In a July 19 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Tobin, executive editor of Commentary magazine, and one of today’s most astute observers of the American Jewish community, stated that “there is no way that he would have won as much as three-quarters of the Jewish vote had not most believed him when he claimed he was a supporter of Israel.”
Obama’s actual position on Israel has become clear as he passed his six-month mark in office, and it certainly seems at variance with Obama the candidate’s assurances of his commitments to Israel and her security.
That might indicate that many of his Jewish voters were taken in. Yet it is hard to fathom how an ostensibly intelligent, engaged community could be so wrong in the face of so many clear warning signs. (To recount just one: Obama’s 20-year membership in the church of the anti-Israel and anti-semitic Reverend Wright, which was also the single largest beneficiary of his charitable giving.)
While Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain was rarely regarded as an ideal candidate, neither was he ever seriously considered a threat to Israel as was Obama. That leaves two alternative explanations to Obama’s Jewish voters being fooled by his campaign rhetoric.
One possibility is that these voters tend to support the position that Obama’s hard-nosed, strong arm tactics against Israel, and only Israel, coupled with his soft approach towards America’s and Israel’s enemies, really is in Israel’s interest. But it seems harder to justify that fatuous argument with every passing day.
The one remaining possibility as to how American Jews could have voted for Obama if the were not deceived by his campaign rhetoric regarding Israel seems to be the most plausible: While Tobin wrote, “Contrary to the boasts of the left and the fears of the right, most Jewish Democrats still care deeply about Israel,” that appears to be overly optimistic. The record of recent years just does not demonstrate much support for that argument.
The attachment to Israel of younger American Jews, in particular, is widely acknowledged to be problematic. And among much of the older generation, Jews may say they “care deeply about Israel,” but they don’t actually walk the walk very far to help her.
When I heard rumblings that some Americans were beginning to have “buyer’s remorse” about Obama, I began posing the question to my Jewish acquaintances. I could find no regrets among any of those who voted for him, nor did my Republican-leaning friends find any among their acquaintances. Nobody admitted to being deceived by Obama’s proclamations of support for Israel.
Recall that the obverse was also true: When it was patently clear that President George W. Bush was one of the best friends in that office Israel ever had, most American Jews continued to shun him nonetheless (although he did garner a slightly larger share of the Jewish vote than did the next Republican candidate, McCain). So Bush’s support for Israel did not win him the succor of legions of American Jews, just as Obama’s hostility to Israel today is not costing him his overwhelming Jewish backing.
This picture leads one reluctantly to conclude that most of Obama’s Jewish voters were not fooled by his campaign, but rather that, unfortunately, Israel is just not a major concern or issue to them. And that also explains why we are not seeing from his Jewish supporters the widespread and strong objections to his policies that Jonathan Tobin, and others, are looking for.