In our safe havens of New York, New Jersey, South Florida, and California we are known as friends of the Democrats. The American Jewish community has voted very consistently with and for the Democratic Party, and I don’t blame us. We have been on the right side of history in so many instances: civil rights, environmental protection, and the expansion of social services. Rapidly, our ties to the blue are turning. Believe it or not, there is a lot of truth to this statement, but how can it be applied rationally to the current situation that the American Jewish community is facing? We are facing a major internal dispute, plain and simple. There has been a strong Jewish presence in the Republican Party since the mid 1980s. In 1985, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) was established; now is the era of our exodus into the red.
Why is this occurring? Many would suggest the largely debated trend that in the United States (and particularly on a global scale), is that we as human beings are becoming less religious and therefore more secular. The United States is not one of the leading Western countries on that trend but definitely appears. The country that leads with “God Bless America” sits with a slight majority of 54% of Americans deeming religion as an important characteristic in their lives, while only 24% of Canadians reciprocated the same answer.
Though, is the core of the internal conflict a religious dispute? Partly. Prioritizing secularism on the left was the explanation of the significant shift of the American Jewish community becoming a strong, consistent voting base for the Democrats. Though as we have seen before our eyes with the Iran Nuclear Deal in Congress, the Democratic Party is standing farther and farther away from the side of Israel while the Republicans are forevermore standing closer. The polls don’t lie, according to a 2013 Pew Poll, among American Jews “Roughly two-thirds of Jewish Democrats (65%) and independents (69%) say they feel at least somewhat attached to Israel. An even larger share of Jewish Republicans (84%) say they feel an emotional attachment to Israel, including half who say they feel very attached. When asked whether caring about Israel is essential, important but not essential, or not an important part of what being Jewish means to them, 43% of American Jews say it is essential, 44% say it is important but not essential, and 12% say it is not important.”
Over the past 7 years we have seen President Obama speak of strong relations with Israel. During his March 3rd Congressional speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted many of the major attributes of the US-Israel relationship. Bibi even mentioned President Obama, thanking him for helping Israel in many facets. Netanyahu briefly speculating that the relationship is so rooted that they help each other in aspects he could not even publicly express. According to the Washington Institute, “The U.S.-Israeli alliance now contributes more than ever to American security, as bilateral cooperation to deal with both military and nonmilitary challenges has grown in recent years.”
We thought we knew how much tension was truly in the room between Obama and Netanyahu, but staying close to Michael Oren’s narrative, “Netanyahu and the president both made mistakes, but only one purposely damaged U.S.-Israel relations.” Though, one should not put the insensitive insults of “anti-Semitic” or “anti-Israel” on him as the purpose for his political intentions. President Obama’s change in Democratic foreign policy on Israel was the result of a lack of prioritizing the US-Israel relationship from Jewish Democrats.
Previously, the foreign policy from the mainstream Democrats on Israel has been politically center. Being in the political center indicated that the Democratic Party was not trying to weaken the US-Israel relationship, even though they might not have been as strongly “Pro-Israel” as the Republicans. This current policy shift is pushing them into the center-left, a position of wanting progress but still standing by the side of Israel. In the past progress has been made on this front, the United States has been a moderator of peace talks between Israel and Arab countries (Jordan & Egypt), but the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is portrayed differently. Israel has shed her “King David” underdog persona, and is now shown in Western media as the antagonist and aggressor when it seems to be quite the contrary.
This is the time for the American Jewish community to get our politics in order. Of course I do not mean to commit our unity to one American political party, especially because it is in our interest to have a strong presence in both parties. According to the current trend we will see a large rise in the Republican voters from the Jewish community. This is due to the strength of the US-Israel relationship. Israel can not become a political football, she is our strong ally economically, environmentally, militarily, politically, and technologically. It is the responsibility of American Jews to educate on the political and cultural topic of Israel. The lack of education on this issue has isolated the Jewish community, therefore causing this internal schism. There is much to be accomplished, but dialogue is the first step. We may be Diaspora Jews, but, like always, we find our way back to our homeland.