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July 10, 2008

Obama’s Critics Wage Irrational Attacks Over Israel

Listed in: Israel, Stop the Smears, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in The Huffington Post

By Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC)

Yesterday, I wrote an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post to respond to the irrational attacks of Senator Barack Obama's critics. In the continuing smear and fear campaign being waged by Senator John McCain and his allies. My op-ed, titled, "The irrationality of Obama's critics," is in a direct response to Morris Amitay's, "McCain for America -- and Israel," and Jennifer Rubin's, "Why More Jews Won't be Voting Democrat this Year." I noted, "What is most striking in these two op-eds, as well as many other opinion pieces of this genre, is their willingness to bemoan the 'ignorance' of the vast majority of American Jews who continue to vote Democratic - even in 2008. This line of argument, which bewails voter ignorance, is very common in American history. Elites who find themselves in a minority often are dumbfounded at the stupidity of the electorate and revert to what is called "the masses are asses" explanation of their minority status."

I continued, "Both Rubin and Amitay come up with unorthodox and somewhat bizarre "proofs" of Obama's scariness. For more than 40 years the pro-Israel community has relied on objective measures of a presidential candidate's pro-Israel credentials -- first the candidate's voting record and second (particularly if the voting record does not exist) his public statements. In their pieces, both Rubin and Amitay abandon this time-tested method of assessment and resort to various forms of reading animal entrails to establish a candidate's pro-Israel bona fides."

This line of reasoning must stop. We, at the National Jewish Democratic Council, are working to fight these kinds of lies, innuendos, and half-truths on a daily basis. Not only does it seem as though they have no shame, but they are turning their backs on some of the cardinal truths when it comes to judging if a candidate is pro-Israel. It was about thirty years ago when, the author of one of these anti-Obama op-eds, told me what he believed was the best method for judging if a candidate is pro-Israel. I remember, "as a young lobbyist for AIPAC, my boss, the executive director, taught me that the way to assess a candidate for higher political office is to "go to the pro-Israel voting record." My boss was Morris Amitay."

Although Obama is certainly pro-Israel, he also has the progressive ideology that is supported by overwhelming numbers in the Jewish community. In fact, "Polls indicate that a sizeable majority of American Jews care deeply about Israel, and show that once a candidate meets the pro-Israel threshold, Jewish voters will examine other issues. Is it wrong for Jewish Americans to vote for a pro-Israel candidate who also cares about a women's reproductive freedom? Is it wrong for them to vote for a pro-Israel candidate who does not say that America is a "Christian nation" and should not teach intelligent design in public schools?"

These weak, unfounded, misleading attacks must stop. It is a fact that both candidates are pro-Israel (even Obama's opponents agree.) Now, why can't we have a debate about the real issues? Or is that a conversation that the Republicans are afraid to have?