Protesting in Jerusalem against the US travel ban on Jan. 29, 2017.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In every US presidential election since 1980, an average of 70% of Jewish voters have supported the Democratic candidate. As we approach the midterm elections, Jewish voters will overwhelmingly vote for Democrats once again, and in record numbers. The Jewish community is demanding political change because the agenda of Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress is fundamentally out of sync with our values.
Since Trump has taken office, Republicans have sought to erode the separation of church and state, restrict access to affordable healthcare, forcibly separate migrant families, close our borders to those in need, attack a woman’s right to choose, and shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court. This agenda is in stark opposition to the values of the American Jewish community, and it’s the primary reason Jews will overwhelmingly support Democrats this November.
Nonetheless, a well-financed Republican campaign is underway to grossly exaggerate differences of opinion within the Democratic Party on Israel. This campaign will fail, as it has in the past, for two reasons. First, bipartisan support for Israel remains strong. No members of Congress are advocating for a diminution of bilateral ties. Second, Jewish voters understand that the Democratic Party is not only pro-Israel, but that it also shares their concerns about a wide range of domestic issues. Most Jews are not one-issue voters.
The most important and reliable indicator of Democratic support for Israel is reflected in the congressional record. Democrats in Congress continue to support legislation that strengthens the US-Israel relationship, including military assistance to Israel. Congress recently authorized the memorandum of understanding signed during the Obama administration, which included unprecedented levels of US-Israel military assistance and missile-defense funding over 10 years. The measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Further, Democrats remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It was Donald Trump who pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal with no Plan B for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. American Jews overwhelmingly supported the Iran Deal when it was debated in Congress in 2015. Of the handful of Democrats in Congress who opposed the deal at the time, all objected to Trump’s reckless withdrawal from it earlier this year, which left the US isolated and in a weaker position to defend our strategic interests, including those of Israel.
Just as disagreeing with the policies of the Trump administration does not make an American any less patriotic, there is no contradiction between questioning policies of the Israeli government and remaining supportive of Israel. If defining “pro- Israel” means deeming any critique of Israel unacceptable, then the term “pro-Israel” would exclude most Israelis and many American Jews.
INDEED, THOSE Democratic members of Congress who have questioned some of Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies have not called for reducing US support for Israel, nor have they advocated for any US policy that would leave Israel strategically or economically vulnerable. Democrats did not impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Israel – that was Donald Trump.
Democrats did not propose selling nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia – that was Donald Trump. Democrats have continued to emphasize the importance of maintaining the historically bipartisan nature of the US-Israel relationship, while Republicans have repeatedly sought to turn Israel into a political wedge issue. Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has inappropriately used his diplomatic platform to peddle the false narrative of a partisan divide related to Israel. The good news is that American Jews largely see through this overtly political rhetoric. The bad news is that Republican attempts to politicize Israel are increasing, and it’s not in Israel’s interest to be treated as a political football.
Virtually all of the Democratic candidates running for Congress strongly support Israel. Some have been targets of smear campaigns by Republicans, and a few have expressed views that are on the fringe of our party. When Democratic candidates have espoused views of Israel that we found troubling, the Jewish Democratic Council of America has spoken out. We will not hesitate to continue to speak with – and, if necessary, against – Democrats whose views do not align with our positions and values. We aim to educate candidates about policy issues, including Israel.
By contrast, Republicans have not adequately confronted the numerous neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Holocaust-deniers running for Congress as Republicans this election cycle. This growing phenomenon, coupled with a president who considers neo-Nazis “very fine people,” is a dangerous combination for the Jewish community and the country as a whole. We challenge the Republican Party to marginalize these candidates by endorsing their Democratic opponents. The onus is on Republicans to prevent neo-Nazis from becoming members of Congress, and they have a responsibility to act now.
Republicans have largely ignored the antisemitism infecting their ranks in the age of Trump. Similarly, they have supported the president in implementing policies that are antithetical to Jewish values. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party continues to represent those values in its domestic and foreign policy positions, including – but not limited to – its strong support of Israel. This is why American Jews will continue to support Democrats in overwhelming numbers in November. The writer is the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.