Jews, Obama and the American Left

Posted on June 2, 2011 by

Nearly eight of ten American Jews who went to the polls in 2008 voted for Barack Obama. 

Don’t expect that to change much next time around. 

Sometimes centrist republicans – Dick Riordan in L.A. or George Pataki in New York State - pull larger shares of the Jewish vote, but Jews seldom stray into far-right territory. 

(John McCain forfeited his claim on the moderate Jewish vote when he brought Sarah Palin on board). 

In the recent flap over Obama’s effort to kick-start Israeli – Palestinian peace talks by proposing a return to pre-1967 boarders, republicans tried to portray the president as “soft on Israel.” 

Democratic groups did some quick damage control.  (Even the usually low-profile Jewish Labor Committee stepped in, declaring that Obama’s proposal has “been a standard part of the U.S. position for more than two decades” and is, of course, subject to “negotiations and land swaps.” 

Though some American Jews worry about Obama’s commitment to Israel, I don’t believe he has – or will – alienate mainstream Jewish voters.

For liberal / progressive Jews, our support for Israel – and Obama – tends to push us toward the center of the foreign policy spectrum. 

It’s a different story, of course, for others on the left, who are clearly disgusted with Obama’s willingness to use military force (including drones) in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

This creates a very dicey divide among progressives: 

  • Those who accommodate Obama’s exercise of American “power” in foreign affairs
  • Those who believe the president’s use of military force is just another way for American “elites” to protect their interests
  • (Or those stuck somewhere in the middle).

While some may shudder when we hear brazen anti-Israel talk, others just see apologists for U.S. “hegemony”. 

And this is only one of the obstacles progressives must overcome on our way to re-electing Barack Obama in 2012.

Comments (2)


  1. Lou, whether or not Obama will alienate Jewish voters, Jewish support for Israel is much less the hegemonic than you seem to imply. It is actually very split between “Israel can do no wrong” and those pissed off by things like Netanyahu dissing Obama and dissing the US for trying to stop settlements, to the murder of unarmed Flotilla civilians. The polls on the assault on Gaza 08 amongst US Jews were 48% opposed to Israel’s actions vs 42% for. It’s not whether the 48% will vote against Obama- they won’t- its whether they come out, and given his lack of backbone on the widest bunch of issues, including labor, their numbers might not be good. This is just another one where he is beholden to moneyed interest- AIPAC in this case.

    BTW, read Seymour Hersh’s piece on Iran’s Lack of Bomb and Israel’s nefarious influence on our failing M.E. foreign policy in current New Yorker. “Whole lotta shakin’ goin on”…. -Rick

  2. Lou,

    Now that the semester is coming to an end, I’m taking the time to read your posts. Want to let you know that they are very much appreciated. I will continue to read and offer some insight whenever I can.


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