Alan Newman

Avoid the November 5th surprise

Painting by Israeli artist Leah Raab


Bari Weiss recently shared at the New York 92nd Street Y that Alana Newhouse, the editor-in-chief of Tablet Magazine, warned, “The only thing worse than a dumb Jew is a surprised Jew.”

Parsing Newhouse’s pithy proclamation, we start with the penultimate attribute of “dumb” impugning Jews who are uninterested, uninformed, or ill-informed. These simple sons lack an understanding of the struggle between Israel and Iran, between Israel and the Palestinians, between the Sunni and Shia Muslims, and the even broader conflict between the West and the Russia-China-Iran axis. They are unfamiliar with the history of the modern state of Israel, and have not accepted how Israel’s security affects Jews living in America.

There are many reasons for the woeful ignorance of so many of recent generations, and when a history of 20th century Jewish America is written there will be plenty of blame to go around.

By “surprised,” we assume Newhouse calls out those Jews who are informed but still allow political sophistry to distract them from what is really at stake. They have become comfortable living in a golden age in America, and they cannot see the signs of unhappy changes. It is what Joachim Fest pointed out in his memoir Not I, when talking about complacent pre-war Berlin Jews. He warned, “They lost their instinct for danger that had preserved them through the ages.”

Fine-tuned mainstream campaign narratives mask what a candidate likely will support when in office, and even obscure the forces behind the policymaking. Recently, we saw the Democratic Party’s Electoral College calculus focus in on the pro-Palestinian Muslim voter base in swing state Michigan. It is disquieting to see pandering replace what should be principled support for an ally bleeding in a very hot war.

Now that Super Tuesday is past, the contest is almost sure to be a rematch between President Biden and Trump. There will be no magic slate in your voting booth to conger up an ideal candidate; it is a choice of those two persons.

If Israel’s security and America’s antisemitism challenges are high on a list of critical issues, voters ought to look carefully at the candidate’s records. Voters might need to hold their noses because of certain character flaws, and flaws surely exist for both candidates. They may have to compromise on collateral policy positions that they don’t support. They must pinch tightly because the election is not a “focus group” design…it’s a choice.

President Biden has provided support to Israel, since October 7, with hundreds of cargo planes of material, the presence of the US Navy, and diplomatic alignment at the United Nations. He does have a long and mostly positive relationship with Israel’s leadership. At the same time, Biden’s team second guessing Israel’s conduct of the war causes much concern, and the interference can affect the outcome. His recent State of the Union speech foretells much trouble with his ignoring Americans held hostage in dark tunnels, unprecedented domestic antisemitism, rewarding murdering-raping-kidnapping-torturing Hamas with a Gaza pier, validating barbaric Hamas’s casualty statistics, and making another pitch for an unworkable two state solution.

For the elderly President Biden, the behind-the-scenes role of former President Obama must be considered. It is not a stretch to see Obama’s influence with so many of his alumni now in positions of power in the Biden administration. Arguably, President Obama, with his vindictive attitudes towards Israel, asserts adverse influence on President Biden. By way of examples, President Obama had proclaimed he “had Israel’s back,” but in his last days in office stabbed her in the back by supporting UN Resolution 2334. Also, his obsession with appeasing Iran, led to an unenforceable JCPOA-Iran nuclear deal, and funding to underwrite the proxies’ mayhem.

Biden’s selection of his Vice President has a 25th Amendment and mortality-table probabilistic reality. Kamala Harris, married to a Jew, often applies the woke, intersectional oppressor-oppressed paradigm to Israel’s disadvantage. Her equivocating calls for a cease-fire, a two-state solution and humanitarian aid destined for Hamas suggests she wouldn’t be a reliable president from a pro-Israel perspective.

Don’t ignore Obama’s wife, Michelle, who still is a presidential long shot as a last-minute replacement for Biden. Despite her well-publicized concern for women, she has remained largely silent on Hamas’s October 7 sexual assault on Israeli women.

In the case of Donald Trump, by way of example and contrast, his support for Israel includes the move of the Embassy to Jerusalem, declaration of sovereignty over the Golan, the Abraham Accords and his pressure on Iran’s economy and nuclear program. Simply, his actions place him in the top tier of presidential friends of Israel. His isolationist tendencies, volatile style and the broader Republican platform may influence voters.

With the myriad Jewish organizations, what can they do to affect this critical choice?

Most Jewish organizations and synagogues are constrained by their 501(c)3 tax-exempt status that prevents rating or endorsing political candidates. However, all these organizations can use their platforms and resources to better educate their membership about the complex history of the modern state of Israel. They can apply their considerable communications “reach and frequency” to help their constituents craft a framework to assess candidates and policies relative to what it means for the Israel’s future. Clothier Sy Syms pounded out the sensible advice, “an educated consumer is our best customer.”

Not all, but many legacy organizations are led by decidedly liberal boards and professionals who can place fundraising ahead of facing the tough truth. Wherever possible, pro-Israel activists need to apply pressure to ensure politics do not supersede spreading the truth.

Francis Bacon in 1597 famously wrote “knowledge is power.” So, to counter the vast sums invested in an information war at our universities by Muslim nations indoctrinating and misrepresenting, Jewish organizations can energetically present a well-documented history contravening many myths and lies.

We are witnessing the confluence of a hyper-polarized American presidential election year with Israel’s existential struggle against Iran and the Iranian proxies…a “perfect storm.” American Jews need to be smart and treat very seriously the implications of upcoming election. If the wrong candidate wins, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

About the Author
Alan Newman is a life-long supporter of the Jewish community and Israel. His commitment is evident with his hands-on approach and leadership positions at AIPAC, StandWithUs, Ben-Gurion University, Ethiopian National Project and Federation’s JCRC. He has traveled to Israel almost two dozen times and is an enthusiastic supporter of pro-Israel Christians including critical organizations like CUFI, ICEJ, USIEA and Genesis 123 Foundation. Alan’s compelling novel, GOOD HEART, published by Gefen Publishing House, is a multi-generational story about a Christian and Jewish family. He was a senior executive at Citigroup and holds two US Patents. He lives with his wife in West Palm Beach and enjoys time with his two sons and their families.
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