The Hebrew Republic author Bernard Avishai who reminds us of the complex, varied and yes, enlightened Jewish world that is rendered invisible by major institutional Jewry. The ascendancy of a post-race Obama marks a massive generational and cultural power shift in the US. Avishai suggests it might also mark a similar ousting of the old guard among Jews.

Obama’s Jews
By Bernard Avishai

Last May, as he claimed the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama was ahead among Jewish voters 2 to 1. Yet, according to cable-and-blog wisdom, that was a serious problem for him. Jews—you know, “the demographic”—had voted 3 or more to 1 for Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. Jews are only about 2 percent of the population, but they make up almost 4 percent of actual voters. There are, famously, almost half a million Jewish voters in southern Florida alone. If, say, 100,000 defected to McCain, Obama would likely lose the state, even if the chads don’t hang this time. Jews are also nearly 5 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate, which Kerry carried by only 2.5 percent.

After the 1968 election, when Jews voted almost 5 to 1 for Humphrey over Nixon, the late Milton Himmelfarb groused in Commentary that Jews earned like Episcopalians and voted like Puerto Ricans. Are Jews finally growing aloof from the Democratic nominee—come to think of it, like Puerto Ricans—because he is African American? Will his fate hinge, as CNN’s Jack Cafferty suggested, on “a few old Jews in Century Village”? As Obama himself joked at a February meeting with Jews in Cleveland (Ohio is another shaky “battleground”), doesn’t every Jewish family have an uncle skeptical of the schwartzer?

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Eric Alterman on Obama’s Jewish problem

In (Some) Jews Against Obama, the Nation’s Eric Alterman has the most in-depth roundup I’ve seen yet of charges leveled against Obama by various American Likudnik Jewish leaders including Mort Klein of the the Zionist Organization of America, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and a counsel at the American Jewish Committee.

During the past few months a small group of neoconservative Jews, many of whom hold key positions in the world of official Jewish institutions, have been working to undermine the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama with a series of carefully planted character assassinations and deliberately misleading innuendo.

Alterman quotes Matthew Yglesias:

“First Obama was an anti-Semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-Semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to [Commentary's Noah] Pollack [sic] it’s Samantha Power who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.”

As usual, attempts at painting Obama as anti-Israel have had almost no traction with the majority of American Jews, whose liberal views comport with Obama’s with quite nicely.
What exactly are they so scared of? Alterman writes:

Perhaps it is honesty about the issue. Speaking to a largely Jewish audience in Cleveland, Obama explained, “There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.” Then came his kicker: “One of the things that struck me when I went to Israel was how much more open the debate was around these issues in Israel than they are sometimes here in the United States.” No wonder he scares them so…