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Roger Gitlin: Jewish support for Obama is waning

SCV Voices

Posted: June 12, 2010 10:28 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Approximately 78 percent of American Jewish constituents voted for President Barack Obama in 2008. No doubt, Jewish support for the 44th president helped to elect him.

According to a poll released April 14 by John McLaughlin & Associates, Jewish support for Obama has dropped to 42 percent - a stunning 35 percent decline.

Why is that? What has caused this apparent exodus of Jewish support?

I ask these questions because I quite obviously did not vote for Obama and I am Jewish. What is it I observed about Barack Hussein Obama that apparently many of my Jewish brethren are now seeing?

First: His name. Specifically, his middle name - Hussein. It's a Muslim name, but Obama and his supporters were quick to lose that moniker early on in the presidential campaign. I was always taught to be proud of my heritage. Be proud of your name, my parents would say. Apparently, this is not the case with Barack Hussein Obama.

Second, I did not perceive president Obama to be a friend of Israel. Though his actions might be construed by some to be neutral, Obama has not demonstrated his unwavering support for the Jewish state. Recently at the White House, Obama snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a well-publicized meeting. Obama lectured Netanyahu that he was not permitted to attack Iran, to withdraw all troops from the West Bank immediately and to cease settlements in East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu balked at the unreasonable directives. It was reported Obama simply walked out of the room with a "call me if you change your mind" attitude concerning these internal Israeli matters. I think it is safe to presume Obama and Netanyahu don't like each other very much.

Now, many American Jews are recognizing Obama's ideology is not in concert with their support of Israel.

Recent events in the news, including attacks on Israeli security forces to determine the contents of Turkish so-called humanitarian flotillas, have mucked up the waters. In addition, inflammatory remarks by liberal stalwart Helen Thomas telling Israel to "get the hell out of Palestine," and "Jews should go back to Poland" sullies the Obama White House. Such ignorance from 89-year-old Thomas reflects poorly on President Obama.

Additionally, The Signal published a column ("Israel's flotilla massacre: Made in the USA," June 10) last week from noted Jewish commentator Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies. Bennis shamelessly supports Hamas and its so-called humanitarian relief flotillas, sponsored by NATO nation Turkey, which has recently turned dramatically in the direction of support of radical Iran.

I am genuinely perplexed about what I perceive as a growing Jewish support base for Hamas. So, I asked individuals whose opinions I value and respect.

Rabbi Mark Blazer, of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita, also expressed concern, but his attitude about Obama is one of patience and caution. Blazer said the president wants to please both sides of the Middle East, which is quite impossible to do.

"The president is walking a thin line in trying to appease all parties." Blazer said. "The question of Israel has grown much more complex since 9/11. There are many more issues at play today than when George W. Bush was in office."

The rabbi, who supported George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections, cited Turkey's sudden lurch to the Iranian camp as "very disturbing."

"Obama needs to come out in support of Israel's right to defend itself. So far, the president has not displayed the kind of support the Jewish community would expect, but I am patient," Blazer said. "Let's see if he comes out more strongly in support of Israel"

When I asked Blazer why Jews voted so overwhelmingly for Obama, he responded, "Jewish people are liberal and Democrat. Jews were anxious to give their votes to the first black president. ... John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin prompted more Jewish folks to vote for Obama." I certainly do not share Blazer's opinion on Sarah Palin's candidacy. I did and still see the former governor of Alaska as a refreshing breath of fresh air in a stale, squalid Washington, D.C., environment.

Political commentator Dennis Prager, also Jewish, states the issue cogently when he says, "As Jews in America move away from Judaism, those Jews have less concern about Israel. For those Jews who retain some aspect of Judeo-Christian values, they see Obama's treatment of Israel as a ‘big deal.'" Prager also is patient and awaits Obama's position on Israel.

Is President Obama able to pivot to the right to satiate mainstream Judaism?

Will Jews finally overcome their distaste for the word "Republican" and start examining the issues rather than the persona?

Will Obama continue to walk the narrow balance beam of appeasement and apology for America's past?

The answers to these questions and other lie in the immediate future. America will learn some of the answers in November.

Rabbi Blazer, Dennis Prager and I all agree mainstream Judaism supports Israel.

Roger Gitlin is a teacher, founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minuteman and state director of the Patriot's Coalition. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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