The war for the political soul of American Jewry (guest post)

I almost never publish guest posts, but yesterday I received this from an old friend, Rob Vincent, and it seemed so on point that I asked him to allow me to do so.

Rob has a master’s degree in political science, but works in manufacturing and (in my opinion) is therefore able to see things more clearly than the average academic. Rob is a tireless pro-Israel activist in his small Ohio community.

By Robert Vincent

I serve in a volunteer capacity on my local Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council in a Midwestern city, primarily in a role of Israel advocacy. As in most American Jewish communities, the majority are aligned with the Democratic Party; I am something of an exception as an unapologetic and sometimes outspoken Republican.  Another member of our local JCRC sent an email to the committee linking the following article:

This article proclaimed that the “blanket support” Israel has heretofore received from the Democratic Party was coming to an end, citing various candidates with substantially anti-Israel views.  The committee member who sent this to the group added a comment expressing alarm at this situation.  I replied to the committee as follows (edited to maintain the anonymity of others on the committee):

Hi, everybody.

OK, for this particular message, I guess I have to take off my hat as “Israel Advocacy Coordinator” for our local Federation, and simply address you all explicitly from the point of view of being a private citizen.* But what I am about to say, I strongly feel, has got to be said. Further, let me preface this by saying that I am not approaching anyone in an accusatory or otherwise belligerent context. I am only intending to relate personal experiences and observations on the topic raised by the article sent to the list. I really feel that what I am about to say, needs to be considered by American Jews everywhere.

While most of you know my political leanings as a Republican, what most of you don’t know is that I used to be a Democrat. I would say that I had been pretty solidly aligned with the Democratic Party since my grad school days in the late 80s until about 2006. And I have something of a “newsflash” for you: the Democratic Party’s “blanket” support of Israel ended in 2004, long before the present day.

I was still a Democrat at that time, and in that election, I voted for John Kerry, albeit very reluctantly (I really didn’t like him, but at that time, I considered him the lesser of the two evils, a choice many of us find ourselves making in most elections). I watched the entire 2004 Democratic Convention on TV, and also much of the Republican Convention (unlike many of today’s Democrats, I was interested in hearing both sides). One thing that really struck me about the 2004 Democratic Convention was that Israel was not mentioned ONCE. EVER. At least Dubya made a passing remark to the effect that “…of course, we’ll continue to defend our ally, Israel,” but not from Kerry – nor from anyone else in attendance at his nominating convention – was the word “Israel” even uttered. I found this disturbing, but since no one there “attacked” Israel, either, I didn’t exactly obsess on it. But I remembered it.

As subsequent events relevant to Israel demonstrated, it was probably a very good thing indeed that Kerry didn’t win. At the time, I in fact received many warnings from my Israeli friends not to support Kerry, warnings I did not receive about any candidate from either party for any previous election. They warned me that if elected, Kerry would basically throw Israel under the bus. I thought they were exaggerating or being paranoid… but history proved them to be likely correct. It was Kerry who presided over the negotiation of the sham Iran nuclear deal, it was Kerry who was the last negotiator Obama sent to badger Israel into accepting a phony peace deal with the thugs of the PA (and who subsequently blamed Israel for the failure of the negotiations), and it is Kerry today who, despite the massive evidence since uncovered by Mossad of Iran’s cheating on the Iran deal, is STILL trying to salvage the same.

Then of course, we all witnessed the events surrounding the Obama administration. Not only the Iran deal, but also UNSCR 2334. And before that, there was Obama’s cutoff of arms shipments to Israel in the middle of the ’14 Gaza war, plus his spurious issuance of an FAA flight ban to Ben Gurion Airport (which was lifted only when GOP members of Congress threatened to investigate said ban, thus revealing Obama’s malevolent political agenda towards Israel). Plus, there was the constant pressure and blackmail from the Obama administration, literally from the day he took office (Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in the ’09 war was completed exactly the day before Obama was sworn in; that was obviously not coincidental). The very first phone call Obama made to any foreign leader upon taking office was to Mahmoud Abbas. That is also a matter of record.

Today… well, we have the recent article from the NYT, so I don’t need to elaborate further. My point is that this did not happen just now.

Israel was not the only reason I left the Democratic Party, but it is first among equals. It was clear to me that starting in 2004, the Democratic Party was moving in a direction that aligned themselves against Israel and in favor of Israel’s adversaries. The implications of this, to me, were horrendous. They should be horrendous to any person of good will, and certainly, to any Jew.

There is a saying among students of military history: In war, there are no “good guys”; there are only “bad guys” and “worse guys.” In much of history, this is more or less true. But there are exceptions. There are some wars in which the delineation between a clear “good guy” versus a “bad guy” is crystal clear. WWII is obviously such a case.

And the Arab-Israeli, or Palestinian-Israeli, or Iran-Israeli conflict is another case of this type. Israel may not be perfect – no enterprise comprised of mortal human beings ever could be – but relative to her adversaries, Israel practically IS perfect.

After all, on what basis do we, as a people, as a country, stand with one side of a conflict versus another? Don’t we choose sides – or shouldn’t we at least ideally choose sides – based on the extent to which one side reflects our own values and institutions as a country and as a civilization? What do Israel’s adversaries represent in terms of human rights, political rights, women’s rights, and so on, compared with Israel? Who hangs gays in public (Iran)? Who controls their press and jails and murders political opponents without due process (all of Israel’s adversaries)? Who condones FGM and child marriage (most of Israel’s adversaries)? The list goes on and I’m sure you know all of this very well.

And so, I concluded that if the national-level leadership of the Democratic Party couldn’t even get this right, an issue as close to black and white as any could get, what else are they capable of? What else can/will they get wrong? What does this tell us about what they really value?

I know that by writing this, I am perhaps going to anger some of you, and almost certainly my little essay here is not going to convince any of you who are Democrats to switch parties tomorrow morning. I imagine that some of you might believe that by working within the Democratic Party, you will perhaps be able to help influence them to become supportive of Israel once again. And to those of you who nurture this latter hope, I wish you the best of luck… and I would submit to you that you are going to need a great deal of luck. I can only say that in my capacity as an advocate for Israel on both a personal and public level, I have been in so many countless fights over this with so many people to the left of the political aisle, that I personally see no chance of this happening for the foreseeable future. Really.

Just this past April, as many of you know, along with two other members of the committee, I squared off against some SJP types at an event of theirs on a local university campus… and the Democratic opponent of my representative in Congress, for my district, was sitting there, absolutely uncritically, happily hobnobbing with the most vicious Israel haters in our state. A local Israeli friend of mine is acquainted with this same fellow from Rotary, and the latter has tried to garner the former’s support, describing himself as a “centrist”; what does that tell you? A guy who is willing to be seen as making common cause with SJP is what passes for “centrist” in today’s Democratic Party?

So if Israel means a lot to you, I would ask that you consider what I am saying above, and consider it very carefully, going forward.

Regards to all,

– Rob

*(I had to explicitly disassociate myself from my official title on the committee, because American tax laws prohibit nonprofit organizations from advocating openly for one political party versus another, at least if they want to maintain their tax exempt status). — RV

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4 Responses to The war for the political soul of American Jewry (guest post)

  1. Rae Scharfman says:

    KOL HA KAVOD TO YOU!! I put your blog up on my facebook to educate those who need it.
    I am an activist- for years– was in the movement to free Soviet JEWS FOR ABOUT 30 years– many of my friends here in Israel were those I spoke to while they were REFUSNIKS.
    What you sent out this time again hit it right on with the Democratic Party. The first Republican I voted for was Ronald Reagan. The Democratic Party of Scoop Jackson (z’l) is no more. What so many of our people do not understand is that ISRAEL IS THE EASTERN BORDER THE EASTERN BORDER OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION– or put simply–WE ARE THE FINGER IN THE DYKE

  2. Lise says:

    Great column, Rob. My experience with leaving the Democratic Party was much like yours. Unfortunately the Republican Party, while more friendly to Israel, is, in essence, no more laudable than its counterpart. The Democrats have hitched their wagon to delusional and self-contradictory political correctness and identity politics, while the Republicans court the working class while enabling super-rich to increase their wealth unimpeded. Such a sad state of affairs.

  3. Cassandra says:

    I’m glad you published this guest post. This is the second piece I’ve seen recently in which the writer attempts to confront Jewish Democrats with the seriousness of the dangers brewing for Israel within their party. People know we’ve run out of time for politiely hoping Jewish Democrats will wake up to what is happening without some tough talk.

    He didn’t mention it, but the 2012 Democratic convention was a preview of what we can expect at the 2020 convention. Sadly, unless things change quickly, it will go much worse for Israel and Jews in 2020. In 2012, mention of Jerusalem being Israel’s capital was removed from the platform and then reinstated when LA Mayor Villagairosa pushed it through, despite 3 vote counts taken in which the room was clearly divided and a loud chorus of “no’s” could be heard. Democrats, who are rabid in their hatred for Trump, will be out for blood against Israel this time. Despite all their denial, they know they might lose to Trump again, and they will happily use the convention as an opportunity to bloody Israel as much as possible.

    Right now, I think the 2020 Democratic Convention has the potential to be almost as ugly as the UN Anti-racism Conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. There might not be as many Hitler fliers, asking, “What If I Had Won?” or declaring, “Hitler was a Loser, Because He Failed to Finish the Job!” but there’ll be plenty of hate talk against Israel there. Will it be enogh to get Jewish Democrats to stage a revolt within, or against, their party? I hope so. But I’m not holding my breath.

  4. MrCohen says:

    “If you ever called Israel an apartheid state,
    the word MORON was invented for you.”

    I Vote Against You by Mr. Pat Condell, 2016 May 6
    time = 3 minutes 10 seconds

    Pat Condell is an atheist, who was born in Ireland
    around 1950 CE, and raised in England as a Roman
    Catholic, and educated in Church of England schools.
    He has no Jewish ancestors and no religious beliefs
    that might cause him to favor Jews.

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