A poignant and vexing question
Reader comment on: Chosen People, Choosing Left
Submitted by David (United States), Oct 1, 2009 10:03
Mr. Podhoretz raises a poignant and vexing question. I have never understood why my more liberal, American Jewish friends would vote to support candidates who are adverse to our principles.
Is Israel a priority among American Jews when voting for President? Evidently not, as our voting so strongly contradicts the sentiment of Israelis; and who would know more about what is good for Israel than Israelis? Mr. Podhoretz notes that 78% of American Jews rejected the Republican candidate with a long and very strong pro-Israel record. They voted instead for the Democratic candidate who, according to a Jerusalem Post poll in August, only four percent of Israeli Jews consider to be pro-Israel. Similarly, the majority of American Democratic Jews deride President Bush, who was considered pro-Israel by 88% of Israeli Jews.
Mr. Greenfest, in his comments on Mr. Podhoretz's article, blames American Jewish rejection of conservative candidates on George Bush's decision to engage Iraq in war. I have never understood this bias against a war to defeat a country that was engaged in acts so divergent from the humanitarian perspective: actively lobbing missiles at Israeli civilian populations, and promising more; murdering 180,000 Shiites and burying them in mass graves; invading its neighboring countries to plunder their resources; and boasting of its programs to develop WMD's. Where are American Jewish priorities if they cannot support the Republican's objectives to end those existential threats to Israel and other people of the region, while providing liberty and democracy to Iraq's population?
How about human rights? I have always thought that our sensitivities would lead us to help the oppressed and oppose the oppressor, but this hasn't been how we American Jews vote. Earlier this year, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton decided to re-engage with the United Nations Human Rights Council, which had previously been soundly criticized by President Bush. Besides issuing many anti-Israel proclamations, the members of this Council have failed to tackle serious human rights issues in other countries, and some of its member countries deny basic rights to women in their own societies.
Giving to charity is a fundamental Jewish priority. Again, American Jewish voting does not align well, in practice, with this priority. In terms of charitable giving, Republicans, as individuals, give a greater portion of their income to charity than do Democrats, according to Arthur C. Brooks in "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism" (Basic Books). RealClearPolitics.com quotes that conservatives also donate more time and give more blood, and that George Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average. Those were not states, evidently, that were materially impacted by American Jewish Democrats' voting. In terms of political economic policy, one would think that American Jews would support the Republican platform. The philosopherÂ Maimonides taught that the highest level of charity is to help the needy find employment or to establish them in business. A lower form of charity is to provide simple hand-outs that demean the recipient. From this perspective, I have seen the Republican economic policies working toward meaningful job growth and raising the broad tides of prosperity, rather than overly taxing and attacking successful businesses in the interest of maximizing handouts through bailouts and mandated income redistribution.
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