We all know by now how Obama catapulted to the influences of the Israeli lobby, in at least stating a message that pretty much neutralized any hope of a real and just change in American foreign policy in the Middle East (what actually happens is not necessarily what politicians state before elections– “read my lips”). His speech at the AIPAC conference , along with Clinton and McCain, on the heels of Obama's victory in the primaries was evidence, if any was needed, that the Israeli lobby is the most influential, disproportionally powerful, and the most dangerous lobby in America (dangerous because of the destructive foreign policies it pushes politicians to accept). During this AIPAC conference, both presidential candidates (plus Hilary) had to perform a dog and pony show, each describing how he/she will turn a blind eye towards Israel's terrorism and disregard for all UN resolutions decrying Israel's occupation.
Jon Stewart, himself a Jew, can take on Obama's pandering without being labeled antisemitic (“self-hating Jew” anyone??). The following statement by Jon Stewart says so much in so little (see rest of video below):
“Oh, I forgot, you can't say anything remotely critical about Israel and still get elected President. Which is funny, because you know where you can criticize Israel? Uh, Israel”
How despicable the state of politics and media in America, that you can be more critical of Israel in Israel and not in America! A progressive Jewish blogger wrote:
I support Senator Obama for many different reasons and I will continue to do so until he is inaugurated, but if his campaign does not issue a public correction of this statement [Jerusalem being the undivided capital of Israel], this will profoundly dampen the enthusiasm with which I do so.
And yet, the Lobby's foot-soldiers and captains refuse to yield (see how Lieberman back-stabs Obama), because to the Lobby, McCrazy is considered a proven commodity in his biased approach to foreign policies favoring Israel, than an untested Obama.
Now, lets get to the question of the Jewish vote. As we know, Israel can't really vote a candidate in, only Americans can (though there may be a policy change coming soon whereby all Israelis will have a right to vote in American elections– after all, one is allowed to give tax-deductible donations to the state of Israel, the only country in the world with such a privilege).
Notice also how I separated the Jewish vote from AIPAC. While the Lobby likes you to believe that all Jews love AIPAC, that is completely untrue. Many, many progressive Jews find the Lobby to be to hawkish and too right-wing, and do not believe that AIPAC is working in the best interest of United States or even Israel. Many Jews are becoming too weary of AIPAC's power on the hill, and also its stance that is decidedly anti-liberal in many ways:
What all this adds up to is that for liberal or moderate American Jews who don't support Bush's war in Iraq or his “war on terror” and who are willing to look at Israel warts and all, the fact that AIPAC has anointed itself as the de facto spokesmen for American Jews is becoming more and more unacceptable. And increasing numbers of them are beginning to speak out. [Salon]
So how powerful is the Jewish vote really? In fact, if you look at numbers, the number of Jews are about the same number as Muslims. So, while there may be marginal effects caused by both Jews and Muslims voters, IF they vote as a bloc, it does not add up to the picture of this huge Jewish bloc that decides who become president.
Furthermore, both Jewish and Muslim voters are not monolithic in their choices of candidates. Most Jewish voters are liberal and will vote Democratic, regardless of how Israel-loving the Republican candidate is. Nevertheless, there will be a small proportion of Jews within this Democratic bloc that may be swayed by the candidates view of Israel. But, then you are talking about a small percent of a small percent. Even if one were to assume that 25% of Jews care about Israel so much that it determines their vote (which is very generous), then 25% of 3% (Jews account for about 2% of the population, but show up to vote on average more than non-Jews), that is still only 0.75%!
There are, for instance, approximately 145,000 Jews in Ohio. If 80 percent were eligible to vote and 80 percent of those eligible actually did go to the polls (both high estimates) that would mean that that roughly 93,000 votes were up for grabs in that state. If Obama won 74 percent of that vote — the same percentage that John Kerry carried nationally in 2004 — he would have approximately 68,000 Ohio Jewish votes. If he only received 61 percent of the vote — which he is receiving in the most recent Gallup Poll — that number drops to 56,700, a difference of 11,300 votes. In Ohio, such a loss could make a difference. But the state was decided by more than ten times that margin in 2004.
Jews do make up larger shares of the population in both Pennsylvania and Florida. However, in some of the “new” swing states — Colorado, New Mexico, and Iowa, for example — the Jewish population is only (roughly) 80,000, 11,000 and 6,000 respectively. [Huffington Post]
Historical data provides evidence for the presence of only a sliver of Jewish voters that will sway with the candidate's Israel views. So Bush, with all his Israeli pandering, hardly made a dent in 2004 Presidential elections, receiving an extra 6% of Jewish votes over 2000 elections! That would amount to an extra 0.2% of total votes, spread out over all of America.
As for “swing states”, PA is already quite democratic, so it needs far more than a 25% swing in Jewish vote to take that away from Obama. And Kerry lost Florida by enough of a margin that no Jewish or Muslim bloc or combination of the two would change that. At best, Jews make about 5% of electorate vote in Florida, but the power of the Lobby to exaggerate influences has made Obama pander to this community, while ignoring other communities.
In closing, I would only ask Obama and his team this: If you want to address one community's concerns, why not address the others too?? Probably the most important “swing” constituent is the Hispanic population. They have the numbers, even if they don't yet have the influence. If their lobby was commensurate with their numbers, it would be the real and justified 300 pound gorilla in DC, a position firmly and squarely occupied by the far less representative (in terms of pure numbers) Israeli lobby. So Obama, my friend: don't let the Lobby deceive you. They may have influences over the media, but there are far more information channels now than ever before. Stick to your principles, and let justice be your guide, that is the only sure road to victory!
- See also: Some Muslim Americans Feel Shunned by Obama [NYT]