American Jews and The Military

Carl at Israel Matzav has an interesting post in which he discusses the current war and whether there is a connection or disconnect between American and Israeli Jewry.

Yesterday, I saw a survey that indicated that 81% of Israelis (with Arabs included in the survey) support the current action in Lebanon. 81%. You can bet that the percentage of American Jews in favor is much lower.

I think that most of us have noticed that the strongly pro-Israel community (which I define to mean the people who either are contemplating or who have made aliya, or who visit here on a regular basis) is moving more and more to the right of American politics, while the majority of Jews are remaining Democratic and on the left. There is no shortage of attempts to explain why American Jewry remains so liberal – particularly in light of the fading Democratic support for Israel. At the rally in New York this week, Hillary Clinton winced when Elie Weisel said “Thank God George Bush is President.

I am not sure how many people still classify themselves as being a member of one party or another. In my unscientific poll of friends, family and assorted others I found that many people are really beginning to view themselves as being Independent. They may be a registered Democrat/Republican but they increasingly find themselves having a harder time identifying with the parties.

Stereotypes also play into this. I think that there are still many people who like to view the Republican party as being composed of affluent white men who support big business as opposed to the Democrats who are supposed to be the party of liberals and progressives.

I would also assert that most people really are not familiar enough with the party platforms to explain what the party beliefs are and or why they adhere to those particular items. We live in a busy and hectic world and few people are willing to take the time to try and really understand the issues so they opt for the easy way out.

Anyway, that is my short two minute thought on this. I may come back and revise and or develop this further.

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  1. Attila July 21, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Jack, this is not directed at you.

    All I can say is that if you want to be a liberal, be a liberal. But don’t tell me it’s because Judaism commands us to be liberal.

    Judaism never anticipated that Jews would be full and equal citizens in a free and democratic republic. Judaism never expected that Jews would try to implement their liberal beliefs in the name of Judaism by trying to get the federal government to force these views on the 98% of this country that’s not Jewish. If you want nationalized health care because in the middle ages an insular Jewish community required its own doctors to treat poor people without charge, you’re changing the rules. It’s a beautiful principle, but don’t force the goyim to pay for it.

    I still remember the Reform rabbi speaking on the radio in praise of his movement’s decision to officiate at gay “marriages” by saying that the decision grew out of “prophetic Judaism.” I visualized the prophet Elijah at Mount Carmel taunting the prophets of Ba’al … because they didn’t allow gay marriages.

    If you’re a liberal, fine. Stay with the Left, where about 90% of the anti-semitism resides these days. But if you’re here telling us that Israel is important to you — but not so important that you’ll compromise on your religious views in favor of the environment, health care, and gay marriage, even to the extent of working with conservatives who really do support Israel — you won’t be able to complain about the hatred of Israel on campus, the efforts among left-wing religious groups to disinvest from Israel, the boycotts by left-wing academic, etc.

  2. Jack's Shack July 21, 2006 at 6:07 am

    My personal sense is that the Jewish community tends towards the left on social issues, and the right on foreign policy.

    I wonder how much of that translates into the various branches of Judaism. I expect that the Reform and Conservative would be closer to the left on both sides, but I haven’t any data to support it.


    I agree with a lot of what you said, but I don’t buy all of it. FEMA’s problem with Katrina was not funding, it was administrative. That fish was rotten from the top down.

    but if you’ve watched any Republican Party convention, you’ll note the overwhelming absense of people of color,

    That is changing. It would be interesting to see a study that provided a proportional breakdown of minorities in the GOP relative to the percentage they make up of citizens.

  3. StepIma July 20, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    See – I’m a Jewish liberal and I’m finding myself increasingly shocked by how many Jews are becoming Republicans, and dismayed and horrified at the same time watching the left turn on Israel despite Israel’s extremely clear support of “liberal” causes that matter most – social welfare, women’s rights, gay rights, etc.

    I think it’s silly for you to say that viewing the Republican party as being geared toward “affluent white males who support big business” as simply being a stereotype. It’s a generalization lumping the two groups together, but if you’ve watched any Republican Party convention, you’ll note the overwhelming absense of people of color, and if you’ll pay attention to the policies espoused by the Party themselves, they’re absolutely weighted toward the advancement of big business at the expense of the ordinary worker, and the environment.

    Judaism itself is seen by most Jews as being a religion that asks us to be liberal – to take care of those who are less fortunate than ourselves, to care for the environment, to do the right thing rather than the selfishly-motivated thing. The whole essence of “tikkun olam” is liberal thinking. The safety net that the small-government Republican Party is most anxious to dismantle — is something that a lot of Jews (myself included) utterly believe it’s our responsibility to provide.

    When people like Grover Nordquist can espouse the belief that the Federal Government needs to be so small that you can “drown it in the bathtub,” — and Republicans wholeheartedly agree with that belief, to the point that when Hurricane Katrina wreaked so much devastation last year, FEMA was unable to do anything because the President robbed it of its funding and treated it as negligible (after all, he didn’t believe in big government – it’s not their job). Countless Americans died — were drowned — because of those sound Republican beliefs. As a Jew, I want no part of that.

    Right now, most Democrats in Congress are still strong supporters of Israel. Unless that changes, I see no contradiction in being a Democrat.

  4. Elie July 20, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve heard it said that Jews who continue to vote Democrat reflexively are still voting for FDR. While pithy, I think that’s an oversimplification. My personal sense is that the Jewish community tends towards the left on social issues, and the right on foreign policy.

  5. Jack's Shack July 20, 2006 at 5:19 am


    An independent anarchist. That is an interesting description.

  6. Neil July 19, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    I think Israel and the Middle East has brought many “liberals” closer to the views of Republicans in international relations and the military. However, the Republicans have a tendency to also get involved in issues that turn-off most American Jews, such as limits on embryotic research, abortion, gay marriage, etc. So, the bulk of Jews still associate with the Democratic Party.

  7. Leaf July 19, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    I live in DC, I am surrounded by politics constantly. I have friends who work on the hill, at think tanks and other political organizations. I know more about politics than the average American and what I find is that the parties are so similar to each other and so far from what the stereotypes have become. The Dems have no direction whatsoever and are just as corrupt as the Republicans who are spending more than ever. It is a disgusting time for politics, there isnt a good person in the lot. They are all self serving and power hungry. None of that of course explains why the Jewish vote is so liberal, that is explained in a much longer discussion. But it was Jews who were behind the birth of the most left movements in Political history; Communism and Anarchism. Old habits die hard I guess. As for me, Im an independent anarchist who is waiting for a viable third party before I ever vote again.

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