American Jewry 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A seismic shift in American politics has occurred over the past decade that has
created a gap so wide and so bitter that America is a nation of growing
polarization where issues once embraced by both sides are now being
In the shift, the far right has embraced Israel as a means of
separating itself from Democrats, causing many Americans to question what, until
then, has been unquestioned loyalty.
Although Israelis have always
enjoyed support from both mainstream political parties, the extremists in
America who are using support of Israel as a litmus test are forcing many to
examine its policies more closely.
Israel has become a flagship platform
issue for far-right groups like the Tea Party, which has come under attack from
groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) which has accused it of being plagued by bigots and racists.
the first time, many Americans are saying they support Israel, but question the
occupation of the West Bank, its exclusive claim to Jerusalem and the conduct of
CAN AMERICANS support Israel’s security and still criticize
its policies? It’s a question now being raised in the heated race for the US
Senate in Pennsylvania, where the public’s rock-solid support for Israel is
coming apart at the seams.
Joe Sestak is the Democratic candidate who
defeated longtime Israel champion Arlen Specter in last May’s primary. Specter
had switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in a state that
is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Sestak is no left-wing extremist and
represents the American mainstream. He supports Israel, but he is critical of
some of its policies, including its use of “collective punishment” – a policy
that challenges international laws and human rights.
While Pat Toomey,
his Republican opponent, has made Sestak’s questioning of Israel a priority
attack issue, Sestak has stood firm, insisting he supports Israel but making it
clear not all of Israel’s policies are acceptable. He has responded to Toomey by
tying the Republican to the hated bankers on Wall Street and the nation’s
Toomey’s allies, like the Emergency Committee for
Israel, have accused Sestak of donating to a Hamas “front group,” pointing an
accusatory finger at his speech to a dinner hosted by the Council on American
The accusation is outrageous. Sestak was accompanied
to the dinner by Pennsylvania Governor and Democrat Ed Rendell, who is Jewish,
showing there is no place for Islamaphobia in American politics.
Islamaphobia is the cornerstone of right-wing ideology. The more groups like the
Tea Party wrap themselves in Israel’s flag, the more Americans start to question
Israeli actions, including the killing of a dual American-Turkish citizen aboard
the Gaza flotilla in late May.
For many voters, Israel is becoming a
point of division. The election will be decided on other, more important issues,
such as the deteriorating economy and the need for jobs.
Sestak-Toomey fight over Israel will force voters to take sides. Sestak may have
issues with Israel, but is popular on many other mainstream American issues that
are more important.
IN THE past, most American voters have not
distinguished between Israel’s interests and the interests of the US. They have
supported Israel even when its policies have crossed the line.
come from the imbalance in how Arabs and Israelis manage public relations. The
Arabs fumble through public relations on emotion and chance.
manages public relations through a sophisticated strategy that is well
American perspectives are built on decades-long exposure to
sophisticated pro-Israel marketing strategies in the news media and
entertainment. The book Exodus set the tone in the American mindset in the 1960s
and has been reinforced by years of solid PR.
But that glass ceiling is
breaking across many fronts as issues that hit close to home trump even the best
Earlier this year, Gen. David Petraeus said that American
policies regarding Israel have put the lives of American soldiers in
In prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee,
he stated, “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength
depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in Centcom’s area
operations and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab
The more American extremists embrace Israel, the more they
undermine its standing, regardless of who wins the Pennsylvania
The writer is an award-winning
columnist and Chicago radio talk
show host. www.YallaPeace.com