Last night I listened to many broadcasting accounts of the Republican victory in the special election to Congress from Brooklyn Tuesday, in which former TV executive Bob Turner made Obama’s policy re Israel a fighting issue and won; and one commentator after another played down the Israel angle.
Longtime liberal radio host Alan Chartock, Steve Israel (the Long Island congressman and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair), Hardball contributor Howard Fineman– all dismissed the Israel angle as just another thing that hurt David Weprin, the Democrat and loser.
This seems timid, unimaginative, and unresponsive to events. Turner will be representing an overwhelmingly-Democratic district. Nearly a third of the voters are Jewish, and not all are Hasidim. Many are bourgy, many are liberals. And so I ask whether it is not time to retire the late Milton Himmelfarb’s formulation, Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans. The other day many voted like tea-partiers, and Israel was a big factor.
Just look at the numbers at Brooklyn Politics: Of Jewish voters, 73 percent say they are Democrats, only 12 percent Republicans. And those Jewish voters don’t cotton to Obama: 56 percent disapproval/41 percent approval.
Earlier this year Isaac Luria formerly of J Street and Eric Alterman both insisted that Jews are still liberals. But they’re not liberals on Israel/Palestine. They are generally for the settlement enterprise, and against dividing Jerusalem. And when Israel becomes the issue in a campaign, they will expose this intolerant conservatism.
Chartock, Fineman and Israel said this is a one-off. I don’t buy it. I think the race will have large consequences. The fact that Jews are overwhelmingly Democratic and overwhelmingly down on Obama creates the potentiality that Obama will be primaried from the right, by a Joe Lieberman-type who makes Israel the issue. I say potentiality not possibility because I don’t think Obama and the party will allow it to happen; Obama will keep making rightwing signals on Israel.
But in Democratic circles these days, they must be worried about such a chance. Were Obama to be primaried on the right, the good thing would be that Chris Matthews would have to talk about the issue, the New York Times would have to report on the Israel lobby (as it did in a small item on the DNC making Jewish donors the third-most important issue other day)… and non-Zionist Americans would finally get to vent and be heard by the MSM…
Update: New York Times is honest about the consequences. Mark Landler:
The Democratic National Committee has established a Jewish outreach program. The campaign is singling out Jewish groups, donors and other supporters with calls and e-mails to counter the Republican narrative that Mr. Obama is hostile to Israel.
Among those efforts is a multi-page set of talking points circulated last Friday with the title, “President Obama’s Stance on Israel: Myths vs. Facts.” David Axelrod, a close Obama adviser, has sent e-mails to Jewish voters, pointing them to a speech by the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, praising Mr. Obama and saying he had deepened the military cooperation between the United States and Israel.
And the White House is drawing attention to recent expressions of gratitude from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israelis after Mr. Obama intervened last Friday to help prevent violence after a mob attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, threatening the Israeli diplomats inside.