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The Jews and President Bush By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 31, 2003

In the last election, American Jews voted 80% for Al Gore and the party that engineered the Oslo disaster. Since then, President Bush has declared war on terrorism and identified Yasser Arafat and the Palestine authority as terrorists. In the last year, moreover, there has been a wave of anti-Semitism in the United States and abroad coming from the left. One would think that these developments would affect the traditional alignments of Jews with the left. Have they? And what is at the root of the traditional Jewish attraction to the left?

To discuss these and other questions, Frontpage Symposium has invited Ken Weinstein, Vice President and Director of Hudson Institute's Washington, DC office; Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist whose new book Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got it Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First will be published in February; Jeff Jacoby, an op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe; Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and Marc Rauch, a multi-award winning TV/film writer, producer, and director. He lectures on various subjects concerning broadcasting, new media, and the Middle East at conferences and seminars throughout the U.S. and Europe.

(1) In the last election Jews voted 80% for Al Gore and the party that architected the Oslo disaster. Since then George Bush has declared war on terrorism and identified Yasser Arafat and the Palestine authority as terrorists. How has this affected the Jewish community?

Brooks: There is no doubt that the principled and committed support for Israel that President Bush has demonstrated since taking office is having a profound effect in the Jewish community.  The leadership of President Bush and the Republicans in Congress with regard to Israel provides a stark contrast to the support offered by the Democratic party recently.  It is this strong contrast that is causing many people in the Jewish community to take an open-minded look at supporting the Republican party and this is one reason why we believe that there is a significant political shift taking place in the Jewish community today away from the Democratic party.  It is important to also note that the President and the Party are supporting Israel not out of some grand political strategy but rather out of deep personal convictions and because it is consistent with America's interests and security.

Weinstein: Like most Americans horrified by September 11th, Jews have taken great solace from President Bush's policies against radical Islam. But with Jews, it goes beyond mere solace. With the rise of the Al-Aqsa intifada, the past couple of years have been the darkest in Jewish history since the end of World War II. Jews have circled the wagons to a degree unseen since the Six-Day War. President Bush's heartfelt concern for the State of Israel, his principled desire to reshape the Middle East, and his willingness to be the only international leader to unmask Arafat's terror regime, has been a beacon of hope in a very dark night. Depending on who is the Democratic nominee in 2004, Bush has a great opportunity to match or exceed the historic high watermark of Jewish vote for a Republican presidential candidate - the 39 percent that Ronald Reagan got in 1980. That is, if Senator Lieberman does not attempt to steal his thunder on defense policy.

Charen: Some cracks have appeared in the concrete of Jewish allegiance to Democrats. I've written several columns about this in the year and a half since 9/11 and have received countless letters from Jews saying "I'm going to vote Republican next time around." There are also rumblings in the organized Jewish community. Still, my people are a stubborn lot and I wouldn't expect any major shift in '04.

Jacoby: Many American Jews find it difficult -- almost congenitally difficult -- to speak well of a Republican, but President Bush has made it a little easier. The importance of his June 24, 2002, speech cannot be underestimated: It marked the first time a US president made it clear that Arafat's goon squad must be replaced with "a new and different Palestinian leadership," one "not compromised by terror." Bush -- unlike his father -- clearly feels a gut-level support for Israel, and American Jews are not blind to this. My sense is that there is a low but growing level of appreciation for Bush in the Jewish community.

Rauch: The portion of the Jewish community that supports a Jewish homeland is clearly pleased that an American president has come out so strongly against Arafat, terrorism as a weapon against Israel, and the Arabs' self-destructive policies. Assuming that events stay pretty much as they've been, and barring some kind of military disaster for the U.S. in the Middle East (which I don't expect), there should be more Jewish support for Bush's re-election.

I, for one, will vote for him, and I didn't in the last election. On the other hand, Jews that know history, and haven't allowed themselves to be politically/socially brainwashed against a Jewish homeland, know that the reason for failing to conclude a peace agreement lies squarely on Arafat's shoulders. Therefore, Bush's declaration of war on terrorism won't, on its own, cause any wholesale change in the way they vote. Jews that are against a Jewish homeland will continue to believe the anti-Semitic rhetoric and vote for anyone and anything that could help to destroy Israel.

(2) What is the psychology of a Jewish person who opposes a Jewish homeland and would like to see Israel destroyed?

Brooks: Crazy

Weinstein: The psychology of such a person is someone who is in clear denial about the status of Jews in all countries across the globe except for the United States. This past year's events should make such people think twice before adopting their foolhardy views.

Jacoby: Without a medical degree and a lot of clinical experience, I wouldn't presume to explain the psychopathology of an anti-Zionist Jew. There is something profoundly sad about a Jew who has so internalized the hostility of anti-Semites that he joins them in demonizing Israel. Profoundly sad, and potentially dangerous.

Charen: Anyone who wants to see any nation destroyed is a moral cretin. I don't think there are very many Jews who actively wish Israel harm, but there are alas a great many who are capable of deluding themselves about the nature of the enemies with whom Israel must contend.

Rauch: There are several answers to this. First, there have been a fair number of very devout Jews who believe that man cannot create Israel; that it must wait for God. To them, the State of Israel is sacrilege. They would be satisfied to see Israel destroyed. Then, there are those Jews who believe that Judaism should have no "national" identification, and that the purpose of Jews is to spread through the world (like the proverbial "Wandering Jew") and fight social injustice whenever they find it. To them, Judaism is secondary to all other concerns. This notion/ideal is instilled in many Jewish children by their parents.

Of course there are those Jews, who like members of other ethnic and religious groups, are embarrassed by the harsh accents and old-world customs of their parents and grandparents. One way that these self-loathing Jews rebel is to change their last names, affect different pronunciations of words, and raise their children without any Jewish education. Another way is to react against Israel. They cringe each time they hear the guttural intonation of an Israeli speaker, and they transfer their feelings of animosity that they have for their parents to Israelis in general. Any news about events in Israel becomes a painful reminder of their childhood.

And finally, there is the centuries old tradition of Jews not believing that they worthy of any good fortune (the ol' Jewish guilt complex). Every time ancient Israel/Judea was invaded and the Hebrews were taken away to other lands, they believed that the bad luck was due to their not being pious enough. This translates to, among other mannerisms, the Jewish custom of tenderly holding a child's head in your hands and rhetorically asking, "Who could love such an ugly face." It's feared that by admitting that the face is so beautiful that "evil spirits" will do something to disfigure it. When you apply this trait to a child or loved-one, it's charming. When you apply it to Israel's right to exist, it's destructive.

Actually, one of the best sources for information about this phenomenon is FrontPageMagazine's very own David Horowitz, who wrote about it in his incredible book, The Politics of Bad Faith.

(3) In the last year there has been a wave of anti-Semitism in the United States and abroad coming from the left. How has this affected the traditional alignments of Jews with the left?

Brooks:  There is no doubt that the most vicious and troubling anti-Semitism is coming from the left, especially the intellectual left of the University campuses.  It is no small irony that the Jewish community while embracing the left has always feared anti-Semitism from the Evangelical right and now we are seeing our strongest support and solidarity coming from the Evangelicals and the most pernicious anti-Semitism coming from the left.  This will no doubt give support to those who are beginning to feel that the Democratic party no longer represents them and can't be trusted to stand by Israel when there is a crisis.

Weinstein: The ice is beginning to break. All the major Jewish organizations have shifted to the right on defense policy because of Israel. Some, like the American Jewish Committee, are even beginning rethink their longstanding commitment to mass immigration. Antipathy to the Christian right, once the bread and butter of groups like the ADL, has waned significantly because of the Christian Right's love and devotion to Israel.

The ADL even ran newspaper ads quoting Ralph Reed on Israel and Abe Foxman personally thanked Gary Bauer for his support of Israel. But the ADL and other mainstream Jewish groups are not dropping their liberal social agenda any time soon. (Whether they speak for the majority of American Jews who are more economically conservative because of their generally higher incomes is another story.)

Others, though, are turning more clearly to the right. On college campuses throughout America, we are seeing the rise of a significant number of new type of neo-conservative: formerly liberal Jewish college students rejecting the left-wing ideology of their anti-Israel profs. We're seeing it in France among certain Jewish intellectuals, most notably Alain Finkielkraut, who have broken with the mainstream left over Israel.

Jacoby: I don't think the tectonic plates have shifted, but again, American Jews are gradually noticing what is taking place. Currently, anti-Semitism in America can be found almost exclusively where the left holds sway, particularly on college campuses and in the black community. The anti-Jewish hostility at places like San Francisco State University, the new "divestment" movement that likens Israel to South Africa under apartheid, the anti-Semitic poetry of Amiri Baraka -- even for die-hard American Jewish liberals, it is getting hard not to notice that the most pronounced enmity is coming from the left.

Charen: Jews bristle every time some Baptist says they can't get into Heaven, but when campuses are aflame with fashionable Israel-bashing and tolerance for Muslim anti-Semitism, they are strangely quiet. Jew are on auto-pilot most of the time, responding in Pavlovian fashion to perceived (and often misperceived) slights from the right, but hardly noticing the far more common and more dangerous anti-Semitism of the left.

Rauch: It appears that those Jews on the more moderate side of the left have had their eyes opened to the left's anti-Semitic attitudes. This will certainly affect how some Jews vote in the future. However, the majority will probably still vote towards the left and hope that the racism is just a temporary aberration (which it's not).

(4) Bill Clinton made it clear that he preferred the Israeli Labor Party to the party of Netanyahu and Sharon, in fact he threw his considerable weight behind defeating Netanyahu and the Likud Party so that Peres and Barak could give Arafat what he wanted. Bush by contrast seems close to Sharon and has called him a man of peace. How has that impacted Jews?

Brooks:  There is no doubt that President Bush and PM Sharon share a close personal relationship of mutual trust and purpose.  Unlike the media portrayal for PM Sharon as a war-monger, the President knows Sharon as an old warrior who only wants peace and security for his people.   However, unlike his predecessor, President Bush refuses to involve himself in Israeli domestic elections.  All of these things demonstrate to the Jewish community how different President Bush is from other leaders and why he is such a committed friend.

Weinstein: The men of Oslo, along with high-handed American intervention in the "peace" process, have been utterly discredited in Israel and the U.S. Allow me to quote a speech I saw Prime Minister Sharon deliver on December 4th in Herzliya, Israel: speaking of his "special closeness" to the U.S., Sharon praised Bush's "understanding of Israel's needs" as "unprecedented," and based in part "on the lessons the Americans learned from the Clinton-Barak plan."

Charen: It would not surprise me if Bush does better with Jewish voters than any Republican since Reagan. But one thing is certain: He deserves far more support than he will likely receive.

Jacoby: I'd say that Bush has improved his standing among American Jews less by his warm words for Sharon than by his unmistakable disgust for Yasser Arafat. The contrast with Clinton, who invited Arafat to the White House more than any other foreign dignitary, is palpable.

Whether any of this will have a political impact depends on what else Bush does between now and the election, but I would be surprised if there isn't at least some movement of American Jews – especially younger ones, who are less likely to be cemented in their party loyalties -- toward the Republican Party.

Rauch: As I stated earlier, Jews that support a strong Israel are very pleased with Bush's position, and his amiable relationship with Sharon is clearly a positive for the Prime Minister. However, Israel's left (Barak) lost the last major election, even with Clinton's support because the Israeli people were fed up with what the Arabs were doing. Sharon will undoubtedly be re-elected, not because of Bush's support, but because of Sharon's strong stance against terrorism. Of course, to those Jews that (wrongly) view Sharon as a war criminal, Bush's support for Sharon only aggravates them more.

(5) What is keeping Jews from flocking to the Republican camp?

Brooks:  I think the previous barriers to Jews supporting the GOP are coming down- fear of the Christian Right, previously strong support of Israel from the Democrats, a polarizing social agenda from the Republicans among other things- and as a result I believe we will see larger support for Republicans in the Jewish community going forward.

Weinstein: Longstanding historical habits are hard to break, but Jews are actually beginning to come to the Republican Party. Bush's support of the State of Israel and the fact he has taken the harsh edges off of the Republican agenda has helped. To the consternation of New York Democrats, George Pataki (not my type of Republican), actually got a majority of Jewish votes over Carl McCall. But it's not Jewish votes that are most significant to the political process; it's the political contributions Jews make and their voices in the media that matter far more than sheer electoral numbers. In both these categories, Bush is doing extremely well.

Jacoby: It's an old story. Part of the answer is history: Jews coming to America from Europe often brought with them the habit of associating parties of the left with tolerance and emancipation -- an association that made sense in a Europe where the most conservative parties were often the most anti-Semitic.

But part of the answer is also theological: Liberalism is the religion of many secular American Jews, who have convinced themselves that the essence of being Jewish is being a good liberal -- and of course to be a good liberal means to be a Democrat.

The perception that the Republican Party is the purview of the "Christian right" and that the "Christian right" is unfriendly to Jewish interests -- an old and mostly unfair shibboleth -- helps keep Jews away as well. Very slowly, this may be changing. I find a growing recognition among liberal American Jews that Christian conservatives are reliable friends on at least the one issue that many of them care about most: support for Israel.

Charen: Many Jews are liberals first and Jews second. Being liberal is part of their identity. They often claim that liberalism is the philosophy that springs more naturally from Judaism, but this is a dubious argument. Judaism teaches personal responsibility, traditional morality, law and order, and forbids abortion except to save the life of the mother.

Jews are also afraid of Christianity and believe that if the majority becomes more Christian, or expresses its Christian beliefs, life for Jews in America is diminished. Nearly every Jewish Democrat I know cites the so-called "religious right" as the main reason he/she could never vote Republican.

Rauch: As Tevye (from Fiddler On The Roof) sings, "Tradition!" Because of he Torah's teachings and the experiences suffered by the Jewish people, most Jews have tended to be "socially concerned" for other people's plight. As with Black Americans, Jews traditionally view the Democrats as more socially conscious. Until something dramatic happens, Jews (and perhaps Blacks as well) don't take the time to check what's really going on. They naively leave their voting decisions to "tradition."

(6) Yes, historically, many Jews have been attracted to the Left and to socialism for all the reasons that have been mentioned. But isn’t this phenomenon also rooted, in part, in the fact that socialism promised a brotherhood that transcended race – and many Jews wanted to assimilate and shed themselves of their Jewishness?

Brooks: The reasons why Jews were in the left historically is not really the relevant question today, we need to look forward not backward and we need to ask ourselves what can we do today to attract Jews and keep them in the Republican party.

Weinstein: All who seriously think through the possibility of Jewish socialism are led to the conclusion that secular socialist universalism is incompatible with any serious practice of Judaism. The liberalism of most American Jews is far more instinctual than intellectual. Hence, such questions never arise for them.

Charen: I certainly agree that part of the appeal of socialism to many Jews was its universalism. In a world without nations, the most despised nation of all would no longer be persecuted and oppressed. But further, the anti-religious nature of socialism also appealed to Jews who yearned to throw off the strictures of their faith. Ben Gurion threw his tefillin into the sea. The sad truth, which millions of Jews have denied for decades, is that socialism proved every bit as anti-Semitic as monarchism and fascism.

Rauch: The most basic illustration is the child whose family moves to a new town and in the hope of finding friends and acceptance takes on the trappings, concerns, and issues of the new neighborhood. Clearly, the concept of socialism seemed to "even the playing field." So when a Jew was given the opportunity (or was sufficiently motivated to take the risk) to travel to a new town, he/she figured that social consciousness (socialism) was the calling card that would grant them acceptance.

When you combine this mindset with one or more of the reasons why a Jew might have animosity for Judaism (as I previously discussed), then a disgruntled Jew might feel and hope that socialism could magically remove the stigma/stench of being Jewish. And, in fact, many Jews who became immersed in socialism and communism did give up all identification with being Jewish. Consequently, to this person, a Jewish homeland is redundant.

(7) What would Israel's future have looked like had Al Gore been elected in 2000?

Brooks: In all of my travels I have not met anyone in the Jewish community who has not told me that they don't thank God that we have George Bush in the White House.  I think it was said best by PM Sharon during his last visit to the Oval Office when he said that in the history of the State of Israel there has never been a better friend in the White House than George W. Bush.

Weinstein: Given his support for Oslo and for multilateralism, the international pressure on the Sharon government would have been overwhelming. Tensions with the U.S. would have been at an all-time high; Israel's efforts to dismantle Arafat's terror networks in the West Bank could not have succeeded without implicit American support. The beacon of hope that is the forthcoming invasion of Iraq would not exist.

Charen: Far worse. Al Gore, as a good liberal, would have endorsed and stuck to the "peace process" despite everything. He would have been completely a creature of the State Department, and would accordingly have distinguished between the terrorism that struck us and the "violence" inflicted on Israel -- a distinction that George Bush, to his everlasting credit, could not bring himself to recognize.

Jacoby: If anything, Israel's position would have been even bleaker. If Gore had been elected, there would have been no break with the Clinton policy of lionizing Arafat and pressing Israel to make drastic new concessions.

There would have been no June 24 speech, with its forceful call for "regime change" among the Palestinians. The supporters of Israel who are so prominent among Bush Administration policymakers -- Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams – would still be in the private sector. And the avidly pro-Israel evangelical Christian community would not have had the ear -- and respect -- of the president. Israel's position always seems precarious, but it would have been markedly worse if the election had gone the other way.

Rauch: I shudder to think of what things would have looked like had Gore been elected, not just for Israel, but for our country, as well. I'll stop short of saying that we'd probably all be taking Islamic religious lessons and learning to speak Arabic, but I don't think we'd have gone to war against Al Qaeda or the Taliban. We'd probably be "dialoguing" with them over ways to dissuade them from following up on the September 11th attacks with the destruction of Chicago's Sears Tower and San Francisco's TransAmerica Building.

I think that even with a Jewish vice-president, Gore would have blocked Israel from pursuing the safety measures that Sharon has used, and I think that terrorist activity in Israel would have been ten times worse, maybe a hundred times worse. Instead of being restrained, Arafat would have felt he had a free hand.

Interlocutor: Our time is up. Mone Charen, Matt Brooks, Marc Rauch, Jeff Jacoby and Ken Weinstein, it was a pleasure. We’ll see you again.


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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

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