Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

Loving Israel The Right (Or Left) Way

By Amanda Walgrove

Last week, Sarah Palin visited Israel and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of Israel’s right-wing coalition, including Likud Chairman, Danny Danon. Many have questioned whether or not this was an early campaign move; many GOP members who may throw their hats into the Presidential ring—Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Haley Barbour—have recently made visits to Israel as well. “It’s not the Ames straw poll, but I do think a visit to Israel is an important stop for folks who are running for president,” Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matthew Brooks told Politico. “So much of what our commander-in-chief will deal with in the White House is rooted in this part of the world.” Besides being a shiny credential on the checklist for candidacy, Palin’s visit also serves to put another face to the name of what has become an increasingly conservative stance on what it means to be “pro-Israel.”

Tea Partiers have been split between what Walter Russell Mead has deemed the “Palinite” and “Paulite” approaches to foreign policy. The “proactive” tactics Palin  endorses call for maintaining a tight alliance with Israel. Garnering significantly less support from the GOP is Ron Paul’s “passive” approach, which suggests that America distance itself from the Israeli-Palestine conflict and avoid supporting one over the other. Speaking out about the need to condemn Palestine for attacks on Israel, Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, responded to the recent bombing in Jerusalem by saying, “The White House must do more to tamp down anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian territories. That’s why I support bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate that call on the White House to put an end to anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian territories.” But how has the median Jewish American constituency reacted, considering the latest tragedies that Israel has faced?

Dominating the American Jewish landscape, the right-leaning AIPAC fully supports the policies of any Israeli government, including the current one, stating on its website, “AIPAC works to secure vital U.S. foreign aid for Israel to help ensure Israel remains strong and secure.” Jeremy Ben-Ami, creator of the three-year-old J Street, felt that this conservative domination left a gap for American Jews who wanted to commune and raise money for a more peaceful solution to conflicts between Israel and Palestine. While a tagline of “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” has a positive ring to it, the controversy lies in the idea that Palestine should not be reprimanded for attacks on Israel, but rather, they must be persuaded to make a peace agreement. For supporters of J Street, questions arise such as: Is someone anti-Israel if he or she believes that the Palestinians deserve the same rights as the Jews? Can someone be pro-Israel without fully supporting the Israeli government’s decisions?

Israeli lawmakers held a hearing on Wednesday to decide the answers to these questions, discerning what role Jews living outside the country should have in Israeli policymaking. A recent poll showed that only 14% of Israelis had ever heard of J Street and only 19% believed that the American Jewish community should provide unconditional support for Israeli politics. However, right-wing Israeli politicians, believing America’s support to be crucial, think that J Street verges upon  treason by not backing the decisions of the Israeli government. Lawmaker Otniel Schneller, a member of the centrist Kadima party, said at the hearing, “J Street is not a Zionist organization. It cannot be pro-Israel,” suggesting that J Street’s display of love for Israel “has strings attached.”  While extreme critics of J Street have labeled the lobby group “anti-Israel,” Danon said he would call for a committee vote to have J Street labeled a pro-Palestinian rather than a pro-Israeli group, a move Ben-Ami said could compromise J Street’s appeal in the United States.

Without having to label any group or belief as the “anti,” it’s easy to see that there are different definitions of what people consider to be “pro-Israel.” After the recent brutal murder of the Fogel family in Israel, representatives from the left and right sent letters to President Obama, advising him on how to stand with Israel in the conflict with Palestine. Obama’s dedication to the “Pro-Peace” sentiment is supported by J Street and its passionate followers, but remains  neglected by Netanyahu’s administration. Meanwhile, Republicans have been accusing Obama of taking a weak stance in supporting Israel, especially after his reluctance to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy.

Ahead of Palin’s visit to Israel last week, an Obama official reportedly joked that the Netanyahu was “waiting for President Palin.” But preoccupation with American campaign strategies, lobbyists, and party lines seems increasingly distracting during a time of violent unrest in the Middle East. The real problem is that powerful stances on foreign policy are becoming dangerously polarized, to a point where disingenuous jabs will be made from each side.  AIPAC was recently condemned for using the recent bombing in Jerusalem in its fund-raising and J Street has been accused of criticizing other organizations in order to promote a more leftist standing. Instead of figuring out who is centrist, hypocritical, leftist, or conservative, the focus should be put back on a practical strategy for the safety of Israeli citizens and the ways in which America can use its resources to help.

Sarah Palin’s Jewish Problem

By Symi Rom-Rymer

By now, anyone with access to the internet will know about the latest furor in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tuscon: Sarah Palin’s use of ‘blood libel’ in her first official statement since the shooting.  In a rare demonstration of unity, her choice of words, with their inescapable echoes of past violence by Christians against Jews, drew immediate condemnation.   Jewish organizations across the political spectrum came out with critical statements from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who agreed with her position but regretted her choice of words to Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of the liberal Israel lobbying group JStreet, who simply denounced her statement.

As concerning as it is that ‘blood libel’ can be now ripped from its historical moorings and used by anyone in any context, even more concerning is Palin’s interactions with the American Jewish community.  Her questionable rhetoric would not be as big an issue if Palin were not considering a Presidential run in 2012.  But according to numerous news reports, she is.  In a recent article in the Washington Post, she is reportedly taking steps “to build a more substantive political identity. The strategy, in which Palin intends to step up her involvement in public policy debates and embark on overseas trips to nations such as Israel, is in its early stages.”

While for many Jews, her candidacy would be unappealing—the majority of American Jews traditionally vote democratic—for other, more conservative Jews, Palin’s entrance and engagement on the political scene are seen with great excitement.  Benyamin Korn, director of Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin, is one such example.   In a recent op-ed in The Jewish Week, he asserted that a growing number of “Jewish intellectuals” are demonstrating public support for her and her ideas.   “[Joseph] Lieberman, [William] Kristol, [Seth]Lipsky, and [John] Podhoretz are sophisticated, educated, thinking Jews who appreciate Palin’s heartfelt support for Israel, her forceful and informed advocacy for energy independence, her strong stance on national security,” Korn wrote.  “All are bellwethers of the increasing respect for Sarah Palin amongst us – the educated and affluent American Jews.”

But whether or not you agree with Palin’s views on energy or national security, her statements on issues most crucial to American Jews call into question whether she would be a genuine friend to American Jews as president.  First of all, despite in a now famous interview with Barbara Walters, Palin made clear that she supported Israel and its settlement expansion not for historical or even moral reasons but because it fit with her view of Israel as the staging ground for the End Times.  The idea that she could base crucial policy decisions—policy decisions that affect not only American Jews, but our co-religionists in Israel— on her religious beliefs demonstrates a deeply disturbing lack of intellectual maturity for any type of political position, let alone President of the United States.

Second, Palin has repeatedly insisted that America is a Christian nation.  Her rigidity on this topic rejects not only the fundamental American philosophy of the separation between church and state, but also effectively negates the role Jews and Judaism has played in shaping the United States.  Beyond the glaring inaccuracies Palin’s statement demonstrate, it also shows little respect or understanding of the history of religious minorities in this country and the freedom that they have found here to worship according to their own religious traditions and principles;  something Jewish Americans do not take for granted.

Finally,  we come full circle back to her blood libel comment.  Jewcy, the sly online magazine, recently posted a piece entitled, “New Stupid Things Sarah Palin Could Say.”  Among the suggestions were, “this is a pogrom of justice” and “the lamestream media is committing a Shoah against me.”  While masked in humor, author Jason Diamond addresses a critical problem: words and phrases have historical import and powerful contemporary force.  Like the word ‘Nazi’ which has evolved from its original meaning into a simplistic catch-all word to describe a control freak (i.e. Soup Nazi or Heath Nazi), ‘blood libel’ poses the danger of devaluing the deep and powerful legacy of the Jews and others who fought so hard to expose that kind of thinking of what it is: aggressive and irresponsible fear mongering.  To treat the phrase with such flippancy, as Palin did, and then to ignore calls to acknowledge its historical meaning demonstrates once again little understanding of or sympathy for American Jews and the core American values she claims to embrace.

If Sarah Palin decides to run for President in 2012, she will no doubt come under even greater scrutiny.  As American Jews, our work is cut out for us.  Even if you agree with her views on energy or the economy or abortion, demand accuracy and respect when it comes to Jews and Jewish history.  For those who disagree with her, get your placards ready.  2012 is just around the corner.

Web Exlclusive – The Kosher Tea Party

It’s well-known that American Jews tend to lean left politically.  Over 70 percent, for example, voted for Barack Obama.  But what about the rest of the Jews?  “Are we chopped liver?” asks Benyamin Korn, a fiscally conservative Orthodox Jew?

There are, in fact, a handful of Jewish activists that strongly support the Tea Party movement.  Moment‘s Web Exclusive on the Jewish Tea Party includes profiles of some of its activists and a fascinating account of how they got involved.

What do you think about the Tea Party?  Is it “good for the Jews?”  Leave your comments and let us know!

Finding the “Real (Jewish) Americans”

More than 200 professors of Jewish studies have joined to form the latest Jews-for-Obama group, reports The Jewish Daily Forward. But the Republican Jewish Coalition poo-poos the new alliance’s potential impact. Jews won’t listen to eggheads, reasons RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “[T]hese elites in many regards just speak for themselves,” he explained to The Forward.

Brooks hits the nail on the head (if you’ll permit a workingman’s metaphor those ivory tower types probably wouldn’t understand): Anyone knows that, say, Jewish seniors in Florida wouldn’t hold much truck with woolly-headed, four-eyed academics. Jews’ disdain for the university sort is legend.

No, as Brooks implies, undecided Jewish voters are much more likely to take political guidance from “real” Americans like Moshe the Plumber and all his buddies at the Nuremberg Sarah Palin rallies. You’ve probably seen them on YouTube—they’re the ones going nuts and shouting “Trotskyist!” when talk turns to Obama’s tax plan.

Granted, no matter whose bubbe or zayde they are, few oldsters worried about Obama are likely to be swayed by comedian Sarah Silverman’s “Great Schlep”, a stunt my (strongly pro-Obama) father found patently insulting. And certainly the Obama campaign would gladly sacrifice a chunk of its record-breaking cash haul (at least, as much as the McCain campaign spent on Sarah Palin’s make-up artist) to anyone who could divine exactly how to reach those elusive Jewish holdouts. But I sense Brooks doesn’t have the answer, either.

Photo by Mike Licht.

Mandy Katz

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Get Wigged Out Like Palin

A mere day after John McCain named his vice-presidential choice, I hatched a clever plan to dress as Sarah Palin for Halloween. Soon after, though, the whole country stole my idea − I even know of one sister-brother pair, still in middle school, planning to trick-or-treat as Palin and a moose. (Speaking of moose, remember this great Woody Allen stand-up bit?)

So, okay, I need some other scary get-up for Halloween and will consider all reasonable proposals offered here. For the record, I ruled out going as the McCain Supreme Court—didn’t want to freak out the kiddies.

In the meantime, even women who wouldn’t dream of observing pagan rituals may be “doing themselves up” like Alaska’s governor, albeit without guns or miniskirts: Sarah Palin wigs are now on offer to the Orthodox community, Haaretz reports, just $695 from sheitel.com. If you read the article carefully, you’ll note that this is already the second markdown.

As for me, I’m holding out hope for a post-election-day fire sale.

Mandy Katz

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UN Roundup

What with non-stop hoopla at the convening of the United Nations General Assembly this week in New York, we offer a quick recap of the main issues to help you sift through the news coverage.

  • Predictably, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has created the most amount of controversy. One example: The American Jewish Committee wrote an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon protesting a dinner at which Ahmadinejad will be honored.
  • Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has also made headlines, primarily because of her planned appearance at a rally organized today to voice opposition to Ahmadinejad. This is the rally that Hillary Clinton pulled out of because she didn’t want to make it a political circus. In turn, it has become a political circus. Update 3:05 PM: JTA puts the number of protesters in the thousands.
  • Palin will meet with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in an attempt to bolster her foreign policy credentials (not unlike Barack Obama’s trip to Europe and the Middle East this summer).
  • Richard Holbrooke and other government officials write in the Wall Street Journal today that Iran is the primary story of this session for good reason: “A nuclear-armed Iran would likely destabilize an already dangerous region that includes Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, and pose a direct threat to America’s national security.” (HT: The Telegraph)
  • Israeli President Shimon Peres has his hands full with political turmoil in Israel, so he will not attend a General Assembly reception hosted by President George W. Bush tonight. Israel will be represented by UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev.
  • President Bush will be making his farewell address to the UN. (Hold for applause?)

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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Palin and Evangelicals Give Jews the Creeps. Relax, People.

By Inthemoment contributor Larry Kessner.

OK, I understand why the Jews are nervous about Sarah Palin. Forget all the chatter about Obama being “out of the mainstream” because he’s Kenyan/Kansan/Hawaiian/Malaysian-ite-whatever-whatever. He’s not out of my mainstream. The top of my class was full of Obamas. I knew Obamas in college, law school and just about every walk of life.

For many American Jews, it’s Palin, not Obama, who is a creature from another planet. She does not live in our Volvo-ridden neighborhoods, she does not visit Wellfleet in August, she did not attend any of the colleges on our kids’ lists (and she went to five of them), and her book club (if she had one, which is unlikely) would not be full of therapists and lawyers.

So, naturally, she gives Jews the heebie-jeebies. No pun intended.

And it’s not just the things she doesn’t do. It’s the things she does do. Names her kids Track, Trig, etc. Shoots large animals, guts them and poses next to them while smiling beatifically. Has a pregnant teenager and makes the poor kid marry her self-described “(expletive) redneck” baby-daddy. Lets her husband spend his down-time vrooming snowmobiles across Alaska.

Most of us just don’t get her. Continue reading