Yesterday I did my usual angst-ridden tapdance as I wrote that we need to talk about "Jewish money" in American politics. Here are Jim Lobe and M.J. Rosenberg speaking logically about the issue in a recent post by Lobe, which shows how even delicate issues can be addressed by smart journalists.
Despite their relatively small number – about two percent of the total U.S. population and about three percent of voters in most elections, Jewish Americans are major donors to political campaigns, accounting for as much as 25 percent of all financial contributions to national campaigns and as much as 40 percent of all contributions to Democratic candidates, in particular.
They are also widely – if often mistakenly – seen by political candidates as virtually unconditional supporters of Israel prepared to reward or punish candidates based on their positions on the Jewish state.
"Every Democrat assumes that the biggest discernible group that contributes to their campaign is Jews," according to M.J. Rosenberg, a Middle East analyst who worked for the most powerful Lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in the 1980s.
"…(I)f a donor has a Jewish name, or is known to be Jewish, the assumption is that he or she is pro-Israel and will be offended by any deviation from the [Lobby’s] line," he said.
A few comments. The old dodge was, Jewish voters were in key states. The great thing about Lobe’s post is that it dispenses with this hypocrisy. Lobe’s 40 percent to Dems has been estimated at 60 percent for Democratic presidential candidates, by the Washington Post. Also, Lobe’s statement that political candidates are often mistaken in regarding the Jewish community as monolithic on the Israel question, well, I differ from my good friend here. As the J Street experience shows, the Jewish community has been overwhelmingly supportive of rightwing Israeli policies. Has any candidate shown that individual Jewish donors, as Jews, are going to support liberal policies vis-a-vis Palestinians? I don’t see it. Yes we are building a movement inside Jewish life to oppose existing policies. But how significant is it?
Finally, isn’t it interesting that the Wikipedia entry on the Israel lobby describes it as chiefly Christian? What an irresponsible dodge. Until the Jewish community takes responsibility for its role in Israel’s militarism — as leading Zionist historian Melvin Urofsky did, when he wrote a book called We Are One!, and described the relationship between American Jews and Israel as a "marriage"– we won’t be able to get out of this political puzzle. In the end, it really does involve Jewish identity.