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Fuel For The Pollard Controversy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Many Washington officials have long spun the story that convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard did immense harm to this country’s national security by stealing vital American military and intelligence secrets. Thus, the U.S. intelligence community has always opposed Mr. Pollard’s release.

(Most notoriously, then-CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign if President Clinton followed through on his reported plan to release Mr. Pollard in return for Israeli concessions at the Wye Plantation negotiations; Mr. Clinton backed off on releasing Pollard but pocketed the concessions anyway.)

In any event, it was maintained that Mr. Pollard refused to disclose the full extent of his spying which was said to have included turning over to his Israeli handlers the names of U.S. agents around the world, information said to have ended up in Soviet hands because of Soviet penetration of Israeli intelligence.

Newly released declassified documents, however, paint a significantly different picture.

The documents primarily relate to the 1987 CIA damage assessment report based on its interrogation of Mr. Pollard. It records that Mr. Pollard’s spying was focused, at Israel’s request, on information the U.S. had about the Soviets and Arab states, not U.S. military secrets. In particular this involved gathering data on Syria’s chemical weapons program, Pakistan’s nuclear program and Egypt’s missile program. According to the documents, “The Israelis did not request or receive from Pollard intelligence concerning some of the most sensitive U.S. national security resources…. The Israelis never expressed interest in U.S. military activities, plans, capabilities or equipment. Likewise, they did not ask for intelligence on U.S. communications per se.”

The documents also note that Mr. Pollard’s CIA debriefers said he cooperated “in good faith” and that polygraph examinations “tended to confirm that his cooperation with U.S. authorities was bona fide.” As a consequence, they were confident they were aware of the full extent of the information Mr. Pollard shared with Israel.

The documents also debunk the widespread belief that a secret memorandum submitted to the sentencing judge sealed Mr. Pollard’s fate. Rather, he received a life sentence despite a plea agreement calling for a much shorter term because he gave an interview to The Jerusalem Post in violation of the agreement. (Mr. Pollard’s attorneys deny that the interview violated the agreement.)

There are, to be sure, negatives in the report for Mr. Pollard: as was widely reported from the beginning of the story, his spying for Israel was done on a for-pay basis, and there is the unexplained assertion in a mostly redacted section in the report that “Pollard’s espionage has put at risk important U.S. intelligence and foreign-policy interests.” Perhaps this alludes to the Soviets having indirectly deduced U.S. information gathering techniques from the data on Arab countries.

But in the 28th year of Mr. Pollard’s imprisonment, and especially in light of what the declassified documents reveal, that should now be beside the point.

As Lawrence Korb, a U.S. deputy secretary of defense at the time of Mr. Pollard’s arrest, has said, the release of the CIA report “underscores the case for Pollard’s immediate release…. We knew all along that the information that Pollard passed concerned Arab countries, and not the U.S., but the release of this official document confirming the facts makes it much easier to bring a speedy end to this tragedy. After 28 years is time for Pollard to be released and to go home now.”

We agree.

Weinberger Gave Judge Wrong Information Resulting in Pollard’s Life Sentence

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I previously wrote about new documents declassified in the Jonathan Pollard case, which might help us understand his disproportionate life sentence and why he is still imprisoned after 27 years.

Pollard’s lawyers negotiated a plea agreement with the government: he agreed to plead guilty and gave up his right to a jury trial; in return, the prosecution agreed not to seek a life sentence. By the precedents set by other cases of espionage on behalf of allies, Pollard expected a much lighter sentence.

Instead, the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented a memo to the court at the last minute accusing Pollard of doing massive damage to the U.S. The prosecution then reneged on its agreement and the judge sentenced Pollard to life imprisonment. Pollard’s lawyers were able to see the document for a few minutes, but were not given the opportunity to respond. The document has been released in a highly redacted form, so it is still not possible to know precisely what was in it.

Part of the content was probably assertions that information from Pollard found its way to the Soviet Union, exposing several American agents who were then murdered by the KGB. As I explained Friday, it appears that the agents were actually betrayed either by double agent Aldrich Ames or another ‘mole’ in the CIA who was being protected by Ames. Hershel Shanks explains,

In 1983 Ames was made chief of the CIA’s Soviet counterintelligence branch in the Soviet-East European Division. Ames was recruited by the Russians in 1984. Ames would, of course, have every reason to deflect suspicion from himself and blame someone else for what was happening in the Moscow bureau – and Ames was in a position to do so.

The information Pollard passed to Israel about Russian weaponry in Arab states was obtained, at least in part, from American agents in Russia.

In the intelligence community it was well known that in the past KGB moles had penetrated Israeli intelligence. Perhaps a still-undiscovered Soviet mole inside Israeli intelligence passed the secrets to the Soviets that Pollard had passed to Israel.

Pollard was not sentenced until March 1987. Ames was still in charge of Soviet counter-intelligence within the CIA. Based on what Ames told him, Weinberger drafted his affidavit to the court [my emphasis].

But the government apparently provided additional “facts” to the judge. When Pollard attempted (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea in 1990, attorney Alan Dershowitz presented the following affidavit to the court:

  1. My name is ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ. I am a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. I serve as one of the lawyers for Jonathan J. Pollard. During the 1963 – 1964 Supreme Court term, I was a law clerk to Mr. Justice Arthur Goldberg. Between that time and his death, I remained a close friend and associate of Mr. Justice Goldberg. We worked together on many projects, spoke and met frequently, and jointly authored articles and proposals.
  2. Following the publication of the a letter to the Jerusalem Post, on September 12, 1989, I spoke to Justice Goldberg on the telephone about the sentence imposed on Jonathan Pollard. I promised to send him some comparative sentencing data. Justice Goldberg promised to make some inquiries on his own regarding the sentence.
  3. Subsequent to this conversation, Justice Goldberg called me to tell me that he had personally met with Judge Aubrey Robinson and discussed the Pollard sentence with him. Justice Goldberg told me that Judge Robinson had told him that he (Judge Robinson) had been provided by the government with evidence that Jonathan Pollard had given Israel American satellite photographs proving that Israel had tested Jericho missiles in South Africa and had provided South Africa with missile and nuclear technology. Justice Goldberg told me further that Judge Robinson was particularly outraged by the Israel-South Africa connection and Pollard’s role in providing Israel with evidence that the United States had satellite evidence of it. Justice Goldberg told me that he understood why Judge Robinson, as a Black man, would be particularly sensitive to this evidence. Justice Goldberg told me that Judge Robinson had told him that Pollard-South African connection had weighed heavily in his (Judge Robinson’s) decision to impose a life sentence. I told Justice Goldberg that I did not believe that Jonathan Pollard had provided Israel with any such satellite information, but that I would check.
  4. I immediately called Hamilton Fox and Nathan Dershowitz [Pollard's lawyers] and told them of my conversation with Justice Goldberg. Fox said he would check with Jonathan Pollard and his earlier attorney, Richard A. Hibey concerning the truth or falsity of the evidence provided to Judge Robinson.
  5. After being assured by Fox that there was no truth whatsoever in the claim that Jonathan Pollard had provided satellite photographs or information to Israel about South Africa, Jericho missiles or nuclear technology, I wrote Justice Goldberg the attached letter (Attachment A).
  6. On January 15, 1990 I spoke with Justice Goldberg on the phone. He was quite upset at the content of my letter and promised to get to the bottom of it. He told me that he would phone Attorney General Thornburgh for a meeting to discuss this issue and the sentence. He told me that if my facts were correct, then the Justice Department had improperly “pandered” (that was his precise word) to Judge Robinson’s racial sensitivities as a Black judge by providing him with false, inflammatory, ex parte information.
  7. On Friday morning January 19, 1990, I learned from Robert Goldberg that his father, Justice Arthur Goldberg, had died in his sleep during the night.

Was there a “South African connection?” It seems unlikely, considering the kind of information Israel sought from Pollard – information about its Arab enemies and their Soviet supporters.

But more important, even if there were such a connection, Judge Robinson’s outrage that Israel may have aided the hated South African regime is hardly a legitimate reason to doom Pollard to life in prison! After all, even if true, this wasn’t Pollard’s doing.

If indeed a combination of false accusations and an inappropriate emotional reaction by the judge resulted in Pollard’s life sentence, then a miscarriage of justice occurred.

The administration should either release Pollard or explain convincingly why he should remain in prison.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Pollard Still Imprisoned After 27 Years: An Object Lesson for Jews?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Highly redacted CIA document about Jonathan Pollard case. Click for larger version.

Highly redacted CIA document about Jonathan Pollard case.

I haven’t written about Jonathan Pollard in a while. I’m prompted to do so again by two things: a recent news report that Pollard was taken to the hospital after collapsing in his cell (he is now back in jail), and the release today of formerly classified documents about his case.

Pollard, a Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested for passing classified information to Israel in 1985 and sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment, when the government reneged on a plea deal. The judge in the case ruled after receiving confidential information about the damage that Pollard’s spying allegedly caused from former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Weinberger’s memo to the court has now been declassified, but unfortunately the content that persuaded the judge to send Pollard to prison for life has been redacted, so we still don’t know exactly what Pollard is supposed to have done that justified his hugely disproportionate sentence. You can read more about the case here.

Some commentators think that Pollard was accused of being the source of information which led to the deaths of American agents at the hands of the Soviet KGB, when in fact this was provided by traitors Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. But this can’t be determined from what’s left of Weinberger’s memo.

One interesting item that appears in the declassified documents are details about some of what Pollard provided:

The documents provided information on PLO headquarters in Tunisia; specific capabilities of Tunisian and Libyan air defense systems; Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare productions capabilities (including detailed satellite imagery); Soviet arms shipments to Syria and other Arab states; naval forces, port facilities, and lines of communication of various Middle Eastern and North African countries; the MiG-29 fighter; and Pakistan’s nuclear program. Also included was a U.S. assessment of Israeli military capabilities.

The government has not provided any additional information that makes the reasons for keeping Pollard in prison clear. While he certainly is guilty of transmitting classified information to an ally, his is the only case of this kind that has resulted in a life sentence. I can’t believe, if the government actually has information to justify the sentence, that it could not be provided in a manner that would be convincing without revealing damaging secrets.

There are at least two other possible reasons for not releasing Pollard that come to mind: either:

  1. Pollard knows something which still, after 27 years, would embarrass the CIA or some other government entity or official; or,
  2. The administration believes that it is absolutely necessary to send a message that Jewish disloyalty will be treated with maximum harshness.

I’m going with number 2.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

A Black Day for American Jews

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Today is a black day for American Jews. Why? I’m sorry to say it, but as the so-called “Palestinian Authority” is gaining entrance to the United Nations as an observer, non-voting state, the Jews of America are out playing golf or watching things on TV, instead of protesting outside the UN with all of their might. “Israel Belongs to the Jews!” their protest signs should declare. “Israel is Our State!” their banners should proclaim. But, except for the few regulars and Rabbis who always show up at the demonstrations in NY, no one is there to protest.

In the upcoming Torah portion regarding the casting of Yosef into a pit, the Torah notes: “And the pit was empty, there was no water in it.” Our Sages inform us that there wasn’t water, but there were snakes and scorpions. A vacuum doesn’t stay empty. The same is true of the Land of Israel. If the Jews of the West had responded to the calls of the Zionist Movement and come on mass aliyah, especially with the founding of the State of Israel, the Land wouldn’t have filled up with snakes and scorpions.

Now these same snakes and scorpions are demanding that the United Nations recognize that Israel is their homeland, and the Jews of America sit at home and watch on TV (a least a fraction of them, since the vast majority our totally lost), and they shake their heads and say, “The Government of Israel is to blame. They should have annexed all of the territory… they never should have agreed to Oslo….”, when, in truth, it is they themselves who are to blame for not having said good-bye to comfortable America, and France, and England, and South Africa, and Mexico, and Canada, and Australia, and returned to the Jewish Homeland to reclaim it for the Jews.

So the Arabs claimed it instead. It’s shameful to say, but when it comes to the Land of Israel, the Arabs have more mesirut nefesh and a readiness for sacrifice than Diaspora Jews. The “Palestinians” are ready to give up their lives for the Holy Land. How many Diasporians can say that? They are prepared to suffer, and engage in armed struggle to win sovereignty over the Land. How many Diasporians can say that? Instead they sit in Brooklyn, and Monsey, and Lakewood, and Chicago, and Dallas, and Beverly Hills, and they shake their heads and say, “Too bad those weak Israelis didn’t transfer them all to Saudi Arabia,” while they go into the kitchen to make another bagel and lox.

So, with the hope that a least a handful of readers will hear these words and recognize their truth, I composed a prayer for Diaspora Jews to say on this black day of our history:

“Dear God, and God of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov; on this black day when Arabs are demanding that world recognize their right to a state in the Land of Israel, I sit here silently in America doing nothing to protest, even though Israel is my Land, not theirs.

“I know it is my Land because I know you commanded Avraham to live there, and You promised it to his descendants  the Jews, as an eternal covenant. I know it is the Land of the Jews, and the place you want me to live, because You told Yitzhak to never leave it, and when Yaakov had to flee from Esav, You told him to return to the Land of Israel to raise his family there.

“And when You freed the Jews from bondage in Egypt, You commanded us to return to Israel. And I know I am supposed to live there because it says so in the Torah over and over again, and all the Prophets all speak about our returning from the exile to rebuild our national life in the Land of Israel, and that our Redemption can only happen there.

“I know that I am supposed to live in the Land of Israel and not let other nations dwell there in my stead, because that’s what the Torah says clearly, and that’s what we pray for in our daily prayers, and that’s what I say myself at the end of every Passover Seder, and at the conclusions of my Yom Kippur prayers, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” yet here I am, still in New York, and Los Angeles and Boca Raton, when I know I should move to Israel.

“But I’m stuck, either because I don’t know how I can make a living there, or I’m afraid to go into the Israeli army, or I don’t want to leave my parents, or I’m comfortable here, or a dozen other reasons, some of them real and others invented, and I know that You know what’s really in the heart of man, so I ask Your forgiveness in that I haven’t done as much as I can, whether in going to live in Israel myself, or helping others in whatever way I can, by forming an aliyah group at my synagogue, or convincing our shul’s Rabbi to urge our young people to go, or help to raise funds so families can make a new start in Israel.

“True, I follow what’s going on in The Jewish Press, and I post articles about Israel on Facebook, and I give whatever tzedakah I can, but I know I could do lots more. Please forgive me that I don’t act on the words of my prayers, and that I ignore the great mitzvah of living in the Land, and even though there are Gedolim who say that aliyah isn’t an obligation today, everyone agrees that it is still a great mitzvah, and though I strive to perform all of the other commandments as best as I can, over this one I am surely remiss, especially when I see how You have miraculous gathered in millions of Jews to Israel, and rebuilt the country in a miraculous way, while here in America, and England, and France, assimilation is eating up our ranks, and we look away as if everything is OK as long as it is down the block with the reformers, and not in the bubble of our wonderful glatt kosher neighborhood. Forgive me, Father, that I sit passively in my home while Arabs proclaim their right to the Land of Israel.

“Even though the Israelis could have handled things differently, I know that I am to blame as well for making America my home over Israel. I am ashamed that the Arabs are acting more Jewish than I am. You have commanded us, the Jewish People, to establish our sovereignty over the borders of Israel, and in my procrastination, the sons of Ishmael are doing it in my stead. Woe is me. Woe is me. My shame spreads out up to Heaven. Please, my Father and King, from this time forth, put in my heart, like a raging fire, the desire and courage to extricate myself from galut and come home to Israel, to be in my own Jewish Land, and not continue on as a stranger amongst the gentiles. And if I can’t make aliyah now for whatever reason, let me encourage my children to do so, and do whatever I can to let others know that our only future is in the Land of the Jews, just like it clearly states, again and again, in the Torah, in the writings of our Prophets, and in our prayers.

“May it be your will, Amen.”

Jewish Support for Obama Not Mystifying

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Somewhere between 68 and 70% of American Jewish voters went for Obama, depending on whose exit poll you believe. Israelis that I talk to are mystified. “Are they crazy? What were they thinking?” they ask.

It’s not really mystifying. Here are some general facts about non-Orthodox and secular (the large majority) American Jews:

Although they will say that they support Israel, they do not know the history of the Middle East and the 100-year old conflict over Jewish sovereignty. They are well-educated, which means that they went to universities where, if they studied the conflict, they are likely to have been assigned books and articles by the revisionist (read: anti-Zionist) historians. They will certainly have been exposed to numerous lectures and films presented by Palestinian advocates and student groups. If they are left-of-center and engaged in antiwar or other ‘progressive’ causes, they will certainly be bombarded with extreme anti-Israel propaganda as well.

They tend to be liberal, which means that they get their news of current events from sources like the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, etc. What they will see and hear will generally confirm their mildly left-wing beliefs, but in one area — Israel — will be consistently and deliberately biased to an extreme degree.

They are very concerned about what they perceive as the danger of a Christian takeover of American society, in which Christian symbols and prayer will be officially sanctioned in public places, abortion and contraception will be prohibited on religious grounds, their children will be required to sing Christmas carols, etc. They associate Christianity with antisemitism — but do not seem to be alarmed by growing antisemitism on the Left, or in the black community.

They are less threatened by Muslims, whom they see as another minority in the US who suffer from discrimination, like blacks and Jews. They seek interfaith cooperation, and are not alarmed by the treatment of Islamist organizations as mainstream by the administration.

Although today many are financially successful, they are suspicious of “big business” and — not entirely incorrectly — feel that the population is being ripped off by corporations like banks, pharmaceutical companies, etc. They are pro-union. But they are not as worried by the fact that the tax burden on them is rapidly rising while government services that actually benefit people are falling. As liberals, they tend to be less concerned about the increasing power and intrusiveness of government than the loss of privacy to corporations.

Finally, as well-educated liberals, they find it hard to criticize Barack Obama, who presents himself as ‘black’, lest they be guilty of racism, a secular blasphemy punishable by total social ostracism.

Not everything I’ve said applies to all American Jews — there are conservatives among them, and some who take both conservative and liberal positions on various issues. There are Orthodox Jews who are more conservative, and even haredi anti-Zionists (who knows how, or even if, they vote). But I think my generalizations are, er, generally, correct.

So along comes Mitt Romney, a guy who represents corporate power if anyone does, who draws support from the Christian Right — at least, at the beginning of the campaign when he plays to the conservative base — and who complains about ‘big government’ and threatens to undo the only liberal success of the Obama Administration, Obamacare.

He is at a huge disadvantage from the start. And the issue of Israel has little or no power to sway American Jews, because, as I’ve argued, deep in their hearts they are not sure that Israel is not really a colonialist oppressor of third-world Palestinians. In an emotional sense, many of them are not with Israel.

We know that politics is mostly emotional, so when Republicans or pro-Israel Jews presented arguments that Obama was not a friend or Israel, they bounced off. Accepting and acting on them would mean going against their deeply felt liberalism and voting Republican, something many could not bring themselves to do. And their pro-Israel feeling is not strong enough to push them over the edge. So they looked for reasons to justify their emotional position.

The Obama campaign presented simplistic talking points to ‘prove’ that he is pro-Israel. They did not have to stand up to analysis. Liberal Jews were looking for a rational excuse to justify their emotional stance, and the talking points provided one.

The Jews of the United States

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Years have passed since Rabbi Kahane penned this essay, but it still rings sadly true today. Rabbi Kahane was known for saying uncomfortable things that comfortable Jews didn’t want to hear. In honor of his yahrtzeit, here’s another one of his brilliant and illuminating writings, which was published almost 25 years ago in The Jewish Press and was recently reprinted in the fabulous, opus, seven-volume collection of Rabbi Kahane’s short writings, “Beyond Words.”

The Jews of the  United States

March 25, 1988

Jewish leaders in Israel and the world have long warned that the Jewish State risks standing bereft of “allies.” That should Israel take “extreme” and provocative action, i.e., be prepared to do the difficult and painful things that it must do in order to survive, it faces the hazard of standing alone against a hostile world. What is just as clear to perceptive Jews is that, should the State of Israel do what is necessary to survive, i.e., take steps that go against the basic grain of liberal, Western democratic views, it risks splitting a large part of the United States Jewish community. And, indeed, the signs of dissent and hostility are there for all to see. They raised their ominous heads during the war in Lebanon, and, emboldened, are louder and more vociferous, today.

Once, in the wake of both the Holocaust and the establishment of the Jewish State, it was simply impossible for any Jew who sought to be recognized as a member of the community, to condemn Israel. The terrible Holocaust and the terror it meant for Jews who lived through that period gave Israel— as the haven for Jews from such future terrors — an immunity from attacks by Jews. But as with all things that are based on emotion, rather than logic and ideology, as times changed and as a generation changed and moved on to make way for another, so did the attitude toward and the status of the Jewish State.

There was always a built-in contradiction within the Jewish Establishment leadership and certainly within the intellectual community. While they supported Israel, they were essentially products of non-Jewish, Western culture and values. They were first and foremost liberals, before they were Jews. Not for them was “my people and Israel, right or wrong.” They wanted “right,” and the standards by which they judged morality were liberal ones. Indeed, they had persuaded themselves that they were also “Jewish,” since peace of mind and conscience — as well as awesome ignorance — demanded the equating of Judaism and Jefferson, the “Hebrew prophets” (sic) and liberalism.

In the first 20 years of the Jewish State, there were few abrasive moments and few opportunities for the ridiculous equation to be tested. But following the Six-Day War, and as the euphoria wore off, as the Yom Kippur War badly tarnished the image of the Israeli Superman, and, most importantly, as the distance from Auschwitz grew longer and a generation grew up that knew not the horrors — things changed. Liberal Jews, with their psychological inability to be winners (losing is so much easier and losers so much more lovable), began to squirm over the “occupied territories,” the use of force by Jews against “civilians, women and children,” albeit to save Jewish lives. Talk began to be heard in certain Jewish circles about Israeli “intransigence” and unwillingness to compromise. The poor “Palestinian” refugees were, more and more, the subject of Jewish concern (though not, apparently, how they had become refugees). The terms “moderate Palestinians” (and even “moderate terrorists”) began to find their place in the lexicon of liberal Jews and certain Jewish Establishment groups.

And then, of course, came Lebanon and Sabra and Shatila, and all the submerged and sublimated liberal hostility to Israel emerged. And that is, of course, the proper term. “Hostility.” And it was hostility on the part of many Jews, especially Reform and Conservative rabbis, who always sensed the impossible contradiction between Zionism and a Jewish State, and the liberal, Westernized values they truly believed in. And so, pulpiteers ordered their congregants to rise at Yom Kippur services and beat their breasts for Israeli sins against helpless “Palestinians.” And more and more Op-Ed pieces by Jews and Jewish leaders began to appear, dissenting from Israel and criticizing her. Until, today, a real and major split is before us. And the question is: What to do about it?

Israel Not High Voting Priority for Pro-Israel Student Activists

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As college students prepare to hit the polls on November 6 – many for the first time – they will be considering a broad array of policy issues and party platforms. What drives young people to vote? How do they consider various issues? Does Israel play a role in the choices they make on election day?

Israel Campus Beat interviewed pro-Israel students on campuses across the country to gauge the impact their support for Israel has on how they are preparing for Election Day.

In RockTheVote’s latest poll of 18-29 year olds, jobs and the economy were the primary issues young people wanted politicians to address, with education and the cost of college taking second place on the priority list. The first issue of foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, came in fifth. Based on ICB’s interviews with multiple campuses, it seems that these patterns hold true among pro-Israel young adults.

In the 2012 election, many pro-Israel American college students do not feel that their commitment to Israel must override their other passions. When pro-Israel college students were asked which candidate’s positions make them feel more secure regarding Israel, many were ambivalent.

George Washington University senior John Bennet, who interns for the Romney campaign, said he believes that Gov. Mitt Romney understands the vital importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. In light of continued unrest in Libya and Egypt, Bennet said this understanding will be crucial in the next four years.

“But regardless of who is elected, United States foreign policy really hasn’t changed drastically in the immediate past and I don’t anticipate that it will,” Bennet said.

Many students echoed Bennet’s confidence that America will remain committed to Israel’s security regardless of who is elected.

Professor Gil Troy, who teaches American history at McGill University, stated that although some people may feel that President Barack Obama’s stance on Israel seems less enthusiastic than some of his predecessors, it would be wrong to call him anti–Israel.

Troy noted that each time the President has said or done something that caused some Israel supporters to question his commitment to the Jewish state, he has responded with a reassuring move to strengthen the US-Israel bond.

For example, Troy noted, “When there is a power struggle between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama ensures stronger military cooperation soon afterward.” But Troy had a different rationale for college students prioritizing domestic issues over foreign policy related to Israel.

“In general, college students tend to be a mix of interventionist and isolationist,” he said. “They are anti-war, anti entanglements in foreign lands and interventionist in humanitarian causes like Darfur.”

With so many Americans deeming Israel a peripheral issue, should supporters of the Jewish state be concerned that the pro-Israel base is becoming less passionate about Israel?

Professor Jonathan Sarna, who teaches American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said that this is not the case.

“Were the President to come out against Israel, then American Jews might in significant numbers vote for the opposing candidate,” he said. However, he continued, because pro-Israel voters do not feel that there is a significant threat to Israel when choosing between Romney and Obama, they do not feel they need to consider Israel’s security more than other policy issues that concern them.

Among Jewish voters, a key bastion of support for Israel, the candidates’ policies on Israel may not have as large a role in determining voting preferences as some people think.

According to David Harris, the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), support for Israel comes 6th, 7th, and 8th on Jewish voters’ priority lists. He termed this statistic a success story, noting that both candidates value Israel as an important ally and view protecting Israel against Iran’s nuclear threat as a priority. For this reason, he posited, American Jews do not feel they need to prioritize Israel as they decide which candidate to support.

“Only a handful [of American Jews] vote on Israel alone,” Harris said, adding that other issues that figure in Jews’ voting choices include social issues and the economy.

Harris noted that many American Jews put their concerns about social policies and the economy ahead of their concerns about Israel.

Harris called this a “litmus test issue: It would be a top priority if the presidential candidate came out against Israel poll after poll.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-not-high-voting-priority-for-pro-israel-student-activists/2012/10/18/

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