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October 10, 2003 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-10

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Philadel hia
Jewish roots. Gen. Wesley
he notion that Jews
Clark's father was Jewish (Clark
cast their votes solely
was raised as a Protestant and is
on the issue of Israel
currently a Catholic); Sen. John
is more myth than
Kerry of Massachusetts recently
fact. Of course, you might for-
"discovered" that his grandfa-
get that if you listen to some of
ther was Jewish; and former
the rhetoric aimed at Jews by
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is
presidential candidates. Can it
JONATHAN married to a Jew, and his chil-
- be that Israel is once again a
dren were raised as Jews.
presidential-election issue?
Will any of this appeal to
For all of the alarmist rhetoric
Commentary Jewish voters? I doubt it, but as
we often hear from Jewish
a minyan of Democrats line up
groups, the truth is that Israel
for the chance to knock off
simply hasn't been an issue during the
Bush the younger, some of them have
last two elections. It was conspicuously
not been shy about attempting to use
absent from the discussion during the
the Middle East to make some political
2000 George W. Bush vs. Al Gore
match-up, as well as in 1996, when Bill
Clinton bested both Republican Bob
Dean Gives Opening
Dole and independent Ross Perot to
win re-election.
In August, Dean gave an opening to his
In fact, it has been 12 years since
rivals by stating that the United States
Israel was a factor in a presidential elec-
must be "evenhanded" in its policy
don. In 1991, President George H.W.
between Israel and the Arabs.
Bush's administration was seen as hostile
This prompted Lieberman to publicly
to the State of Israel and many
chastise Dean for abandoning Israel.
American Jews were eager to do any-
Kerry, the putative Democratic front-
thing to boot him out of the White
runner until Dean mobilized anti-Iraq
House the next year.
war sentiment on his behalf, chimed in
-Bush's disdain for Israel and efforts to
on that score, and then one-upped
isolate its leaders were deeply resented.
Lieberman by seizing upon a Dean
The hostility of his Secretary of State,
quote in which he referred to Hamas
James A. "bleep the Jews" Baker III,
terrorists as "soldiers."
toward Israel was the icing on the cake.
The latest entrant to the Democratic
This probably didn't cost Bush the elec-
race may soon face some of the same
tion, but he did get the lowest total of
treatment. A political greenhorn, Clark
Jewish votes by a major-party candidate
has been all over the place on the war in
since Barry Goldwater, and set back
Iraq. But he has stated support for the
GOP efforts to make inroads among
idea that NATO troops could serve as
Jews by a decade.
peacekeepers in Israel, as well as for an
The issue disappeared entirely in
enhanced international component to
1996, as neither of Bill Clinton's chal-
Middle East diplomacy. That immedi-
lengers could credibly present them-
ately drew fire from the Jewish Institute
selves as more pro-Israel than the presi-
for National Security Affairs, which
pointed out the dangers for Israel
Nor was the 2000 election much of a
involved in bringing American soldiers,
test of affection for Israel. Despite some
or more European or U.N. diplomats,
outreach efforts to the pro-Israel com-
into the conflict with the Palestinians.
munity, George W. Bush was fatally
The decision of Lieberman to use the
handicapped by the association with his
Israel issue against Dean is interesting
father, as well as by the fact that the
because it may be his best chance to
Democrats nominated a Jew, Sen.
rally Jewish voters to his flagging cam-
Joseph I. Lieberman, for vice president.
paign. Lieberman is seen by some as
Ironically, Lieberman, who is attempt- having trouble raising Jewish money.
ing to move up on the ticket this time
On the one hand, some believe
and become the first Jewish president,
Lieberman's election, would stir up
isn't the only Democrat candidate with
more anti-Semitism. That is patently
false, as his well-regarded run for the
vice presidency in 2000 proved. But
Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor
others are right to worry whether
of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.
Lieberman or any Jewish president
His e-mail address is
would be so eager to prove his "even-

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