The presidential election season gets officially under way this Tuesday as the citizens of Iowa take to their caucus rooms to choose a Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama 10 months from now.
The campaign, of course, has been ongoing almost since Obama was elected three years ago. Such is the nature of politics in the 21st century. The ability to govern takes a distant back seat to the need to run for the right to govern.
That is for political scientists and philosophers to work out. What concerns us is the anti-Semitic undercurrent evident in efforts to wrest the Jewish vote away from the president. From the very beginning, they have been focused almost exclusively on a single issue: his support (or lack thereof) for the State of Israel.
The implication is that Jewish voters do not care all that much about health care, or bank regulation, or job creation, or environmental protection, or excellence in education. Jews only care about how the president of the United States treated the prime minister of Israel when the latter visited the White House.
At times, this “I’m for Israel” ploy is almost laughable, such as when it is voiced by a local mayoral candidate or village council hopeful, as if anyone at that level has any influence whatever on national affairs, much less foreign ones.
To the extent that Jews are credited with interest in other issues, it is always seen as selfishly focused, for their betterment alone. Jewish voters, for example, are not presumed to care about educational excellence, only about tuition tax credits. According to the political playbook (one which Jewish organizations helped write, which make this even worse), when campaigning before Jews, tell them how much money they will save, not how much their community will improve.
We will deal with the president’s record on Israel and on the views of his potential challengers in an upcoming issue. We do not minimize its importance. In fact, we believe that Jewish voters do not appreciate its importance. The focus of politicians on Israel to the exclusion of other issues, however, smacks of a belief that Jews here are more loyal to Israel than they are to America.
That is anti-Semitism, no matter how one colors it.