Let the Parties Compete on Which is More Supportive of Israel!
By Jonathan Tobin
Jewish Democrats Squirm as Republican Ads Highlight the Growing Influence of Anti-Israel MoveOn Leftists in the Democratic Party, But It's a Legitimate Election Issue; Taking Israel Off the Table is Not in the Community's Interest
JWR - Something interesting has been happening in British politics this year that ought to gain the attention of Americans, including those who generally have no interest in the subject.
What has happened is that
Recently, William Hague, the Tory spokesman on foreign affairs, denounced
The Tory's decision to flip on
What all this means is that although British support for Israel has been tepid even at its height, an era in which the last three prime ministers (Conservatives Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and then Blair) had been backers of the Jewish state, and desirous of Jewish votes on that basis, is likely over. The large Muslim vote is up for grabs - seemingly making hostility to
What has that to do with anything going on here? The answer is perhaps more than many of us think.
The loudest debate going on in the American Jewish world the last couple of months has to do with the renewed attempt of the Republican Party to make inroads among Jewish voters on the basis of its support for Israel, and what it contends is the less than exemplary record of its Democratic foes.
To that end, the Republican Jewish Coalition — a Jewish GOP support group — has been placing ads in Jewish publications around the country skewering the Democrats and painting their own party as the good guys on
The reaction from large segments of a Jewish community, in which the overwhelming majority of its members are reliable supporters of the Democrats, has been emotional and angry. They are appalled at the idea that Republicans would have the chutzpah to ask for their votes. The point isn't so much that they reject the content of the ads, but that they consider the entire exercise to be illegitimate.
Many seem to be echoing the line from the classic Broadway musical "Fiorello," in which the victory of a Republican congressional candidate in a Democratic district is greeted with dismay. Like that victory of future
Of course, perspective on the merit of the ads is obviously dependent on political affiliation.
The Republicans have a fair point when they note that anti-Israel leftists, such as those affiliated with the MoveOn.org group, have real pull within the Democratic Party these days. By comparison, anti-Israel figures on the right, like the odious Pat Buchanan, are bereft of influence in the current GOP. Moreover, the decline of the hawkish "Scoop Jackson" wing of the Democratic Party was finalized this past summer with the rejection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman by Connecticut Democrats.
Nevertheless, the Democrats are also right to point out that attempts to tar their party as anti-Israel are not true. Support for
What Jewish Democrats do need to do is to confront the strain of anti-Zionism growing on the left and in the anti-war movement, and ensure that it is kept out of the mainstream of their party. That is a task that will be even more important if, as now seems likely, the Democrats prevail in next month's congressional elections.
But Democrats are seeking to delegitimize the entire Reublican campaign with their claim that GOP attempts to use
KEEP THEM ACCOUNTABLE
What Democrats seem to want is for the entire issue to be taken off the table. That would give them a tactical advantage, but behind it lies the dubious notion that holding either party accountable for their performance on
Flash back to 1992, when Democrats made hay over the contemptible policies and behavior of the administration of the first President Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker toward
No matter which party you support, what we should strive for is accountability from them. And the only way to hold political parties accountable is to make them pay for mistakes or to reward them for good behavior at the ballot box. By contrast, if a key issue is taken out of the discussion, the parties will inevitably stop prioritizing it.
Those currently calling for
As different as
So let the parties debate which is the most ardent supporter of
JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the <>Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.