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August 31, 2006 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-08-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Case For Bush

A

hypothetical: If there
were an election for
president next week
and President Bush were able to
run again for a third term, who
would Jews vote for?
The answer is all too obvi-
ous even though we don't even
know who the Democratic can-
didate might be. Jews would vote
Democratic — in big numbers.
This despite the fact that
President Bush probably is the
greatest supporter of Israel ever
to occupy the White House, and
yet he seems incapable of gener-
ating votes from the Jewish body
politic.
His present staunch defense of
Israel in its wars against Hamas
and Hezbollah is unprecedented,
backing the Jewish state without
the usual diplomatic code words
that Israel must show "some
restraint."
True, we can expect some
moderation in his pro-Israel pos-
ture when, ultimately, negotia-
tions and diplomacy begin. But
that is to be expected.
In addition to his present sup-
port, consider some of Bush's
other actions:
• While other administrations
catered to Yasser Arafat, giving
his murderous policies legiti-
macy, Bush barred him from

the White House. Meanwhile,
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vis-
ited more than any other world
leader.
• He ordered U.S. representa-
tives at the infamous Durban,
South Africa, conference to
walk out when representatives
prepared to adopt a resolution
equating Zionism with racism.
• He condemned Malaysian
Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad for making anti-
Semitic comments, comments
Bush characterized as "wrong
and divisive."
• He helped Israel win mem-
bership to the Western European
Group in the U.N., something
that had been denied to Israel for
decades.
And there is more, yet Bush's
record in garnering Jewish votes
has been dismal.
In 2000, he won 19 percent of
the Jewish vote when running
against former Vice President Al
Gore. That might be explained
somewhat by the fact that (1)
Jews vote Democratic; (2) Gore's
running mate was a Jew, Sen.
Joseph Lieberman; and (3) of
course, Bush had no record.
But in 2004, even after four
years of solid support for Israel
and other pro-Jewish actions,
Bush received only 24 percent

Yet Jews remain
of the Jewish vote
cool — indeed, cold
against Sen. John
— to Bush. At a rally
Kerry (73 percent)
in support of Israel at
who, it might be
Congregation Shaarey
pointed out, won
Zedek in Southfield on
the endorsement
July 19, of 10 speak-
of Arafat. Even that
Berl Falbaum
ers only one expressed
telling endorsement
Community
gratitude to the "admin-
made no difference
View
istration and Congress!'
to Jewish voters. But
No one even mentioned
it did to Arabs, 90
Bush's name.
percent of whom voted for Kerry
We can be sure that Israelis
— incidentally after voting
almost as a bloc for Bush in 2000. are thanking Bush from the high
heavens and for obvious good
Ed Koch, the former Jewish
reasons.
mayor of New York and a
So why are U.S. Jews so dis-
Democrat, and Benjamin
dainful of Bush (and Republicans
Netanyahu, himself a former
in general)? There are a number
Israeli prime minister, both
of reasons:
have written that Bush is the
• Jews traditionally vote
best friend and supporter of
Democratic and, like other voting
the Jewish state ever to occupy
blocs, are reluctant to change.
the White House, Republican or
• The priority for Jews gener-
Democrat.
ally are social issues such as
Koch and Netanyahu are prob-
abortion, affirmative action and
ably right even if one includes
prayer in the schools. This is
Harry Truman and Franklin
particularly true for Jews under
Delano Roosevelt, two heroes
40 who do not share the passion
among Jewish voters. Truman's
their parents and grandparents
record is blemished by some pri-
vate papers that reveal less-than- have for Israel.
Obviously, there are many
admiring views about Jews, and
.
other reasons, some of them
FDR's actions — or lack thereof
complex, some personal, some
— during the Holocaust and his
depending on the issues of the
meager refugee quotas during
World War II remain troubling, to day.
One thing is clear: Jews should
say the least.

begin to question their automatic
alliance with any particular
party. Just as blacks have been
criticized for being taken for
granted by the Democratic Party,
we — Jews — might consider
being more independent. Given
the present crisis in Israel, is
there a Jewish voter who would
prefer, let's say, Jimmy Carter, a
Democrat, in the White House
during the present crisis?
The survival of Israel is vital
not just to Israelis but the dias-
pora as well. Who knows what
would happen to Jews around the
world without an Israel.
Yes, such issues as affirmative
action, gay rights, the Supreme
Court, a nativity scene on public
property are important. But we
need to establish priorities, as
other special interests groups do
— and Israel must be at the top
of the list.
If we don't, and should Israel
ever lose a war, we will discover
the triviality of the social agenda
that the Jewish body politic so
values. 1-1

Berl Falbaum, author, Farmington

Hills public relations executive and

former political reporter, teaches

journalism part time at Wayne State

University in Detroit.

On Labor Day, Consider The Poor

New York/JTA

ews understand the
power of anniversaries:
Many of our tradition's
most important holy days mark a
triumph or tragedy.
As we mark Labor Day on Sept.
4, we should contemplate two
anniversaries. Aug. 22 marked 10
years since welfare reform, which
ended the federal government's
guarantee of cash support to
the poor. Aug. 29 marked one
year since Hurricane Katrina,
which destroyed a chunk of the
Gulf Coast and, in the process,
exposed the region's destitution.
Both events represent important
dates in our nation's struggle to
confront domestic poverty.
In 1996, a Republican Congress

j

Health and Human
passed and President
Services, use this
Clinton signed welfare
recent anniversary
reform. This bill replaced
to proclaim welfare
guaranteed cash assistance
reform an "unquali-
with block grants, time
fied success."
limits and work require-
Most former wel-
ments. The goal was to
fare recipients have
move millions of welfare
not, in fact, moved
recipients into jobs and
into the working
Simon Greer
end a cycle of poverty
class. When the five-
Special
allegedly created by welfare
Commentary year time limit hit in
dependency.
the early 2000s, the
I remember driving
number of Americans in poverty
through rural areas of Laurens
was on the rise; it has increased in
County, S.C., that year, delivering
recent years by 6 million.
meals to the poor. During those
The education and childcare
visits, I saw the truth about welfare
necessary for a successful transi-
mothers: They were not living like
tion to the workforce often are
queens, contrary to the stereotype
unavailable. People who left wel-
advanced by many pundits.
fare for work too often remain
What a disappointment to hear
mired in poverty. Yet we could still
Michael Leavitt, the secretary of

ignore them — until Katrina hit.
Hurricane Katrina displayed
the poverty that welfare reform
missed. One year after the storm,
dead bodies are still being recov-
ered and sections of New Orleans
resemble a ghost town, with hun-
dreds of thousands of locals living
elsewhere. Public institutions such
as schools and police are not fully
functioning. Yet there's reason to
be optimistic.
When the government ended
guaranteed cash payments, the
face of poverty in the public
imagination shifted from welfare
mothers to low-wage workers. This
change has given momentum to
the living-wage movement:
In the past decade, 140 cities,
states, counties and universities
have passed living-wage laws.

"

Jewish Funds for Justice, of
which I'm president, has funded
living-wage campaigns and invest-
ed in Community Development
Financial Institutions.
Nationally, the Union for Reform
Judaism has been investing
resources in community economic
development, while the United
Jewish Communities federation
umbrella supported my group's
efforts to capitalize a community
investment loan fund to rebuild
areas devastated by Katrina.
Perhaps these anniversaries can
instill our Labor Day with new
meaning, for this generation and
beyond.

Simon Greer is president and CEO of

Jewish Funds for Justice.



August 31 • 2006

39

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