Friday, October 22, 2004


Thoughts about the Jewish vote and anti-Semitism

I was reading this article in Ha'aretz called The Jewish vote paradox. The paradox in the article is about how a dispropotionately large number of Jewish Americans do not support the war in Iraq, thus reinforcing the traditional Democratic trend of Jewish voting in the US. However, Bush has been making headway with certain Jewish voters.
Surveys suggest that a majority of Jews will retain their Democratic allegiance, but support for Bush is on the rise. Bush backers tend to be the loudest in the community because support for Bush is greater among activists, especially in Orthodox circles (whose numbers are growing). Among Jews who emigrated to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union (estimated to number about half a million), there is a clear majority in Bush's favor.
Interesting, but it's not really what grabbed me from this article; the last paragraph really kind of got in my head.
American Jewry is in constant demographic decline. Despite that, as the election wooing demonstrates, the Jewish vote has not lost its force. And it seems that more than ever before, the world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote.
So why did this grab me? I think the paradox here is that while it can hardly be viewed as a bad thing within the Jewish community to have such political clout, I definitely see the danger of an anti-Semitic backlash when "the world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote." This certainly allows the Jewish vote to be over-emphasized in the eyes of the world and could easily play into the classic anti-Semitic notion of Jews running the world or the United States really being run by Jews. Not good.

Secondly, if enough Jewish voters determine the election for Bush (in a place like Florida for example), then even if a majority of Jewish voters in the United States voted for Kerry, then there is a danger that any and all disasters linked to a second Bush term (or even back to his first term), especially in the Middle East because of Israel, will be open to being portrayed as Bush doing the bidding of his Jewish masters. (Let me emphasize that I am not saying this as legitimate - indeed, I am trying to point out just how illegitimate it is. But with "the world ... keeping an eye on the Jewish vote," the anti-Semitic possibilities are worrying to me). Not good.

Furthermore, if this is the case (where the Jewish vote in Florida - or elsewhere - is portrayed as the deciding factor in a Bush victory), then I can easily see the Democratic response to be one of further support for Israel. The danger here is that there is already no criticism of Israel from either party. The Democrats, in an attempt to out-support the Republicans when it comes to Israel, would have to pursue a pretty aggressive campaign of emphasizing Israel's need for incursions into the West Bank and Gaza, an active support of assassinations (as opposed to tacit acceptance), etc. In this scenario, you have the Democratic party increasingly equating the American Jewish vote with support for Israel (especially its aggressive, illegal, and destructive policies in the West Bank and Gaza). There becomes even greater world (especially Muslim and Arab) animosity toward Israel. The lines between Jewish people and Israel becomes increasingly blurred (in no small part because of that blurring in US political campaigns). The result is increased potential for anti-Semitism around the world which would mean an increasingly dangerous world for Jews. Not good.

And all because of America's stupid electoral college system where a minority voting bloc in one state can mean so much. Now of course, maybe I'm just crazy and am leaping too far ahead with this paranoid idea. But I do tend to hear a little voice in my head that says that when I read that American Jewry are in demographic decline, yet their being wooed (especially being tied to a candidate's stance on Israel) by the political parties is increasing, and "more than ever before, the world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote," this might not just mean things are rosy rosy.

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