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SENTRY JOURNAL » America, Democrats, Helen Thomas, israel, jeremiah wright, Jews, judaism, mishnah, norman podhoertz, rashid khalidi, Republicans, zionism » Why Jews are Democrats

Why Jews are Democrats

by RightHandMan

Why are Jews Democrats? This question was posed to me by John days ago. In the context of the current headlines the alliance seems counter productive and even combative. With Helen Thomas telling Jews to get out of Israel and go back to Germany (presumably their “home land”), Obama’s alignment with antisemites such as Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi, and the democrat’s tendency to be less aligned with Israel than Republicans, it would seem that the GOP would be a safe house for Jewish Americans. So why do 75%+ of American Jews vote democrat in the polls?

The answer to this question has many layers. The most misunderstood element in this posed question is is in regards to the difference between Judaism and the Jewish people. Being Jewish doesn’t necessarily mean that you follow the Jewish religion and belonging to Judaism doesn’t necessarily mean that you descend from Jews. It is important to understand that these are two distinct entities before we dive into the question at hand. Many combine the two and their misconception of “a Jew” is contrived from a narrow definition. In fact, there are many sects of Judaism from very liberal to ultra conservative and there are many Jews who have no alliance to the religion whatsoever.

The next layer is in regards to politics. Are Jews more influenced by fiscal, social, or foreign politics? The truth is that their viewpoints are varied like most ethnic/religious groups. Orthodox Judaism is very conservative on some issues (homosexuality, abortion, sanctity of life) and liberal on others (social welfare, anti-war, government regulation), but most Jews don’t consider themselves Orthodox or even religious. Most modern secular Jews or reform Jews align themselves more with a “secular morality” than the biblical or rabbinical moralities that were established by the Jewish Bible or Mishnah.

Norman Podhoertz said it best in the Wall Street Journal, “All this applies most fully to Jews who are Jewish only in an ethnic sense. Indeed, many such secular Jews, when asked how they would define “a good Jew,” reply that it is equivalent to being a good liberal.”

Of course almost all Jews have some kind of intrinsic connection to Israel. The older generations were more prone to a Zionist philosophy that stemmed from either a Biblical promise or a generic hope during turmoil (ie. Spanish Inquisition, Holocaust, Crusades, Roman diaspora, Babylonian exile, etc.). Modern generations don’t have to face persecution, flee from a murderous enemy, or worry about mass exile and they therefore have little need for a promised land and the zealous tie to Israel has waned. Jews have also become more secular over the last several decades and therefore less concerned with the religious foundation for Israel’s existence. There are even those who sympathise with the Palestinians and believe that Israel should abandon their “occupation in Gaza and the West Bank“.

The point here is that Israel’s concerns have less pull with Jews than most think. Their allegiance to a liberal philosophy is stronger than it is to a distant land that most have never seen and never will. It is quite possible (and ironic) that Israel’s existence and future is more of a concern to the fundamental philosophy of Christians than it is to Jews. Christians still have a religious tie and Messianic hope for the land whereas Jewish secularism has mostly abandoned Judaic hopes.

One way that could change is by an unfortunate tragedy against the Jewish people. The historic cycle has been mostly the same for Judaism, even in Biblical times. The Jewish people fall away from Judaic observance, tragedy strikes against the people and then they come back to their first principles. Even on the heels of the exodus from Egypt the Jewish people were quick to forget the harshness of Egypt and lose site of the promise of Israel. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?”

Like those in the desert with Moses, some modern Jews have forgotten too quickly the tragedies of the past. This is what allows Helen Thomas to say such nonsense like she did earlier this week. More unfortunate is that most of the world doesn’t see the tragedy that already takes place in Israel today.

Furthermore, the zealousness of Israel’s enemies far outweighs the passion of her supporters. In 2001, the late Zola Levitt visited my synagogue. He showed us an interview he had with a Palestinian/PLO member. Zola asked him why the Palestinians have claim to the land. The man said that the Palestinians had been there for 2000 years. Zola responded to him that the Jews have claims dating back to 1272, over 3,000 years ago. The man responded, “If they’ve been there 3,000 years, we have been there 4,000 years.”

Americans, Democrats or Republicans, are still the last best allies for the nation of Israel today. There are allies and enemies of the nation on both sides of the political aisle – but the number of supporters in America far outweigh those outside of America. Also, the enemies within America are a small threat compared to those both surrounding and within the nation of Israel. America’s withdrawal of support would obviously be terrible for Israel as a nation, but complete destruction of the nation is on the agenda for her more egregious and proximate enemies.

American Jews still support Israel, but it isn’t as big an issue as most Americans think. A Jewish voter isn’t likely to vote against a pro-choice, big government, socialist leaning candidate because the candidate is anti-Israel (not that any serious candidate would come out as anti-Israel). American Jews, like most groups, are not simplistic one-issue individuals. They may some day flip on the Democratic Party, but if they do it will be based on principle, not Israel.

…That is unless a great tragedy finds its way to Israel and her people again (G-d forbid it), and then all bets are off.

Filed under: America, Democrats, Helen Thomas, israel, jeremiah wright, Jews, judaism, mishnah, norman podhoertz, rashid khalidi, Republicans, zionism

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  • John Carey June 5, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    Good post Right. Thanks for clearing it up.

  • Right Hand Man June 5, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    HA! Thanks for giving me a place to do so.

  • Kristin June 6, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    Thank you for a great post. This is something that has been troubling me. I see the Jews voting for the same people who want to ensure their destruction and this time, the destruction of Christianity as well.

    In my view, we are treading down a path that was taken less than a hundred years ago and lead to deadly and disastrous ends. It's a wonder that more people don't see it.