Sunday, May 11, 2008

Obama's So Called Jewish Problem

Increasingly, pundits are talking about Obama's supposed Jewish problem. This "problem" stems from his unproven "support" for Israel and, after the Revernd Wright broo-ha-ha, his tenuous association-by-association with Nation of Islam leader and gasbag Louis Farrakhan. Recently, McCain has also been hinting that Hamas and Obama are BFF.

The strategy of republicans, and the increasingly republicanesque Ms. Clinton, is to shave off as many voters as possible by appealing to irrational fears and selfish desires. They think playing up the association with Reverend Wright, pointing out that Obama once expressed some human compassion for Palestinians, and trying to associate him with Hamas will peel off enough Jewish votes to bring them wins. In the republican case, and since Jews make up less than 2% of the population, I can only imagine that they are aiming for Florida.

Lets break this one down a bit shall we. The assumptions being made are:

  • All Jews fundamental issue is Israel. Israel is a litmus test that a candidate must pass in order to get our vote - I'm sorry to break it to you all, but Jewish people actually do care about the economy and the environment and the war in Iraq.
  • "Support" for Israel means blind approval of any action the corruption-scandalized Israeli government feels like taking - While it is true that criticism of the Israeli government is taboo in the United States, rational people understand that no government is immune from making mistakes. We Jews have our fair share of irrationals, like anyone else, but most of us know that the Israeli government has made many mistakes and that every criticism is not an attack on Jewish people. In fact, many of us would like to see more criticism of the Israeli government. None of which is to say that Obama has actually criticized the Israeli government - which, I personally wish he would.
  • Polls show that fewer Jews are supporting the democratic candidates this time around and pundits claim that has to do with a perception that republicans are stronger on Israel - I've only known one (admitted) Jewish republican in my life and he said he became a republican because he thought, as a token Jew, he would get farther politically. Now I'm not going to say that all Jews who vote republican are despicable panderers (although I might think it), but there are certainly other reasons why the republican party has been able to siphon off a bit more of the Jewish vote. My personal guess is that the majority of those republican voting jews are old, male, white, wealthy and hawkish about a lot more than Israel. In other words, they are the republican demographic and are as likely to be voting based on the desire to pay less taxes on their wealth or make money on their Haliburton stock as on Israel.
Jews and Israel are not one inseparable entity. It's frankly insulting to speak as though we are. And while we are at it, how about having a Jewish pundit besides Kristol or Dershowitz or some other conservative uber-zionist? How about having a real debate for a change. Bring on Amy Goodman or Norman Finkelstein once in a while.

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