Too soon for sackcloth
by Jonathan Rosenblum
November 15, 2006
Many of those concerned with the security of the Jews of Israel were dismayed by Democratic Party's takeover of both houses of Congress last week. It is a bit early, however, to don sackcloth.
For one thing, foreign policy still remains largely the province of the president, and that means George W. Bush for the next two years. Some of President Ronald Reagan's most successful foreign policy initiatives were undertaken at a time when Democrats controlled Congress.
By historical standards – i.e., judged against other elections in the sixth year of a two-term presidency – the swing against the incumbent Republicans in last week's election was comparatively small. Certainly nothing in the results forecasts which party will capture the White House two years from now.
The elections also serve as a useful reminder that in America's two-party system there will inevitably be some pendular motion between the two parties, and Israel's interests are not served by the perception of being married to one party or another. (Neither, for that matter, are the interests of American Jews.)
And it should be emphasized that the election was in no sense a referendum on Israel. Virtually without exception, Democratic candidates proclaimed themselves to be strong supporters of Israel. One of the keys to the Democrats success was the drafting of many congressional candidates of a decidedly conservative bent, whom the Republicans could not tar with the dreaded "L" word. James Webb, a former Reagan administration official, who upset Senator George Allen in Virginia, is but the most prominent example of that trend.
AT THE SAME TIME, it would be irresponsible to ignore the danger to Israel from various trends within the Democratic Party. That political parties are shaped by their constituent base is a tautology. Despite the long-time identification of American Jewry with the Democratic Party, the emerging constituent groups within the Democratic Party are increasingly less sympathetic to Israel. Ed Lasky in The American Thinker analyzes these trends, and the following discussion draws on his insights.
American Jewry is constantly declining as a percentage of the American population, and thus as a percentage of the Democratic Party. And, it must be admitted, for many American Jews, anything short of calling for the destruction of Israel can be sold as a pro-Israel, including pressure on Israel to return to the failed Oslo process.
Blacks and union members are two of the most reliable Democratic constituencies. The fomer are three to four times as likely as whites to harbor anti-Semitic opinions, and tend to identify with Palestinians as a fellow minority. While Jews were formerly strongly represented in the union movement, that is less and less true today. Moreover the movement itself has changed in the last two decades from being strongly internationalist and anti-Communist to an increasingly isolationist stance focused on the issue of anti-globalization.
Teachers made up close to one-third of the delegates to the last Democratic convention, and represent a large part of the volunteer support upon which any political campaign depends. The teacher unions are infected with the perspective of their peers in the college professorate, whose materials are seeping into more and more high school texts.
While few, if any, Democratic candidates echoed ex-president Jimmy Carter's description of Israel as an apartheid state, such views are prominently expressed on the Democratic blogosphere, which plays an increasingly important role in rallying Democratic activists and in candidate selection. After campaigning for Senator Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he had been forever disabused of the idea that hate politics was primarily the province of the political Right, citing many references to Lieberman's religious beliefs.
Robert Goldberg, writing in the Washington Times, highlighted some of the anti-Semitic content on leading Democratic blogs. A post on MoveOn.org, which spearheaded the presidential campaign of Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, read: "(I)t's those GREEDY PIGS who own our mainstream media who are placing RELIGION/POLITICS (ISRAEL) and CORPORATE GREED above the best interests of the American people (peace, democracy, clean air, healthcare, etc.). As we've already agreed, most of these GREEDY PIGS are Jewish."
Fifty percent of those commenting approved of this post. By contrast, only 21% agreed with a post pleading to eschew such "abhorrent anti-Semitic trash."
IN THE LONG-TERM, however, the most significant trend to watch is the infiltration of a European mindset into the upper echelons of the Democratic Party. Even where the figures sharing these attitudes bear no animus to Israel or Jews, the influence of European attitudes can only work to Israel's long-range disadvantage.
For too many Democrats, Europe is the gold standard against which American actions are judged. The 2004 Democratic standard-bearer, John Kerry, has proposed a global standard against which U.S. foreign policy should be judged, and hectored U.N. Ambassador John Bolton in hearings on the latter's nomination for the latter's divergence from America's European allies.
It would be a disaster for Israel, however, were the U.S. to follow the lead of the Europeans at the U.N. Just last week, the United States was the sole nay vote (there were four abstentions) on a U.N. Security Council Resolution against Israel. The resolution condemned Israel for the artillery strike on Beit Hanoun in which 18 members of one Palestinian family were killed (an act of human or mechanical error for which the Israeli government has already conveyed its deepest regrets) and demanding the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, where they are currently operating to stop the constant barrage of Kassam missiles directed at Israel. Six of those same European allies voted for a resolution of the U.N. Human Rights Commission specifically legitimizing terrorist against Israeli citizens in the service of Palestinian liberation from Israeli occupation.
Many Democrats share the Europeans abhorrence of any use of military force unless explicitly sanctioned by the U.N. But why should the U.S. be bound by the dictates of a body whose member states do not share American democratic values? And why should the votes of the world's largest human rights violators from China to Sudan to Iran be seen as capable of conferring or denying legitimacy.?
The ideal of the U.N. as a place where conflicts between nations can be worked out around the bargain table has blinded Europeans and their American wannabees to the reality of the place. For the last 20 years, the U.N. General Assembly has served primarily as a debating society for the passage of anti-Israel votes. Even worse, the U.N. retains a vast bureaucracy dedicated to the anathematization of Israel and the portrayal of the plight of the Palestinians as the most tragic in the world. That bureaucracy was on full display at Durban.
In this regard, how the new Democratic Senate votes on the confirmation of John Bolton's original interim appointment bears careful scrutiny. Bolton is unquestionably a U.N. skeptic. In that skepticism his greatest role model is the late U.N. Ambassador Daniel Moynihan, who went on to serve four terms as a Democratic Senator from New York. Moynihan summed up his experiences at the U.N. in a devastating critique of the organization entitled Running with the Jackals. The question posed by the Bolton nomination is whether there remains room for Moynihan's U.N. skepticism in the Democratic Party.
Even as Europe finds itself under assault from its own Moslem populations, Europeans resist notions of a conflict of civilizations between politicized Islam and the West. Portrayals of radical Islam as the greatest threat to the West – an idea of which defeated Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was one of the most outspoken advocates – are dismissed by the Europeans as both overly simplistic and dangerous ( i.e., likely to provoke further Islamic rage.)
Those who view the world in terms of a conflict of civilizations with politicized Islam are likely to place the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in that context, and to see Israel as being on the side of the angels. Those who deny the conflict, and who portray terrorism as a criminal matter and not as a tactic of radical Islam to demoralize the West, are far less likely to identify with Israel .
The Democratic critique of the war in Iraq tended to focus on President Bush's alleged lies leading up to the war -- i.e., his agreement with the Clinton administration that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction -- and his mismanagement of the war. But a strong isolationist current also underlies the Democrats' opposition to the war. The number of American combat deaths and the drain of the war on America's purse and monies that would be otherwise available for domestic social spending constitute the gravamen of the charge sheet. The consequences of an American withdrawal in terms of Iraqi deaths is almost never discussed.
Such a narrowly drawn neo-isolationist concept of American interests will always present a challenge for Israel, which is the largest recipient of American military assistance. Moreover, it tends to result in an attitude of "a plague on both your houses" towards all foreign conflicts, and a resultant loss of identification with Israel.
Finally, it is almost impossible to imagine any Democratic president acting to stop Iran from going nuclear, given the party's current presumption against the use of military force and wariness of foreign entanglements. Even for President Bush a decision to employ military force to thwart Iranian ambitions would be an exceedingly tough one, in light of the certain Iranian retaliation against Western oil supplies. But for a party that looks to the Europeans, who have not even been able to come up with any serious sanctions against Iran, after three years of failed negotiations, for guidance, a decision to employ military force is unthinkable.
And that too is not good news for Israel – Iran's most likely first target.
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