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Unwanted loyalty test in Massachusetts election

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments


By Bruce S. Ticker

 PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — Jewish voters had Martha Coakley’s back.
The special Jan. 19 election in Massachusetts to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s death was evidence once again that Jewish voters passed an unwanted loyalty test.
As a Democrat, Coakley offered to bolster President Obama in pursuing progressive measures long supported by American Jews. Republican Scott Brown threw his lot in with a political party that promises unmistakable backing for Israel; Obama is on shaky ground in this arena.
Brown swept affluent suburbs of Boston where turnout was high while Coakley performed well in urban areas with low turnout, despite being edged out by Brown statewide, according to The Boston Globe.
In towns with a strong Jewish presence, Coakley trounced Brown in Newton 23,456 to 11,352 where turnout was 63 percent and took Sharon 4,461 to 3,536 with turnout at 66 percent, as evidenced by The Globe‘s rundown of individual towns. Brookline voters backed Coakley 15,264 to 5,217; turnout was 49 percent. Coakley also took Needham, Wellesley and Framingham, all towns with a strong Jewish presence.
Brown won the adjacent North Shore towns of Marblehead (5,285 to 4,657) and Swampscott (3,222 to 3,121), both of which comprise a large number of Jewish residents.
We can only speculate why Brown won these last two towns. Maybe many Jews there are fed up with Obama because of his careless approach to Israel, or they simply oppose his domestic policies.
Most American Jews would embrace Obama’s domestic agenda, but are at best confused by the president’s Israeli initiatives, setting up Jews for an inadvertent dual-loyalty test. That test was probably played out to some degree in Massachusetts. American Jews have not had this problem recently until Obama ran for president.
Many Americans believe that Jews wield heavy influence on presidents and Congress on Israel’s behalf, without questioning Israel‘s policies. That impression could apply to the minority of Jews who operate pro-Israel lobbying groups, but not to the vast majority of American Jews. Jews usually vote for Democratic presidential candidates by a range of 75 to 80 percent. If Jews support hawkish Israeli policies and the invasion of Iraq, why would they have voted for Al Gore and John F. Kerry?
To be clear, most Jews who vote for Democrats or moderate Republicans are in solid support of Israel, but they do not condone Israel’s actions that they believe are misguided.
Jews have for decades voted for Democrats or seemingly moderate Republicans for their liberal or centrist positions on progressive issues. Centrist and liberal Jews took for granted that presidential candidates for both major parties support Israel, if in different ways. The more hawkish Jews, who probably comprise 20 percent of America’s Jewish population, only trust the Republicans to be in Israel’s corner.
Until Obama ran for president, the vast majority of Jews had the best of both worlds in
Democratic candidates – staunch support for Israel and a progressive domestic agenda. Most Jewish voters are with Obama on the domestic side, but they legitimately wonder about his stance on Israel. His administration attempted to intimidate Israeli leaders; vaguely compared the Arabs to pre-Civil War slaves; ignored recent Middle East history; and acted as if a peace settlement could be reached by waving a magic wand.
Right-wing Jews have made up their minds about Obama, but other Jews must take a hard look at the situation. Domestic concerns directly affect us all, but Israel also has a fundamental effect on Jews. Israel remains a refuge for Jews, and more than 5 million of my people live there. We expect the United States to be there for Israel so long as it is in the right.
Fortunately, Obama has softened his stance with Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no pushover. Besides, the Palestinian Authority refuses to negotiate with Israel because it wants what Israel is unlikely to allow.
Maybe it is best if it stays that way. Who needs a loyalty test?

Bruce S. Ticker is a freelance journalist from Philadelphia. He can be reached at BTicker@comcast.net.

  1. February 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    As usual, Ms. Goldstein’s comments betray her glaring ignorance of historical and legal facts. Too much to comment here, and Michael Ross already addressed several issues. I just want to talk about the 1967 “borders”. There are no such borders. They are nothing more than a cease-fire line. Cease-fire lines are normally a temporary measure, determined by the positions held by the belligerents when the cease-fire came into action. They are supposed to be confirmed (as they have in every other conflict) during the negotiating process that eventually leads to peace. But the Palestinians have tried to play the game differently, refusing to sit down at the peace table to negotiate the final border lines between Israel and the yet-to-be created State of Palestine but just the same claiming that the cease-fire lines are intangible boundaries. They are no such thing. And the more the Palestinians unrealistically demand to regain all the territories they lost, as long as they refuse to genuinely make peace with Israel, the 1967 cease-fire lines will remain just that: temporary cease-fire lines that can be modified at will, which Israel is entitled to do since it is territory that legally does not belong to anyone. The more the Palestinians wait, the more they lose. It’s their call. It’s been their call for the last 60 years and they keep playing the wrong cards. Pity the fools.

  2. Michael Ross
    February 19, 2010 at 12:06 am

    So basically you support the destruction of the state of Israel.
    1. The 1967 borders changed as a result of an act of war perpetuated against the state of Israel, never in the history of the world has a state that has been attacked been required to return territories it captured as a result of the aggression against it.
    2. The Arabs were advised to leave Israel due to a pending attack by 6 Arab nations designed to finish what the Nazis started. They have absolutely zero rights to return. They are an Arab problem created by Arabs that have left them festering in camps intentionally, so as to continue the conflict with Israel for their own political needs as dictators.
    3.Cutting funding to the only democracy the US has in the area is like cutting your nose to smite your face, and against the US’s best interest in defending a friend.
    4. What do you suggest we do about the 600,000 Jews that were forced to leave Arab countries since 1948 and leave all their belongings behind? It would be a more than fair trade. Israel won’t demand reparations from Arab countries and they will not demand return of any Arabs to Israel.

    I find it hard to believe that a Goldstein is so misinformed about Israel’s true history.

  3. carol ann goldstein
    February 15, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I support President Obama’s efforts to get a real 2 state solution. Israel must stop settlement activity and return to the pre-1967 war borders. I also support the right of return of Palestinians who left before and during the 1948 war or at any other time since Israel was created. Why should I whose ancestors may or may not have ever lived in Israel have the right to live in Israel when others who are not Jewish do not have the same right? Perhaps the only way to get Israel to really negotiate is to cut the funding the US gives to Israel for military and other purposes.

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