‘Don’t shoot the messenger’

‘Don’t shoot the messenger’

As Jack Nicholson once said, the truth is too hard for some people to handle, and so the ad campaign launched by the Republican Jewish Coalition has come under partisan attack by some Democrats who would rather avoid talking about the steady erosion of support for Israel within their ranks. Rather than face the problem, they shoot the messenger.

The RJC ads focus on Israel and ask which party today is more likely to support Israel. As Israel faces attacks from Hezbollah and Hamas and faces a potential nuclear threat from Iran, the security of Israel is clearly a top issue for the American Jewish community. A recent survey of American rabbis finds that Israel is the number one issue they discuss with their congregations.

Two of the RJC ads examine the Democrat Party’s treatment of Joe Lieberman and recent anti-Israel quotes by Jimmy Carter, who is considered an "elder statesman" of the party. But more importantly, the ads also highlight startling results from polls taken last July, soon after Israel went to war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which show that public support for Israel is considerably higher among Republicans than among Democrats at the grassroots level. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked whether the respondent’s sympathy was more often with Israel or the Arab nations: 84 percent of Republicans polled supported Israel, while only 43 percent of Democrats polled did. An LA Times/Bloomberg poll asked whether the U.S. should be aligned with Israel or more neutral toward the Arab-Israeli conflict. Sixty-four percent of Republicans said "align with Israel," while only 39 percent of Democrats had the same response.

With these facts in mind, the RJC ads challenge Jewish Democrats to examine their party and decide if they are still comfortable with it. More than pointing a finger at Democrat leaders, the ads call on Jewish Democrats to consider the groundswell of anti-Israel feeling among fellow Democrats at the grassroots.

To get a sense of what is happening out at the grassroots level of the Democratic Party, one only has to look at the liberal blogs such as Moveon.org, which has sprouted vehemently anti-Semitic posts — condemning the "media owning Jewish pigs" and "sneaky Jewish sympathizers" and referring to Sen. Joe Lieberman as "Jew Lieberman." The anti-Semitism on the Moveon.org forum was such that the Anti-Defamation League felt compelled to write a letter to Moveon.org, demanding that they repudiate the vile contents of their forum.

The number of letters to the editor the RJC ads have generated shows the importance of Israel to the Jewish community — and the depth of feeling of Democrat partisans who feel their party has been attacked. To them I would say: Don’t shoot the messenger. We are pointing out a problem within the Democrat Party itself, which Jewish Democrats should try to address. Calling the RJC names and demanding that papers not run our ads is not going to solve the problem. It’s like blaming Paul Revere for alerting the people of Massachusetts that the British were coming.

Of course, the RJC comes to this debate with a clear and well-known point of view. But our challenge to the community is based on facts and deserves to be considered. Then we all can have the kind of healthy debate on the issues that will move our country and our community forward.

Matt Brooks is executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition Washington.