The Democratic Party has been a congenial political home for many American Jews since the era of FDR. The party welcomed them into its ranks (along with many blacks and urban dwellers) and its programs comported well with many values Jews cherish. The Party was also seen as one that had offered help to the doomed Jews of Europe, opposed prejudice, and supported the fledgling state of Israel from enemies that boasted of its plans to destroy the state.
Conversely, the Republican Party was perceived to be a WASP enclave, isolationist in its outlook, and weak on support for Israel (though George C. Marshall under the Truman Administration advocated abandoning Israel to the tender mercies of its Arab neighbors).
However, these views are now anachronistic and need to be revisited.
Developments in the Democratic Party bode ill for the Jewish people and for the state of Israel – home of up to 40% of the world’s remaining Jewish population. The rank and file of the Party has become increasingly anti-Semitic and support for Israel has noticeably fallen. Democratic Congressmen have reflected this trend in very visible ways: their votes and actions in Congress reveal that support for Israel has eroded in alarming ways. Furthermore, more than a few Democratic Congressman have openly made statements that are either clearly anti-Semitic or can be fairly construed to be at least, “anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent”.
These disconcerting trends can be observed by a bottom-up approach: looking at the grassroots base of the Democratic Party, how these views are expressed in Congress, and how the Democratic leadership has responded to these developments. Since the House of Representatives appears to be headed toward a Democratic majority and certain key Chairmanships will fall into the hands of Democrats with anti-Israel histories, these trends will have very serious implications for Jews and for the state of Israel.
The rise of the internet as a political force is a widely heralded phenomena. Political blogs have achieved a high level of influence in the Democratic Party-certainly more so than in the Republican Party. They also provide a very visible means to take the tone of the Democratic electorate and for Jews; this should strike a discordant tone. As several pundits have noted, the blogs have become a hot bed for anti-Semitic sentiments.
In this Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bill Clinton’s former Special Counsel, Lanny Davis expressed his distress at the increasing tide of anti-Semitism and vitriol spewing forth from Democratic blogs. Examples he noted:
• “Ned Lamont and his supporters need to [g]et real busy. Ned needs to beat Lieberman to a pulp in the debate and define what it means to be an American who is NOT beholden to the Israeli Lobby” (by “rim,” posted on Huffington Post, July 6, 2006).
• “Joe’s on the Senate floor now and he’s growing a beard. He has about a weeks growth on his face. . . . I hope he dyes his beard Blood red. It would be so appropriate” (by “ctkeith,” posted on Daily Kos, July 11 and 12, 2005).
• On “Lieberman vs. Murtha”: “as everybody knows, jews [sic] ONLY care about the welfare of other jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact, so that we might better ignore all that jewish propaganda [by Lieberman] about participating in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on” (by “tomjones,” posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).
• “Good men, Daniel Webster and Faust would attest, sell their souls to the Devil. Is selling your soul to a god any worse? Leiberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. Hell, his wife’s name is Haggadah or Muffeletta or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover” (by “gerrylong,” posted on the Huffington Post, July 8, 2006).
Hugh Hewitt has also noted the anti-Semitic feelings lighting up the Democratic blogs.
Cartoons more suitable in Iranian street protests calling for the destruction of Israel, have graced the pages of Daily Kos (the leading, by page views, Democratic blog) . Other greatest hits on Daily Kos include entries extolling the benefit to the world if Israel did not exist, another praising “the Iranian President” for being “absolutely right to suggest that Israel cease being a sovereign state as is”, and others suggesting Israel commits terrorism on a daily basis.
Lest these commentators be dismissed as a lunatic fringe, national surveys show a very clear decline in support for Israel among all Democrats. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in late July showed a strong gap between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to support for Israel. Among Republicans, an overwhelming 84% say they sympathize more with Israel than Arab states (which 1% of Republicans sympathize with) compared to just 43% of Democrats who do so (12% sympathize with Arab states).
These declines are confirmed by a separate Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll regarding views towards Hezbollah, the genocide preaching terror group that launched yet another attack on Israel two months ago leading to a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah. Regarding whether America should align itself with Israel, Democrats support neutrality over alignment, 54% to 39%. By comparison, Republicans strongly supported alignment with Israel, 64% to 29%.
While it may be true that netizens within the Democratic Party harbor more extreme views than Democrats, their extremism seems to be shifting the Democratic Party toward their more extreme views. In a superb Weekly Standard article (“Bad Company: Is the left-wing blogosphere a growing political force or an electoral burden?”), Dean Barnett analyzes the dynamics behind this pull on the Democratic Party by bloggers and their activist fan clubs.
Several developments highlight the impact these blogs have had on the Democratic Party. Howard Dean’s presidential candidacy was fueled by funds raised from netizens, and when his campaign fizzled he was able to use support from the blogosphere to assume Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. The yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas has drawn Democratic political leaders and presidential aspirants who come to pay homage to the Kossaks.
Is it a sign of the times, that Kos took pride in sabotaging two campaigns in particular: those of Martin Frost (the moderate – and Jewish – Democrat from Texas who had hoped to become the DNC Chair) and Senator Joe Lieberman – perhaps, America’s most widely respected Jewish Senator?
The strength of the bloggers and those who follow them derives from their “intensity”. When used in the world of politics, intensity refers to the level of activity and devotion that partisans apply to campaigns. Even when relatively small in number, small groups that have high “intensity” can have a huge impact on politics in America.
The internet, because of its low costs, has allowed the power of small donations, multiplied by hundreds of thousands of donors, to rise within the Democratic Party. Moreover, and more importantly, such extreme partisans can be relied-upon to be the unpaid foot soldiers involved in the crucial get-out-the-vote efforts that are often the deciding factors in campaigns. Perhaps it is not surprising that Democratic leaders and presidential aspirants Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mark Warner, John Kerry have all tried to curry favor with the netizens, a group that seem to be increasingly corrupted by anti-Semitism.
Moreover, the increasing proliferation and importance of so-called 527 groups may play a roll in the increasing anti-Israel attitudes within the Democratic Party base. These are groups that can engage in partisan advocacy campaigns about the “issues”. While purportedly forbidden from targeting individual candidates, they have in fact been used in this manner.
They are also a useful means to skirt federal laws limiting the amount individuals can give to federal campaigns. However, they can also utilize another loophole: donors to these 527 campaigns do not have to be disclosed and they can also be foreigners. Are anti-Israel governments funding these advocacy groups? Arab oil billionaires have certainly found the means to influence public opinion by purchasing stakes in media properties and paying lavishly for news service feeds to their own networks and publications, endowing universities, and hiring former government officials with a view to influencing current policies. The logical step would be to cover all the bases: including those of the Democratic Party.*
Congress Politicians are very attuned to public opinion polls and always have a wet finger to the wind to determine which way they should be swayed. Again, political partisans are not only the most likely voters, but also the most energized activists who can be utilized during political campaigns as cheap labor. However, more than a few Democratic Congressmen seem to be ignoring the maxim “do no harm” and have taken the lead in comments and actions that should be disconcerting to every Jewish person (and every American).
• James Moran (D-Va.) felt free in 2003 to state that the leaders of America’s Jewish community sent America into war in Iraq to benefit Israel. These comments were echoed by Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings (now retired) who, on the floor of the Senate, said that Bush had sent the country to war in order to win “Jewish votes” – this despite the fact that American Jews opposed the war by greater percentages than the rest of America and that they vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. This is the type of high-level analysis popular on neo-Nazi websites and Arab terror group. Oh, and on leading Democratic blogs, too.
• Cynthia McKinney ran a stridently anti-Semitic campaign in 2002; when she was defeated in that campaign she blamed the Jews for her defeat (her father, who also has a history of anti-Semitism, spelled out publicly who was responsible “J-E-W-S”). She had also objected to the Bush Administration pull out from the Durban Conference against racism when it became clear it had turned into an anti-Semitic hate-fest. She has also been the recipient of a high level of Arab-American political donations, some linked to terror-supporting groups or individuals.
• McKinney’s colleague Alabama Democratic Earl Hilliard had a history of anti-Israel positions and used anti-Semitism to appeal to his constituents. His opponent was Artur Davis. Hilliard’s campaign slogan was “Davis and the Jews, bad for the black belt”. Hilliard was defeated a few years ago, as was McKinney. However, McKinney was re-elected in the next cycle. She continued her anti-Israel activities in the current term, but was defeated and will not be serving in the next Congress. One can speculate “she will be back”.
• Charles Rangel stated, “the Iraq war was the biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country just as bad as six million Jews being killed” (Democratic Senator Durbin also made facile and insensitive comparisons of the torture and murder meted out by the Nazis to the actions of a few wayward guards at Abu Ghraib). Rangel has a history of tangling with the Anti-Defamation League but blames his problems with the ADL on their desire to create controversy to raise money.
• Leading Democratic Congressman John Conyers is on the House Judiciary Committee and held a mock impeachment hearing to criticize President Bush. The hearing did much more than that, however. Conyers called “expert witnesses” who had histories of peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories regarding the “cabal that controls the White House.”
• The meeting was attended by 30 Democratic Congressmen. One of the witnesses, Ray McGovern, declared that the US went to war for
“Oil, Israel, and military bases coveted by neocons so that the US and Israel could dominate that part of the world”.
He also said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was “doing the bidding of Ariel Sharon”, Israel’s Prime Minister at the time. The aforementioned James Moran cheered him on, despite (or because of?) McGovern admitted that a former head of the CIA had characterized him as being anti-Semitic. While this inquisition was underway, activists were handing out anti-Semitic leaflets at the Democratic National Campaign headquarters-where the proceedings were being telecast.
• The most senior Democrat from Michigan, John Dingell, declared himself ambivalent about which side he wanted to win in the war between Hezb’allah and Israel. Hezb’allah has in its charter that its goal is a genocide against the Jews (not “just” the destruction of Israel. Hezb’allah is the number one terror group in the world. It has killed hundreds of innocent Jews in Argentina, hundreds of Americans sent to Lebanon as peace-keepers, and makes clear its desire to continue such “good works”.
Nevertheless, Dingell states that ‘ I don’t take sides for or against Hezb’allah, or for and against Israel”. He has certainly shown it during his years in Congress, where he has compiled an anti-Israel voting record. Perhaps he is being educated on the issues by the websites that he linked to on his own official website: they included groups support Hezb’allah (when these links were publicized, Dingell took them down).
• Jim McDermott, the Democratic Congressman from Washington, enjoyed his moment in the sun by traveling to Iraq before the war started to support Saddam Hussein. This particular travel junket was paid for by an Arab-American “charity” group recently raided by the FBI and IRS. The federal government is investigating the group, which it suspects violated sanctions regarding doing business with Iraq.
• The Democratic nominee for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth District is a Black Muslim who has a long history of anti-Semitism that he has tried to obfuscate by a variety of means-including name changes and pseudonyms. He seems to be following the Cynthia McKinney playbook.
• Neil Abercrombie is a Democratic Congressman from Hawaii who takes such pride in his anti-Israel stance that he was the sole “No” in a Resolution that stated that America should never give foreign aid to a Palestinian government if it is controlled by people calling for Israel’s destruction. He also was one of 8 members who voted “No” on House Resolution 921 that defended Israel’s right to defend itself against Hezbollah. See also “Neil Abercrombie, D-Hezbollah” on Front Page Magazine for a further analysis of his voting record.
Other prominent Democrats who may not currently serve but certainly have sway within the party include such anti-Israel and anti-Semitic luminaries as Jesse Jackson (who described New York City as “Hymietown” and said he “was sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust”) and the Reverend Al Sharpton who led an anti-Semitic pogrom in Harlem and rails against “diamond merchants” and “bloodsuckers” in black communities. Both of these figures flanked Ned Lamont during his speech when he declared victory against Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut.
Of course, Jimmy Carter is the elder statesman of the Democratic Party. He had pride of place at the Democratic National Convention. His anti-Israel stances are by now widely known through innumerable op-eds and speeches he has given (his new book will be titled “Palestine: Peace or Apartheid” ) that are basically screeds against Israel. Little-appreciated is that he held these views, and others that can be construed as anti-Semitic, during his Presidency. According to Cyrus Vance, his Secretary of State, had Carter won a second term he “would have sold Israel down the river”
These anecdotes might give a flavor regarding the views of the Democratic Party. However, the plural of anecdote is not data and it would certainly be more probative to look at voting trends among Democratic members of Congress, with the focus on the House of Representatives. Since Senators are voted in to office by statewide votes, they tend to have more moderate voting records because they must appeal to a large variety of people.
Representatives, on the other hand, are elected by voters in their districts and these are often gerrymandered to ensure incumbents’ reelections. The unfortunate side effect is that Representatives can become hostages to extreme activist groups within their districts.To be re-elected time and time again they often engage in a type of hyperptrophism: they become more ardent supporters of the views of these groups than they otherwise would be, had they been incumbents in more broadly drawn districts (hence, some of the more anti-Israel Representatives have districts with large Arab-American populations such as around Detroit (in particular Dearborn, which has been nicknamed Dearbornistan), Toledo, and certain areas of California.
Recent voting patterns among Democrats regarding legislation impacting the US-Israel alliance are discouraging.
The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act was an attempt to funnel aid to the Palestinians in a way that did not empower terror groups and encouraged peaceful negotiations with Israel. While the House passed it in May of this year, 37 votes were cast against it (because they objected to the restrictions carefully designed to prevent the use of the aid to commit terror attacks). Thirty-one of them were from Democrats (the “Nos” included Abercrombie, Dingell, Moran, David Obey, Nick Rahall). Of the 9 Representatives who voted present (a weak “no”), all were Democrats.
The Iran Freedom Support Act was crafted as a way to support the Iranian people in efforts to reform a regime that has promised to “wipe Israel off the map” (and has an active nuclear program geared to do so). The Act passed the House but with 21 members voting against it-15 of them were Democrats (including Obey, McKinney, Rahall, McDermott, Kucinich).
Most recently, on the other side of the Capitol, the Senate voted on a bill to place restrictions on the use of US-made cluster bombs. These were used by Israel in its efforts to defend itself against Hezb’allah. Both Hezb’allah and the Palestinians have versions of their own cluster munitions: vests and missiles filled with ball bearings and nails designed to shred Israeli civilians. (Even though the Palestinians use these weapons, Congress still insists on giving them foreign aid). The measure was introduced by Senators Leahy (Democrat) and Feinstein (Democrat).
Cluster bombs are in the arsenals of over 50 nations and are acceptable as a way to defend one’s people. Nevertheless, the Senate tried to crimp Israel’s ability to use the. Who voted to hurt Israel? Thirty Democrats and zero Republicans.
Senate Democrats have also led the campaign to prevent John Bolton from serving as America’s Ambassador to the United Nations (he currently serves by virtue of a recess appointment). Bolton has not only served America ably in representing our interests over the years, he has also been a friend to the Jewish people. He single-handedly took it upon himself to have the UN repeal the noxious “ Zionism is Racism” resolution by Herculean efforts (for an inspirational account, see this). He also was instrumental in the creation of the Proliferation Security Initiative, a very effective measure in curbing the spread of the very type of weapons of mass destruction that are an existential threat to Israel (the program helped to uncover and stop Libya’s nuclear program). He has been a firm supporter of the American-Israel friendship. He also has the enmity of many in the Democratic Party.
There are those who rejoice at the turn in the Democratic Party. The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs is easily the most anti-Israel publication in America. Based in Washington, D.C., its pages are filled with screeds against Israel and it lobbies for the end of US support for Israel. Anti-Semitism has also appeared in the pages of the magazine. In the current issue, the magazine has published its annual “Hall of Fame” that honors Congressmen it considers to be anti-Israel. At the top of the list among Senators, is Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat), aformer Ku Klux Klan Kleagle, Democratic baron, and the holder of one of the most anti-Israel records in Congress. In terms of the House, 29 members hold this dubious distinction - all of them Democrats (including Abercrombie, Conyers, David Obey, Jesse Jackson Jr., McDermott).
The implications of a Democrat-majority House
Many pundits have been predicting that the House will have a Democrat majority after the mid-term elections in November (since the Senate seems securely Republican and tends to be more moderate – for the aforementioned districting reasons – this analysis will focus on the House). This would hold perils that are unappreciated.
The majority party controls the naming of Chairmanships of the Committees in the House. These posts usually follow seniority. Several of the most senior Democrats hail from districts that are anti-Israel, particularly the Michigan Congressmen. Chairs are the gateway to legislation. Chairs can control items on the agenda of the committees, table measures they do not support, and bollix up the work of the Committee to such an extent that they become black holes where legislation is never heard from again.
What chairmanships will accrue to them and what acts can they take that would effect American Jews and the state Israel?
John Conyers will assume the Chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. He has made clear his intention to hold an impeachment proceeding against George Bush. Given that his previous “mock” hearing became a mini-orgy of anti-Semitism, can we look forward to a repeat performance? This inquisition would be much more public as it would occur on the House itself, with all its trappings of power and authority. Will he again enable conspiracy theorist to dredge up anti-Semitic canards, this time to be placed in the Congressional Record and before all of the nation to see and hear? Will that please his base of Arab-Americans back home in Michigan? He is a member of the Hall of Fame of anti-Israel Congressmen.
John Dingell will assume the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Will he seek to prevent America from becoming more energy self-sufficient and thereby help empower Arab oil-exporting nations? Will he take actions that would upset the Arab-Americans in his community? He is a member of the Hall of Fame of anti-Israel Congressmen.
David Obey will become Chair of the Appropriations Committee. This is the committee responsible for drafting the legislation authorizing spending by the U.S. Government. He will very clearly cut the defense budget wherever possible and direct money to domestic programs. Military Aid is key to Israel’s ability to defend itself. Will Obey cut aid to Israel, as he has already voiced a desire to do (over the settlements issue)? Will he try to cut funding for military programs that create high-tech weapons? These are the very defense items that we supply to our ally Israel and that give her a qualitative edge over foes that vastly outnumber her. Will he leave the inventory of America’s arsenal so low that there may not be enough weapons to send to Israel if she is attacked? It was the emergency airlift of excess military supplies made available because of the winding down of the war in Vietnam that enabled Israel to avoid destruction in the 1973 War. Obey is a member of the Hall of Fame of anti-Israel Congressman.
Charles Rangel, who has publicly feuded with the Anti-Defamation League for years and compares the Iraq War to the Holocaust, would become Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. This Committee has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-raising measures. Anti-Israel Congressmen have periodically threatened the tax-deductibility of charity aid going to Israel. Would he oppose such a measure when “push came to shove”? Would the Committee enact trade legislation that would harm one of our major trading partners, Israel, as a way to exert pressure? Rangel is a member of the Hall of Fame of anti-Israel Congressmen.
Neil Abercrombie will become Chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of Armed Services. A flourishing and synergistic trade in defense goods exists between Israel and American. Access to the high-tech weapons that America produces helps to offset the advantages Arab nations have in manpower and oil wealth. Yet, Abercrombie is on record as opposing the purchase of Israeli munitions, stating,
“by no means, under any circumstances, should a round from Israel be utilized”
in Iraq or Afghanistan. While this kowtowing to Arab sensibilities might be justifiable, it has to be seen in the context of a member with one of the worst voting records regarding Israel-American relations in the House. When a member proudly stands as the only member to vote no on a Resolution that merely offered Israel a mild degree of support in its battle against Hezb’allah, one wonders what he might do when he is further empowered. Will he cut the close ties the Israeli military has with the American armed forces? Will he put a halt on the trade in defense goods vital to Israel’s security as it faces existential threats to its survival? He is a member of the Hall of Fame of anti-Israel members. Given his record, why wouldn’t he be?
Nancy Pelosi, who will become Speaker of the House if the Democrats attain a majority there, has reportedly “cut a deal” with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) involving the House Intelligence Committee. Should the Democrats attain a majority in the House, the Chairmanship would normally fall to Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, as the ranking Democrat. Instead, Pelosi hopes to curry favor with the CBC by skipping Harman and rewarding the chair to Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). Hastings was formerly a federal judge, but was impeached and convicted 18 years ago on charges of extortion, perjury and falsifying documents. Do we want someone with that background to be the head of one of the most sensitive committees in the House, particularly in an age of terror? The intelligence services of America and Israel have close working relationships. Will Hastings try to disrupt these relationships? Certainly the Congressional Black Caucus has not, in general, been supportive of the America –Israel relationship.
As noted above, Nancy Pelosi may very well become our next Speaker of the House and exercise vast powers of control over the proceedings there. While generally a supporter of the American-Israel friendship, her district is in San Francisco, a hotbed for anti-Israel agitation. Many protests in her district feature signs that mar the beauty of her city with imagery reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Has she denounced these protests? Has she disciplined the members in her party that have expressed anti-Semitism? No.
Recently, her record regarding Israel-American relations has weakened. Two months ago, she refused to support a Resolution expressing support for Israel because she wanted to attach language asking Israel to limit civilian casualties – a nod to extremist in her party who accuse Israel of wantonly killing civilians. Does Israel need to be scolded over the issue of protecting civilians when it has clearly lost its own children in trying to do so?
The loyalty American Jews have shown to the Democratic Party is increasingly not appreciated or reciprocated. As the Jewish population faces demographic decline, the Democratic Party is increasingly beholden to groups for which Israel is of no importance whatsoever (unions, for example). Several groups that form the core of the Democratic Party have anti-Semitism rates that are higher than the American population as a whole. As the party skews to the left, it has increasingly adopted the anti-Israel philosophy and attitudes that animate so many on the left.
Conversely, the Republican Party has never been more welcoming to Jews nor as supportive of Israel. The party has welcomed an increasing number of Jews to its ranks, and its candidates garner an increasing number of votes from Jewish voters. While Democrats demagogue the rise of evangelicals in America (and in the Republican Party) and demonize them as a threat to the Jews, such mythmaking does not reflect the fact that evangelicals cherish the Jewish people, for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with end-of-days scenarios. Indeed, Jews have assumed leadership posts in the Republican Party. While Democratic National Committee head Howard Dean joyously dances with a keffiyah draped over his shoulders, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman waxes nostalgically and publicly about his Bar Mitzvah.
Jews have faced many challenges throughout their history. Iran is one of the most dangerous enemies Israel has ever had: an oil-rich nation with an active nuclear program that has made clear its intention to wipe Israel off the map. A Democratic Party that is increasingly dominated by anti-Israel members, as shown by surveys and Congressional votes, will not be a dependable ally. The fact that more than a few have also expressed , or enabled others to publicly express, anti-Semitism should distress all Americans. However, those contemplating these prospects should do more. Much more.
In an era when over half the world’s Jews face the prospect of annihilation, it is time to reconsider old habits and political alignments. The ability of Jews to survive over the ages has depended on the ability to recognize that situations change and people have to adapt. At times, such changes have compelled Jews to move on to “greener pastures” – to more welcoming and supportive places. This is now such a time- a time for the Jews to reconsider the other side of the aisle.
* George Soros is an admittedly anti-Israel Democrat partisan who has become the chief funder of 527 Groups and other Democratic Party organizations and officials. He is also the principle backer of groups such as the Human Rights Watch, which is notoriously biased against Israel.