Sunday, August 29, 2021

American Jewish Support for Israel

Bennett and Biden (Reuters)
“I found a leader who loves Israel, knows exactly what he wants, and is attentive to our needs,”

So said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after his meeting with President Biden at the White House last Friday. That was nice to hear, although I am not surprised by it. The only question is what it is exactly that Biden wants - and does it match what Israel wants. And if it does, do they agree on how to achieve it? That remains to be seen. 

There has been a lot of discussion about bi-partisan support for Israel. Which has mostly been negative. There was a time not that long ago when Israel enjoyed equal support between Democrats and Republicans. But these days, the greatest support comes from the right side of the political aisle.  

This is not to say that Democrats are anti Israel. That would be completely false. The vast majority of Democrats in congress still support Israel. Some just as strongly as Republicans. But there is no doubt that the Democratic Party’s support has weakened. And there are even a couple of Democrats in congress that are outright anti Israel!  

That raises an interesting question. Since the vast majority of American Jews are Democrats, has their support diminished along the lines of the party they support? Or is their support for the Jewish state as strong as Republicans? 

Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer to that.  The views most American Jews match the Democratic views. Why is that?

A clue to answering that question is to look at what Pew research found. Which is that American Jewry is in steep decline.  More than ever American Jews have no interest in their Jewish Heritage. Many describe themselves as atheists or agnostics. Over 70% of non Orthodox American Jews intermarry. The subject of Israel is hardly important to them.. To the extent that it might be, they will buy into the Apartheid images painted by the left. 

Of course this is not universally true. The criticism of Israel varies. But what used to be universally strong support is no longer there. Similar to that of the Democrats..

A lot of this is blamed on former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He alienated a lot of Democrats on a variety of occasions when he was in office. The climax of which was when he was invited by then republican speaker of the house John Boehner to address congress on how to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons. Netanyahu openly criticized then President Obama for the deal he was about to make. 

That made a lot of Democrats in congress angry. A few boycotted Netanyahu’s speech. Including my own congressional representative, Jan Schakowsky, who is Jewish but intermarried. 

Netanyahu was a convenient whipping boy for secular American Jews - blaming him for the waning bipartisan support. But the fact is Israeli politicians across the political spectrum agreed with Netanyahu's policy on Iran. Not with the then President and his party.

Netanyahu is not the problem for waning bi partisan support– convenient though he might be to blame. 

Although there are exceptions, I think there is a strong correlation between one’s connection to Orthodox Judaism (which is based on the Torah) and support for a Jewish state. The closer the connection the stronger the support. That is one reason why most Orthodox Jews strongly now vote for Republicans.

Why would a secular Jew who in many cases describes himself as atheist or agnostic have any sympathy for a Jewish state at all? What would be the point? Why not believe the Palestinian narrative that Israel practices Apartheid? After all isn’t it obvious that they are an occupying force that separates the two populations?!  Why wouldn’t a Ben and Jerry agree with boycotting the Jewish state?

It is the Torah that generates support for the Jewish state. That is why most Orthodox Jews so strongly support it. And it is why so many secular Jews don’t even have Israel on their radar! 

It is also the reason so many Evangelicals support Israel. Which they base on their bible. Even though their theology differ radically from ours, they nevertheless read the same passages in the bible that we read and understand that Israel is God’s gift to the Jews. 

If one looks at these dynamics, it isn’t too hard to understand why American Jewish support is waning. The less Jewish one feels the less likely will be their support of the Jewish state. Similarly the less Christians rely on the biblical passages dealing with our rights to the land, the less support they will probably have. 

Hat tip: Rabbi Avi Shafran