This Israeli Independence Day, American Jews face a choice (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS) BY RAFAEL MEDOFF 04/26/12)
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Articles-Index-Top
Every Independence Day in Israel’s history has been marked by a
combination of joy over the young state’s remarkable accomplishments
and worry over the intentions of the surrounding regimes. It’s not
easy living in a neighborhood with people who vow to destroy you,
especially when some of them are racing to develop nuclear weapons.
It is the threat of Iranian nukes — and Israeli anxiety over the
Obama administration’s response — that has cast something of a shadow
over the Jewish state on the occasion of its 64th birthday Thursday.
Jerusalem and Washington have been at odds for some time over how to
deal with Iran’s nuclear arms. President Obama believes sanctions and
negotiations will persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear arms
development. The Israelis are skeptical, pointing to Iran’s record of
breaking promises and ignoring commitments.
In recent weeks, this disagreement has taken on a nastier edge,
thanks to a series of leaks to the press that were apparently
intended to undermine Israel’s ability to strike at Iran’s nuclear
One leak quoted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealing Israel’s
approximate timetable for military action. A second quoted a
classified U.S. government study that supposedly concluded that an
Israeli strike would provoke Iranian attacks on Americans. A third
exposed an Israeli agreement with Azerbaijan that would have given
the Israelis a base from which to launch a raid on Iran.
The Obama administration has vehemently denied that it did the
But Gary Rosenblatt, longtime editor of the New York Jewish Week, one
of the largest American Jewish weekly newspapers, isn’t buying those
denials. “I have come to believe, reluctantly, that the
administration is leaking these stories to the press,” Rosenblatt
recently wrote, adding that this “strongly suggests that the
President views Israel as more of a nuisance rather than a partner
regarding Iran, and perhaps the wider Mideast conflict.”
Rosenblatt stopped just short of calling the President a liar.
Naturally, one does not use such language when referring to the
President. Still, Rosenblatt’s challenge is clear. The President says
he “has Israel’s back,” yet someone seemingly high up in his
administration appears to be leaking stories to undermine Israel.
If a political centrist and widely respected figure such as
Rosenblatt is losing faith in Obama, that could be a sign of a shift
in the Jewish community away from its traditional overwhelmingly
Polls show a slight weakening of support among Jews nationwide. If that accelerates, a shift could have a big impact on this year’s presidential election. Jewish voters, while relatively small in number, vote in greater proportion than other ethnic groups and are concentrated in areas that are crucial in a national election, including tossup states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In a close race, any one of those states could decide who will be our next President.
For a generation, Jews, who tend to fall on the liberal side of the spectrum, have been considered nearly automatic Democratic voters.
It is true that going all the way back to the 1930s, Democrats could take for granted that few Jews would vote Republican. The GOP was widely perceived in the Jewish community as the party of country clubs, WASP culture and indifference to Jewish concerns.
But my research shows the story to be more complicated. Herbert Hoover’s postpresidential years indicate that he and the Republicans were to some extent unfairly stereotyped by U.S. Jews. For example, Hoover endorsed unpopular legislation in 1939 that would have admitted 20,000 German Jewish children. President Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to support the measure.
During the Holocaust, Hoover and other leading Republicans helped publicize news of the Nazi atrocities and pressed Roosevelt to rescue Jewish refugees. The Republican Party in 1944 adopted a plank in its platform supporting Jewish statehood — the first time either party had taken that stand. That forced the Democrats to adopt a similar plank.
In recent years, Israelis are deeply appreciative of the support they have received across the breadth of America’s political spectrum. They vividly recall how Democrats and Republicans alike gave numerous standing ovations to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he addressed Congress last year. Thursday, as they mark their Independence Day, they pray the sentiment exhibited on Capitol Hill will prevail in Washington when the crisis with Iran reaches its boiling point.
Medoff is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and co-author, with Prof. Sonja Schoepf Wentling, of the new book “Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel.” (© Copyright 2012 NYDailyNews.com. 04/26/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY