Over the past months I have been bombarded with e-mails urging me to vote for this or that candidate because he is "good for Israel." I decided that I will not vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain for two reasons. The first is that I live in Israel, and I do not think it is fair to vote in the elections of the United States until and unless I take up permanent residence there again. The second reason is that we are offered a choice that does not appeal to me, mostly for reasons into which I will not get. If I lived in the US I would face a tough dilemma, despite my genetic adherence to the Democratic party and my conviction that having an African-American as president would be wonderful for the United States, and despite my admiration for John McCain's sincerity and his willingness to sacrifice for his country.
What has motivated the many columns that I have written about the election issues has not been partisanship, but fair play and concern for Zionism
as a political movement and for Israel
, not for this or the that candidate (*see long list of previous articles in the note at the end.) Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain are the monsters portrayed by the hit squads of their opponents or the saviors of Israel or America portrayed by their own teams. Both are flesh and blood politicians intent on winning an election and making whatever promises they think they need to make in order to win.
The Zionist and Jewish effort in this campaign should have been focused on getting the candidates' views and plans on what they are going to do about the Middie East
and their specific plans for preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, for resolving the impasse created by Hamas
, for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the future of Jerusalem, dealing with Syria and the dangerous situation created by the American debacle in Iraq. Candidates like to get away with platitudes and generalities wherever possible, and the job of interest groups is to pin them down. Instead, Zionist and Jewish partisans of each candidate have contented themselves with touting the platitudes of their own man, and slinging often unsubstantiated and incredible mud at the other. John McCain is not a coward or a traitor, and Barack Obama is not a communist or a Muslim, but all we know at the end of the day is that both candidates insist that they love Israel and they want peace, they favor motherhood and they are against terror. None of these stands are surprising somehow. Neither of them have given us realistic plans for dealing with any of the problems that face us. The Zionist and Jewish partisans of each candidate had a significant role in ensuring that both candidates didn't have to take a real stand because their partisans accepted whatever the candidates said and then packaged it to sell to their audiences. Obama should never have gotten away with his silly flip-flop on "United Jerusalem," and he would not have gotten away with it if his own Jewish supporters had not let him do it. Now nobody knows what his real stand might be, but we have some suspicions. McCain should never have gotten away with his early pronouncement that he would send James ("F--- the Jews") Baker to make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But his own Jewish partisans didn't press him on that. Neither candidate should have been able to pass off their platitudes about Iran as policy statements, but nobody really challenged them. Partisans were happy to take these pronouncements and market them as "good for Israel." Michael Oren has done a more than creditable job of guessing at the actual stands of Obama and McCain on issues that concern Israel
. It is certainly wrong to conclude, as some did, that Oren's analysis "proves" that one candidate is "good for Israel, and the other is "bad for Israel." That sort of reworking of Oren's analysis is part of the partisan politics machine.
There is a lot wrong with those partisan e-mails and articles urging us to vote for X, because "only X is good for Israel." On the one hand, it is wrong to ask American citizens to decide an election based only on what is good for Israel and not what is good for America. American Jews are not Israelis. They are Americans. Their choices should be influenced primarily by what is good for America as long as they live there. While what is good for Israel in US policy is usually good for America, many aspects of US domestic policies are no real concern of Israel or Zionists, and a candidate whose foreign policy is good for Israel may have domestic policies that are very bad for America and vv.
On the other hand, most of these "good for Israel" pleas are basically and transparently dishonest. As often as not, they rapidly degenerate into ranting about domestic US partisan politics that have nothing to do with Israel. Very soon after avowing their pure Zionist intent, these would be spiritual descendants of Herzl may be explaining to us that global warming is a leftist myth, or that John McCain acted like a coward when he was a prisoner of war, or that Sarah Palin eats mooseburgers and caribouburgers (and shoots the moose and caribou herself) and wanted to censor the library in Wasilla, Alaska. Why does this concern Zionism
? Are there Zionist moose and caribou? If Barack Obama was really born in Kenya that is a problem for Americans to resolve according to US law. It is no concern of Zionists, Arabs, Israelis or anyone else outside the US except possibly Kenyans. If John McCain is going to outlaw abortions or homosexuality we may find that distasteful or it may suit our beliefs, but it has nothing much to do with Zionism or the well-being of Israel. If Barack Obama is a "socialist," that is likewise not even remotely a proper concern of Israelis or Zionists.
It certainly is a concern of Zionists and of Israelis if Obama accused Israel of genocide
in a toast he gave at a send off party for Professor Rashid Khalidi. That issue should have received a lot more attention. If it is true, and there is a reasonable chance that it is true, it is alarming. Like his friendship with Reverend Wright, it should not be simply brushed away or covered with cosmetics. It is hardly reassuring that many of those Zionists and Jew
s who insist that Obama is good for the Jews and Israel seem to believe themselves that Israel has committed genocide, so their apologetics on this issue are not convincing. But there is no chance this issue will get much attention so late in the day, because the would-be true-blue "Zionist" partisans were too busy focusing on irrelevant mud-slinging to discover the Obama remarks about genocide when the issue might have been relevant, and because they compromised their own credibility with obvious partisanship that has nothing to do with issues of Israel or Zionism.
As opposed to anti-Semitic
fantasies about the all-powerful Jewish lobby or Israel lobby, the reality is that Jewish voters are a tiny and marginally influential part of US politics. If there are many Jewish politicians, it is because they attracted the votes of non-Jews, not because of Jewish bloc-voting, which is a myth. If Israel gets the support of the United States government it is because in addition to "the Jewish vote," there is a large majority of non-Jewish Americans who are convinced that support for Israel is in the best interests of the United States.
The "Jewish vote" could not change the results of any but the closest of elections. In two days we will most likely know who is going to be President of the United States. Any Israeli government, and Zionists of all U.S. political persuasions, are going to have to live with whoever was chosen and work with them. The best way to do that is to be networked in to that candidate and his supporters, and certainly the worst scenario is to completely exclude yourself from one or another camp. James Baker's "F--- the Jews. They didn't vote for us" can apply equally to either party and any candidate. On the other hand, suppose your candidate, the one that you and your group supported as "good for Israel" and a "friend of the Jews" gets into office and proceeds to sell Israel down the river? Given the exigencies of U.S. policy in the Middle East, that is not at all unlikely. Your support for that candidate will not be easily forgotten, and you will have wiped your group off the map as part of the US Zionist coalition.
If you will, it is a question of hypocrisy and double loyalty. Partisans of USA political candidates and parties are trying to pass themselves off as "Zionists" on the one hand, while on the other, they are trying to convince US Zionists to be vote for what is supposedly good for Israel, rather than what is good for USA. It should be the other way 'round.
Attention political workers, bloggers, op-ed writers and email spam distributors: Next campaign, if you are really concerned for Zionism and Israel, don't dump on any candidate in the name of Israel or Zionism or Judaism or any other religion or ethnic group. Don't tout this or that candidate as good for Israel or the Jews either. American leaders have to be good for America. If you really support Israel, then try to influence all the candidates, especially the ones you support, to ensure that they articulate their views about Israel and that they are aware that a large group of Americans, not just Jews, are concerned for the safety and well-being of Israel, and believe that U.S.-Israel alliance is in the best interests of the United States. Ami Isseroff
* The Note at the End
List of previous articles about the elections: Barak Obama's gifts to Zionism and Israel, Priorities: Ahmadinejad, Palin, Clinton, Obama in Israel, Baruch Haim Obama, Obama, Clinton McCain: Unbearable vacuity of election drivel, Did President Bush insult me, Obama and J Street in the Knesset?, The Wright stuff, Obama, truth and the Jews, Barack Obama and the true faith, Is Barack Obama good for Israel and the Jews?.
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