Sunday, September 24, 2006

A New Letter in the Jewish Week

I've got a new letter in the Jewish Week in reaction to the ads the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has been putting out lately.

The Jewish Week has been printing these ads lately and I thought someone should say something about them. There were two ads in the newspaper the week I responded. One appears on the RJC website and is an ad that includes two quotes from former President Jimmy Carter. The two quotes are: "I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon.” and "I represent the vast majority of Democrats." The clear intention of the ad is to suggest that Jimmy Carter is stating that it is the view of the vast majority of Democrats that Israel had no legal or moral justification for their recent bombing of Lebanon in response to the unprovoked kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. The quotes are from an interview Carter gave to Der Spiegel, a widely-read German magazine. In fact, as you probably can guess, they're highly misleading and were given in answer to two separate questions. In short, the first quote is Carter's own view. The second is given in answer to a more general question. In short, it is not clear at all that the vast majority of Democrats agree with Carter's views on Israel.

This is accompanied by poll results suggesting that while 84 percent of rank-and-file Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Arab states, only 43 percent of Democrats do. (It's a reasonable question to ask how they came up with this, since news reports of the poll did not include breakdowns by party.)

At any rate, one might think that the Democratic Party is abandoning Israel. Of course, it's not; the recent congressional resolution in support of Israel during the war in Lebanon was passed by an overwhelming majority of Democrats.

I wrote that the RJC ad is irresponsible. Here is why:

Israel is a bipartisan issue. It has been that way for at least a generation. It must, for the good of Israel, stay that way. Responsible Jewish party politicking has usually been based on those issues in party platforms which actually distinguish the parties. Taxes, social programs, domestic legislation - these are the types of things we're talking about. But not Israel. The parties agree on Israel, and there is all the evidence in the world if one looks at Congressional votes, the only ones that matter.

The danger in politicizing Israel in the way the RJC has done it is twofold. In the first place, it is plainly offensive to suggest, as the RJC does, that Jews should vote for political candidates on Israel alone. Our community does not need this image, and we don't deserve it. If, as the RJC claims, the radical left is becoming a force in the Democratic Party, the Party, including those opposed to the Iraq War, isn't listening to it, at least where Israel is concerned. Ned Lamont is a good example. Despite the fact that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson stood behind him after his defeat of Joe Lieberman, Lamont says "It is not for the United States to dictate to Israel how it defends itself . . .We should not seek to impose a resolution on Israel." It is true that Lamont believes that the US should work to achieve a peace settlement, but this hardly defines him as anti-Israel.

It is furthermore irresponsible, and frankly reprehensible, to use Israel to divide the Jewish community in order to get votes.

The second is that in our polarized political atmosphere, there is the danger of polarizing political pronouncements becoming self-fulfilling prophesies. If a party tries to define itself as holier-than-thou on a political issue, there may be a temptation for the other party to define itself in opposition. Parties have little use for positions which get them nowhere with voters. The Democratic Party is not anti-Israel. But like any other issue, if the Democratic Party sees an opportunity to define themselves as anti-Israel as a way to get votes, the opposing party defining itself as the "pro-Israel" party will only encourage them. Being pro-Israel is, thank G-d, a bipartisan position. Partisan political ads can only affect this state of affairs negatively because frankly, there is nothing to be gained in this atmosphere.

There should be a moratorium on partisan use of Israel by Republican and Jewish political party organizations. The New York board members of the National Jewish Democratic Council who also wrote to the Jewish Week had it right, it seems to me: "For the U.S.-Israel relationship to remain strong, support for Israel must come from across all political lines. Jewish Democrats invite Jewish Republicans to join us in educating and working to strengthen the strategic bi-partisan support for Israel. "

Anyway, my letter (and theirs) will be available for this week here.


At 4:26 PM, Blogger The Town Crier said...

Kudos for the letter. Its a good thing people did not by this stuff.
I have a long rant on the ad campaign on the town crier site.


Post a Comment

<< Home