. Democrats, Try to Avoid This One Self-Inflicted Wound in 2020
. As Democrats go about trying to choose the best candidate to confront Donald Trump in what may be our last chance to stop the destruction of the political system of the United States, it would be nice if Democrats avoid needlessly alienating one of its most loyal constituencies — American Jews. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Peter Buttigieg have taken positions which, in other years, might have had American Jews just whistle past the graveyard, hold their noses and vote Democratic from the top of the ticket to the bottom.
. These are not other years.
. Ever since the New Deal, American Jews have voted Democratic in presidential elections by large majorities. Since 1988, no Republican candidate has gotten even one-third of the Jewish vote for president in any election (in 1988, George H.W. Bush got 35%). Although American Jews represent approximately 3% of the population, their registration and voting rate of 90% of eligible voters is far in excess of the registration levels of any other religious group. They raise and contribute large sums of money for Democratic candidates at all levels, and are extremely active in organizing political campaigns and getting out the vote. In normal circumstances, Jewish activity on behalf of the Democratic Party would be a given and would not merit much discussion.
. These are not normal circumstances.
. Over the last several years, the number of anti-Semitic incidents has greatly increased in the United States. In 2017, the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia alarmed Jews when they saw and heard marchers shout: “Jews will not replace us.” The attacks on synagogues in Pennsylvania in California were clearly the work of right-wing extremists. Most members of the Jewish community attributed the increase in hatred on the right to the perceived failure of President Trump to forcefully respond to these incidents with a broad-based attack on the whole concept of white nationalism and in failing to work for national unity. These factors, in addition to the typical liberal distaste for much of the Trump program, would ordinarily point to an even higher level of involvement of American Jews on behalf of the Democratic Party in 2020.
. Unfortunately, beginning almost immediately after the election of Donald Trump, there has been a growth in the left wing of the Democratic Party of acceptance of attacks on the state of Israel for perceived improper acts against the Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank. There is also been a growth in sympathy for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on many college campuses and among young progressives. There have been numerous reports of students, whether they were Jewish or not, who attempted to speak in favor of Israel facing not only verbal but also physical attacks on campuses around the country. While the vast majority of Democratic members of Congress continue to be supportive of both Israel and of the First. Amendment, several newer members, including the two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018, are highly critical of Israel and, in the case of Ilhan Omar, open in engaging in making what could be seen as anti-Semitic comments. The motion to condemn Omar’s language was so meek that Omar voted for it. On top of that, the end of 2019 was marred by numerous attacks on Orthodox Jews in New York, at least one of which was carried out by an Afro-American man.
. It’s not just neo-Nazis anymore. And the frequency and the severity of the attacks are increasing.
. At this time, I am not going to go into a lengthy exposition of my views on Israel or the Middle East or the progressive movement in America. I am merely going to make some observations concerning political realities.
. Bernie Sanders has designated Linda Sarsour as one of his surrogates. She is a long-time advocate of anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian causes. Her role in the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration was one of the reasons that movement underwent a major split right after the march. As was reported recently: “Sarsour appears at the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine, and says in a speech at the Chicago event that Zionists, not pro-Palestinian advocates, should be on the defensive. In particular, she calls out progressive Zionists, suggesting they have no place in the larger progressive movement. (The blog Israelly Cool first reported the Facebook posting with the video of Sarsour’s remarks.)” https://www.jta.org/2019/12/02/politics/linda-sarsour-backs-bernie-sanders-but-not-his-support-for-israel . In all fairness, Sanders has spoken recently of his respect for Israel, but the presence of this well-known anti-Israel activist as a surrogate for Sanders makes one question whether he might be tempted to pressure Israel in ways we should not pressure a friendly nation.
. According to the October 21, 2019 edition of The Hill, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/466661-warren-cutting-aid-to-israel-on-the-table-in-response-to-settlement: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Saturday said that she was open to making aid to Israel conditional on whether the government ceases settlement building in the West Bank.
“Right now, Netanyahu says he is going to take Israel in a direction of increasing settlements, [but] that does not move us in the direction of a two-state solution,” Warren responded when asked what her stance was on aid and settlement-building.
“It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table,” she said, before repeating: “Everything is on the table.”
. According to the June 11, 2019 edition of the New York Post, https://nypost.com/2019/06/11/pete-buttigieg-would-block-us-aid-if-israel-annexes-west-bank/ :
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said on Tuesday that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu carries out his plan to annex settlements in the West Bank he would if elected ensure no US taxpayer funds support the move.
”If Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a President Buttigieg would take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill,” he said during a speech at Indiana University.
. Contrast that with the position of former Vice-President Joe Biden. On December 7, 2019, the Associated Press reported:
OELWEIN, Iowa (AP) — Joe Biden said Saturday that it is “bizarre” for Bernie Sanders to propose withholding U.S. military aid from Israel if the government there doesn’t moderate its treatment of Palestinians.
The remarks highlight a nuanced but significant distinction between the Democratic presidential contenders. Biden and Sanders support a “two-state solution” for Israel and the Palestinians, and both men have criticized political leaders on each side of the long-standing conflict. But Biden’s take, offered during a question-and-answer session with Iowa voters, hewed a more traditional U.S. establishment line by reaffirming a financial commitment to Israel regardless of its actions toward Palestinians.
The former vice president, while casting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “counterproductive” and “extreme right” leader and accused Palestinian leaders of “fomenting” the conflict and “baiting everyone who is Jewish,” while suggesting that some on the U.S. political left give the Palestinian Authority “a pass” when criticizing Israeli leadership.
“In terms of Bernie and others who talk about dealing with Zionism, I strongly support Israel as an independent Jewish state,” Biden said in rural northeastern Iowa. He added, “The idea that I’d withdraw military aid, as others have suggested, from Israel, is bizarre. I would not do that. It’s like saying to France, ‘Because you don’t agree with us, we’re going to kick you out of NATO.”
. The 2020 election will be hard fought. According to the news on January 2, 2020, Trump not only out raised every other Democrat in the fourth quarter of 2019, he already has over one hundred million dollars on hand. Assuming Trump is not removed from office by a Senate trial or a New York State prosecution, he will present himself as vindicated. He will accept foreign help, raise money any way he can, and put the Democrats through the wringer as many times as he can. While people think of Jews as living only in New York, that is not true. For instance, consider these 2016 battlefield states which together have 75 electoral votes. The listing will be: state, 2016 percentage vote margin, 2016 popular vote margin, number of electoral votes, number of Jews living in that state, and the approximate number of Jews who will vote in that state in 2020:
Michigan. 0.3%. 13,080 votes. 16 electoral votes. 87,905 Jews. 35,162votes
New Hampshire. 0.4%. 2,701 votes. 4 electoral votes. 10,120 Jews. 4,048 votes
Pennsylvania. 1.2%. 68,236 votes. 20 electoral votes. 298,240 Jews. 119,296 votes
Florida. 1.2%. 114,445 votes. 29 electoral votes. 629,120 Jews. 251,648 votes
Nevada. 2.4%. 26,434 votes. 6 electoral votes. 76,300 Jews. 30,520 votes
. Now I ask my Democratic colleagues: Does having a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel Presidential nominee make any sense? Does having Democratic members of Congress write a letter to Secretary Pompeo attacking the U.S. government for accepting that Israel has a different view of the law governing Gaza and the West Bank than we do make political sense? Can’t Democrats keep their eyes on the prize for once?