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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘American Jewish Committee’

About That ‘Israel Unity Pledge’

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Last week the Anti Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee circulated a proposed “unity pledge” for American Jews which, according to a press release, was designed “to encourage other national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals to rally around bipartisan support for Israel while preventing the Jewish state from becoming a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign season.”

Most have understood that to mean taking the issue of the Middle East off the table in the upcoming presidential campaign.

Telling Americans to cut back on ventilating a core issue in American politics for fear that voters might rally around the advocate for one of the positions as opposed to the other, is, on its face, bizarre. And since the topic of Israel is not President Obama’s strong point, it smacks of downright partisanship to suggest that it should not be a robust part of the political debate.

Yes, the last thing our community needs is to see support for Israel become a partisan or “wedge” issue in the upcoming campaign. Standing with Israel should not be exclusively identified with one political party. Indeed, expressions of support for Israel and its security have been part of the presidential campaign landscape for decades now, with virtually all Republican and Democratic candidates more or less on the same page.

If the pledge is designed to discourage some of the more shrill attacks that argue that one candidate or another is out to destroy Israel, we might see the point. But is President Obama’s declared desire to reach out to the Muslim world by reevaluating certain of our foreign policy premises – which have benefited Israel immensely over the years – out of bounds?

And what of his war against the settlements? He is at odds with both Democrats and Republicans on the issue. Is that too off the table in terms of political debate?

And what of his embrace of the 1967 lines? Is that a taboo subject? Should Ed Koch’s recent support of a Republican congressional candidate as a means of demonstrating his unhappiness with Mr. Obama’s treatment of Israel been verboten?

We’ve had very few positive things to say about the liberal J Street lobbying group. But J Street’s reaction to the unity pledge is instructive: “You can have a unified support for Israel – for the state of Israel, for the concept of Israel, for its future and for its security – but [have] a vehement disagreement about how you get there. And that’s what we have.”

In other words, certain Jewish organizational leaders need to chill out. Their fear that Mr. Obama has been losing a significant amount of Jewish support is all too palpable. Isn’t that the obvious reason for this misguided effort?

We don’t recall a similar “unity” campaign in 2004, when President Bush was being assailed by liberal Jews for his warm relationship with the Likud government and clear tilting toward Israel even if it meant offending the delicate sensibilities of Yasir Arafat.

Will Jewish Voters Break Their Democratic Habit In 2012?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Will the Jewish vote, normally overwhelmingly Democratic, be up for grabs in 2012? That question became a subject of intense debate when a Republican was elected recently to the House of Representatives from New York’s 9th Congressional District for the first time in 90 years.

The district, which encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Queens and is about one-third Jewish, had been predictably Democratic and liberal. But in the blink of an eye it gave the non-Jewish Republican candidate an 8-point victory over the Democrat, an Orthodox Jew.

Public rabbinical endorsements in the district and extensive reportage in local Jewish papers indicated substantial Jewish defections from the Democrats, particularly among Orthodox Jews, estimated to make up about a third of the Jewish electorate there. Since the election, Republican presidential candidates have been ramping up their pro-Israel rhetoric on the assumption that Jews are disappointed with the administration’s Middle East policy, while Democrats are organizing special outreach initiatives in the hope of holding on to their Jewish support.

The just-released AJC Survey of American Jewish Opinion indicates a definite falloff of Jewish support for Obama, although it is not clear that the Republican candidate for president next year can count on a significant shift in the Jewish vote.

Jewish support for Obama began at a far higher threshold than in the electorate at large: In 2008 he received an estimated 78 percent of the Jewish vote while polling 53 percent nationally. Three years later his national approval rating stands at 39 percent, a 14-point drop, while his approval rating among Jews – according to the AJC survey – is 45 percent, a decline of 23 percent but still 6 points higher than among Americans as a whole.

Among Orthodox Jews, who made up 9 percent of the sample, disapproval is much higher, 72 percent.

The AJC poll indicates that the president has retained the support of American Jews on certain issues. A solid 68 percent approve of the way he has handled national security, for example. Yet there has been a striking reversal in Jewish attitudes toward the president’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations. In the fall of 2009, toward the end of the administration’s first year, the AJC survey showed Jewish approval outstripping disapproval by 54 to 32 percent. Now, two years later, disapprovers outnumber approvers by 53 to 40 percent. Among the Orthodox Jews, 81 percent disapprove.

But Jewish disaffection from the president is not confined to Israel policy; Jews share the broader American unhappiness with recent economic trends. In March 2010, an AJC survey had Jewish approval of the president’s economic policies at 55 percent as compared to 45 percent in the general population. Today the Jewish approval rating on the economy is down to 37 percent, about the same as among Americans as a whole.

The latest AJC survey indicates some falloff in Jewish identification with the Democratic Party, which stood at 53 percent in 2009 and is now at 45 percent. However, this has not translated into gains for the Republicans, which stands steady at 16 percent. Rather, the number of Jewish political independents rose in that time period from 30 percent to 38 percent. In the Orthodox sample, Republicans now outnumber Democrats by 35 to 21 percent, with 41 percent identifying as independents.

Looking forward to the 2012 election, the AJC survey matched up Obama with a number of potential Republican candidates and asked respondents to indicate for whom they would vote. Mitt Romney did best in the hypothetical contest, garnering 32 percent to Obama’s 51; Rick Perry garnered 26 percent to Obama’s 54; and Michele Bachmann received 21 percent against 59 percent for Obama.

Since 1928, Democratic candidates for president almost always have received at least 60 percent of the Jewish vote, with many doing far better. Only Jimmy Carter in his 1980 reelection bid did worse, winning a plurality of 45 percent in a three-candidate race.

Do Obama’s numbers in the AJC matchups, all in the 51-59 percent range, portend trouble for him? Not necessarily. Approximately 20 percent of the respondents said they were undecided or unsure about whether to vote for Obama or for any of the named Republicans.

To be sure, there is still a year to go before the next presidential election. Much could happen to change the electoral calculus both in the Jewish community and outside it, whether on the domestic economic front, in the Middle East or elsewhere. Also, other candidates could conceivably enter the race.

Clearly the president faces challenges in attracting Jewish voters, especially the Orthodox. Some are identical to those confronting him with regard to all voters, others specific to the Jewish community. It is far too early to tell if 2012 will be the year that Republicans finally fulfill their long-held aspiration to draw a large chunk of the Jewish vote or if, despite serious misgivings, the tradition of overwhelming Jewish allegiance to the Democrats continues.

(JTA)

Lawrence Grossman is director of publications for the American Jewish Committee.

Muslim Population Myth

Friday, November 23rd, 2001

A startling population report has just been published by the American Jewish Committee debunking the myth of potent Muslim voting power.

Since September 11, the media has used estimates of the Muslim population in the United States of 5-8 million. However, the report, prepared by the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago, says that none of the 20 publicized estimates “is based on a scientifically-sound or explicit methodology. All can probably be characterized as guesses or assertions. Nine came from Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Student Association, the Council on America-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, and the Harvard Islamic Society or unspecified 'Muslim sources.' None of these sources gave any basis for their figures.”

The report goes on to describe the seemingly purposeful effort to inflate Muslim population figures and concludes:

Estimates of Muslim population in the United States 1) vary greatly, 2) are seldom based on any credible scientific methodology, and 3) seem to have been undergoing inflation of late, rising a million from the average claim in 1996-2001 of 5.65 million to a post-September 11 average figure of 6.7 million.

The best, adjusted, survey-based estimates put the adult Muslim population in 2000 at … 1,401,000, and the total Muslim population at 1,886,000. Even if high-side estimates based on local surveys, figures from mosques, and ancestry and immigration statistics are given more weight than the survey-based numbers, it is hard to accept estimates that Muslims are greater than 1 percent of the population (2,090,000 adults or 2,814,000 total).

Thus, the average number being cited by the media at present … is 2.4 to 3.6 times greater than the best available estimates…

The motive of the various Muslim institutions to inflate the population figures is obvious. We hope that the media will now be more careful about being part of the scam.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/muslim-population-myth/2001/11/23/

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