Where Is the Jewish Money in Democratic Politics?

US Politics
on 3 Comments

Reporting on Lamont-Lieberman, the JTA gets at the crucial question of Jewish money in the race: “Jewish fund-raisers canvassed by JTA said they favored Lieberman — even those who profoundly disagree with him on Iraq.” Amazingly, even Steve Grossman, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, says he would support Lieberman running as an Independent if he loses to Ned Lamont in the Dem. primary. “[T]here has not been a greater champion of Israel and the well-being of the Jewish people,” Grossman said.

The JTA shows that even leaders of the Israel Policy Forum, which marks the “left” wing of mainstream Jewish organizational life, line up behind Lieberman, even when they share Lamont’s opposition to the Iraq War. “I differ with Lieberman on Iraq but I don’t think Democrats can afford to break ranks right now in the face of extreme right-wing control of the entire federal government,” said Alan Solomont, a Boston-based Jewish fund-raiser who is on IPF’s executive committee.

The question of Jewish money is important because so much of political fundraising, in the Democratic party especially, is Jewish: as much as 60 percent, according to the Washington Post. And Israel is evidently central to that giving. Ned Lamont has taken care to say nice things about Israel, but his insurgent antiwar vibe, and his support by the netroots, many of whom question the identification of Israeli and American interests, have made him suspect.

The solidification of big Jews behind Lieberman would seem to draw upon anxiety about the rising tide of questions about the influence of the Israel lobby. The Policy Forum may be fairly progressive, but its National Scholar, Steven Spiegel, a UCLA professor, took an aggressive stance against the recent Walt/Mearsheimer paper, arguing on the Diane Rehm show that the lobby doesn’t need to sell Israel to policymakers because it’s like selling ice cream: the same way “kids like ice cream cones, Americans like Israel”. (Tell that to the Arab-American demonstrators in Dearborn, MI).

One answer to the center-right claim is that mainstream organizational life doesn’t actually represent Jewish opinion. According to JTA’s poll of Connecticut Jews, they’re supporting Lamont over Lieberman 50 to 41. Or consider A Jewish Voice for Peace: the San Francisco-based group that has slammed Israel for its disproportionate response in Lebanon, and that attracts the money of leftleaning Jews (such as Craig Newmark, the populist genius behind Craigslist). The Policy Forum’s “News analysis,” released today, concludes with a moving statement calling for an end to occupation as part of the multilateral solution to the violence.

These voices are still muted ones. And will remain that way, till politicians feel they can raise questions about Israel and still raise money.

3 Responses

  1. Rowan Berkeley
    July 20, 2006, 1:33 am

    'the same way "kids like ice cream cones, Americans like Israel"' is true in the sense that zionist publicists have intelligently ensured that they have a large and fanatical gentile following which will demand of the pols that they 'support Israel' (the quote marks here are to remind that Israel may end up being 'supported' to death, like a fighter on steroids.)

  2. George Ajjan
    July 20, 2006, 2:33 pm

    The Democats draw upon "liberal urban elites" for a significant portion of their fundraising.

    An insider once described it to me as a "philanthropic mafia", in other words: "hey, Phil, I'm on the host committee for Lieberman's gala next week, they're asking $2K – care to join my table?" – "sure."

    Then next week, "hey, Jim, it's Phil here, listen, I've decided to help out Clinton, can I count on you?" – "my pleasure."

    If you look of fundraising for the Democratic Presidential candidates of 2004, all 9 of them, you will find the same people maxing out to several of the candidates, while they were in the heat of competition with one another.

    So I don't think, for the wealthy, that a campaign contribution necessarily means heart-and-soul support for that candidate, or a reflection of ideology, or even positions on the issues, or least of all: a vote.

    Contribution to candidates in many ways is systematic, not personal.

  3. katharine weber
    July 21, 2006, 10:38 pm

    As a three-quarter Jew (see previous columns) and a Connecticut resident, I am supporting Lamont, and know many others who are as well, in the hopes of driving Lieberman out of office at last. Lieberman will probably lose the Democrat nomination and then win the race anyway in November, but he really should run on the Golem Party line, since he is a faux Democrat invention of the Buckleys, created from mud in their own image long ago in a cynical attempt to destroy Weicker.

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