Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency is a good journalist to acknowledge the murmur in the discourse, Why is “Jewish influence” so “pervasive” in our political culture? But his answer (below), that Jews are engaged constituents who go out into the freezing rain to leaflet, is pure mystification.
Kampeas purports to be dealing with Middle East policy– “The lobby– a crash course” is his headline.
This is a legitimate and important question, and any honest answer would first engage the matter of our wealth, that we are the richest group by religion in the U.S., as Ynet has shown. And that we give more than half the Democratic presidential donations, per the Washington Post, and now the Wall Street Journal warns that the Republicans are peeling off “Jewish donors” from Obama. Over Israel.
An honest answer would also speak of Jewish numbers in the media. Consider: An American politician is told that Jews love Israel, and then he wanders out into a media terrain heavily populated by Jews, from Andrea Mitchell to Howard Fineman to Tom Friedman to David Brooks to Rob’t Bazell (I’m guessing) to both hosts of All Things Considered, and so forth– well that politician is going to love Israel too!
The problem, I insist, is not Jewish numbers. Societies have elites, they always have. The problem is that there is not an open discussion of Jewish attitudes on the Jewish state, that war has not broken out inside that elite over two simple questions: Do you feel unsafe in America? Do you feel a need for a Jewish state to escape to if things get too hot over here? That is an essential conversation for Jews to have. In the meantime, we are simply in denial about our success inside American society, and our safety. And Kampeas, who owns property in the Israeli occupation, is hardly a reliable guide on these questions. His take:
I’m forced to deal with, more frequently than anyone could possibly stand, theories of why Jewish influence is so pervasive in the United States.
Is it money, is it threats of ostracism, or is it just that America loves Zion?
A little of each, maybe, but the answer is so wonkish, it defies sexiness: Jews are involved politically.
We join together as a community and we contribute a chunk of our earnings to pay folks to insert themselves into the political process through lobbying and activism. Beyond that, we volunteer our hours to activism and lobbying.
AIPAC is persuasive, above all, because it can get 6,000-plus people up to the Hill each year.
But the key is the holistic quality of the involvement: Every election, every decision is important.
And not just about Israel, about everything: Immigration, health, religious freedoms, the economy.
None of it is made up, or faked.
Politicians listen to Jews because Jews tend to ask them incisive questions, on just about everything.
As anyone who has leafleted a suburb in a freezing November rain will explain to you, there is no better match made than that between a pol and an involved constituent.