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A New President for a New Year? By: David A. Sherman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 19, 2004


I know a man in the Boston area whose mother needed surgery in the Chicago area on Rosh Hashana.  The mother is less observant than the son, and he knew that by traveling to care for her, he would miss out on most of the holiday.  But he also knew about the commandment of kibud av v’em  (honoring parents) and the value of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) and he went willingly.

With competing priorities, certain ones are compelling, while certain ones become, as the Israeli expression puts it, k’klipat hashum, as important as the skin on a head of garlic.  This is how American Jews should think about the upcoming elections.  We have many divergent concerns to be addressed, but none of them should outweigh the primacy of candidates’ policies on the Arab conflict with Israel.  As even recent Arab terrorist attacks make clear, world opinion still condones the murder and maiming of people for being part of one particular ethnic group--Jews--in one remaining part of the world--Israel; to build a mere fence to keep out the terrorists earns threats of punishment.  

This unfortunate situation makes support of Israel a matter both of pikuach nefesh and of lo ta’amod al dam rei-echa (not standing idly by).  With Israel the most likely place in the whole Middle East for the success of a social-justice agenda, even the most leftist among us can understand it is ultimately a matter of tikun olam (repairing the world) as that value is often interpreted in modern times.

Seen through this lens, how do the major-party Presidential candidates stack up?  Our votes, those for Congress, and our financial contributions may make a large difference in this close race.

The conflicting views John Kerry has expressed on many issues raise immediate questions.  He has been quoted both supporting and harshly opposing Israel’s security fence.  Some say his middle initial stands for “Flip-flop.”

But Kerry is not known to have wavered from this form letter he sent to constituents in September 2003:  “Our country has been involved in the Middle East at the presidential level...from 1973 all the way through President Clinton’s tenure.  The current administration, from day one, made a catastrophic mistake when it decided not to remain involved....I believe that action contributed significantly to the dilemmas we face in the Middle East today.”

That popular mantra is severely flawed.  It was Clinton who pursued the Oslo political process as though it were more important than peace itself.  As a result some 600 Israelis died in Arab terrorist attacks while the Clinton Administration encouraged Israel to ignore this genocide.  The current “second intifada,” is actually merely the period beginning toward the end of Clinton’s watch when the Israelis finally started shooting back (apparently one of the “dilemmas” Kerry refers to).

Kerry is either ignorant of these historical facts--inexcusable for such a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--or he thinks it was better when it was only Jews dying.  The latter explanation implies anti-Semitism, but either explanation makes him unfit for office.

This is true even before we consider the lesser-known manner in which Kerry, after some reasonably competent staff work, dropped the ball when he could have taken a leadership role in reforming National Public Radio’s malfeasance in its reporting on the Middle East and other issues.

By contrast, the incumbent President has risen above both the anti-Israeli ideology he arguably grew up with and his plurality Arab support in 2000.  His endorsement of Israeli self-defense is unprecedented.  While he opposes Israel’s positions on some of the numerous issues in the Arab conflict with her, he has given her a free hand to do almost whatever she needs to do to contain the terrorists.  This extends even to the assassination of a terrorist leader in Syria earlier this month, which many think was an Israeli undercover operation.

For Jews to automatically vote for or against a candidate because of his party--either party--is a mistake of unimaginable proportions.  To do so would let one party take us for granted, while the other would take for granted that there’s nothing they can do to attract us anyway.  Those who agree with James Baker’s reported axiom, “F*** the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway,”  would be ascendant in his party for years to come.

This election gives a simpler choice for American Jews than is often portrayed, and a much different one.  It is the same choice Israelis are reported to favor.  Yasir Arafat may well be one of the “foreign leaders” whose support Kerry can claim (Maariv International, July 25), but most Israelis seem to favor a continuation of Bush’s policies, and so should we.



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