Category Archives: Politics

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Debate spotlight: Israel

 

President Barack Obama is looking to regain momentum against Republican nominee Mitt Romney at tonight’s debate, but a leading expert says that on Israel, at least, very few differences between the two candidates will emerge as the two prepare to battle.

“They are almost identical,” Denis Brian, author of The Elected and the Chosen: Why American Presidents Have Supported Jews and Israel From George Washington to Barack Obama told Moment Magazine. “They are both completely supportive of Israel and so I don’t think one will have an advantage over the other.”

Brian, whose recently published book examines every American president’s record on Jewish and later, Israel issues, says that the only key difference between the two candidates is their rapport with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Everything Obama has done has been pro-Israel. Romney doesn’t have that record, but he’s close personally with Netanyahu, which unfortunately isn’t the case with Obama.”

Brian says that Obama is intensely pro-Israel and rates him among the top in terms of his support for Jewish issues.

And who ranks at the bottom?

That honor, Brian says, goes to Andrew Johnson, who assumed the presidency after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. “He’s the only outspoken anti-Semitic US president.”

Remembering Arlen Specter

by Natalie Buchbinder

Former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine, died Sunday at age 82 after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Specter’s 30-year senate career, lasting from 1981 until 2011, earned him the title of longest-serving Pennsylvania senator. In 2009, the moderate Republican joined the Democratic party, a move that ultimately cost him his Senate seat. Earlier in his career, the Yale Law School graduate served as a Pennsylvania state prosecutor and a lawyer for the Warren Commission.

Specter was an outspoken supporter of Jewish values. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the largest Orthodox Jewish association in America, wrote that Specter was a “staunch supporter of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, fierce advocate for religious liberty, promoter of freedom for Soviet Jewry and more” in a statement on their website.

“Senator Specter has left behind a proud legacy of public service that will hopefully guide future generations of public servants, Jewish or not,” said National Jewish Democratic Council Chair Marc Stanley and CEO David Harris in a statement released on the NJDC website.

Today, President Obama issued a proclamation stating that all flags be flown at half-mast out of respect for Specter.

“Arlen Specter was always a fighter,” said President Obama in a statement released by The White House on Sunday. “From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.”

Voting? Don’t stress out!

Voting in a national election causes anxiety and a spike in stress hormones, a new Israeli study has found. Levels of cortisol – a hormone secreted in times of stress to help the body cope with perceived threats — were three times higher just before voting than the levels recorded among people in the control group who were not voting.

The study was conducted on Israel’s Election Day in 2009 as people made their way to vote. Participants gave a saliva sample and completed a questionnaire examining their emotional state at a booth that was placed 30 ft. from the ballot box. The control group consisted of other people from the same area who were asked to give a saliva test and complete the questionnaire on post-election day. The findings were published in the recent issue of the scientific journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.  

 

“Emotional changes are related and affect various physiological processes, but we were surprised that voting in national democratic elections causes emotional reactions accompanied by such physical and psychological stress that can easily influence our decision-making,” said Prof. Hagit Cohen from the Anxiety and Stress Research Unit at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Faculty of Health Sciences, who conducted the study. “Since we do not like to feel ‘stressed out’,” adds Prof. Cohen, “It is unclear whether this pressure on Election Day can influence people and cause them not to vote at all. Impact on voter turnout is particularly important given that the stress levels rise if our preferred party or candidate for whom we want to vote is not popular in the polls.”

Sherman vs. Berman

by Natalie Buchbinder

For voters in California’s newly redrawn 30th district, the election for a congressional representative has turned into a showdown between Jewish Democrats–with a twist.

Under California’s new top-two finisher primary system, the top two vote-gathering candidates in a race advance regardless of political party affiliation, pitting long-time Representatives Brad Sherman and Howard Berman in a fight for November. Some top Republicans have started to endorse Berman, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona. According to Roll Call, ten more Republicans were slated to announce their support for Berman today.

The new district in Los Angeles County includes a large portion of Sherman’s former 27th district based in Sherman Oaks, a community with a large Jewish population. But the familiar territory advantage may prove insignificant when Sherman faces Berman, who has a far better history of legislative success.  Sherman has maintained  a low profile over his close to 15-year congressional career.

The similarities between the two Jewish candidates are uncanny; both are long-time politicians with law degrees, Berman from University of California, Los Angeles, and Sherman from Harvard Law School. The two share an alma mater, as Sherman attended UCLA as an undergrad.

Berman may have a slight edge in an election where the Jewish vote is being targeted by candidates from various levels of government. Both are pro-Israel, but Berman has been a prominent force in his term as the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs committee. Berman introduced several bills promoting Israeli security and Iranian sanctions, including a bill that would provide American support for Israel’s anti-missile defense system.

But Jewish support may not be the only deciding factor in the predicted tight election. According to data gathered by Survey USA in mid-September, a non-partisan research firm, Sherman leads Berman 45% to 32% in votes.

Moment Wins Religion Newswriter Association Awards

Moment editor Nadine Epstein at the RNA awards ceremony

Saturday night I got to shepp a little nachas when Moment swept the Religion Newswriters Association awards ceremony, winning first place for Overall Excellence as well as three other honors.

In addition to the award for overall excellence, the magazine won first place for graphics with its Ten Commandments 2.0 Symposium. The illustration was created by uber-talented designer Navid Marvi, who also won third place for design and layout with a detailed photo essay on Jews in Iran.

Editor and publisher Nadine Epstein won an award for her 2011 investigation, The Other Rosenbergs, which recounted the never-before-told story of two innocent Jewish engineers who lost their jobs at the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, N.J. after the arrest of Julius Rosenberg because their last names were Rosenberg. The story was funded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

What a great start to the New Year!

Jewish Bahrainian ambassador to speak tonight

Houda Ezra Nonoo, Ambassador of Bahrain to the US, and the first Jewish ambassador posted abroad by an Arab country, is scheduled to headline the annual conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) outside Washington D.C.

Nonoo, who is also the first female ambassador to the US from Bahrain, has remained largely tight-lipped throughout her stint in Washington. And though she granted Moment Magazine an exclusive interview last year, she rarely speaks publicly about issues including her country’s suppression of the Shiite majority during the Arab Spring riots of 2011.

But that is starting to change and Nonoo now has her own blog, where she posts a few times a week on issues ranging from 9/11 to the UN General Assembly.

AMSEA was founded in 2007 by Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, as an attempt to counter the hegemony of Edward Said in American universities.

“In the democratic world, universities are free and you don’t have an imposed orthodoxy,” Lewis told Moment Magazine last year. “That’s not the case [in Middle Eastern Studies departments] where you have an imposed orthodoxy to a greater degree than any other time since the Middle Ages. It makes free discussion, if not impossible, very difficult.”