Election 2024 /

WSJ: Democrats Take Jewish Voters for Granted We are liberal and support Israel. The party risks losing us by pandering to its antisemitic elements.

  |   By Polling+ Staff

(Photo by Rick Friedman / AFP) (Photo by RICK FRIEDMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

To be liberal and Jewish. The dilemma.

Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch is the senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York. He headlines this in The Wall Street Journal: Opinion | Democrats Take Jewish Voters for Granted

Opinion | Democrats Take Jewish Voters for Granted

Ammiel Hirsch

We are liberal and support Israel. The party risks losing us by pandering to its antisemitic elements.

Democrats Take Jewish Voters for Granted

We are liberal and support Israel. The party risks losing us by pandering to its antisemitic elements.

The Rabbi writes:

“American Jews increasingly feel politically homeless. Liberal Jewish voters consider President Biden a longtime friend. At the same time, they are troubled by the growing influence of anti-Israel forces in the Democratic Party. They view Mr. Biden’s freeze on sending some weapons to Israel as evidence of capitulation to a radical fringe. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s recent speech urging Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and call new elections was likewise disconcerting. Many American Jews would like to see Mr. Netanyahu gone, but they know that Mr. Schumer would never have given that speech had he not felt compelled to mollify his party’s hard left. Has a top American official ever called for the removal of a duly and democratically elected leader of an ally, let alone in the middle of a war?American Jews overwhelmingly support Israel. Most consider the Jewish state an important component of their identity. They distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel—they are often vocal critics of Israeli policies—and hatred of the Jewish state. Contrary to the impression the media often gives, anti-Zionist Jews are few, a marginal part of the American Jewish community.

Judaism hates war and American Jews share the world’s concern for Palestinian civilians. Revenge is for God, not human beings. We are prohibited even to rejoice in the deaths of enemy combatants, let alone civilians. Jewish tradition recounts God admonishing the angels on high: “Why do you sing songs of praise to me when my children are drowning in the sea?” These children of God were the warriors of Pharaoh, bent on killing every last fleeing Israelite.

Still, most American Jews understand that the West’s nearly exclusive focus on Palestinian casualties—the result of a war that Gaza’s own government launched—distorts reality. This war was imposed on Israel by genocidal forces seeking its destruction. Oct. 7 revealed what is in store for Israel if these forces win. Hamas promised more such massacres. This is the broader context. It is a struggle that involves Israel most acutely because Israel is on the front lines. But if Hamas defeats Israel, its Islamist supporters will come for us in Europe and America. Most Americans understand this and support Israel over Hamas by huge margins.

The explosion of antisemitism on university campuses is a matter of grave concern to American Jews. Simplistic binary categorizations of entire groups of people seem to have taken root in the minds of many professors and students: You are either oppressor or oppressed, racist or antiracist, colonialist or anticolonialist. These aren’t liberal attitudes; they are illiberal. They aren’t progressive views; they are regressive. The abandonment of the liberal order is never good for Jews. We will always find ourselves on the wrong side of the binary categorizations. We remain strongly supportive of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a society that judges people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

We know that some campus protesters are sincerely concerned about Palestinian casualties, but their leaders don’t believe in coexistence. They want Israel’s destruction—a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.” Their calls for a cease-fire would be more credible if they also demanded the return of the Israeli hostages, condemned Hamas’s savagery, and called on Hamas to lay down its arms for the good of the Palestinian people. They might also remind their followers that there was a cease-fire in place on Oct. 6, which Hamas violated.

Criticism of Israeli policies isn’t necessarily antisemitic. But since Oct. 7, American Jews understand much better the nexus between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Most of us don’t blame Israel for the explosion of antisemitism in America. On the contrary, it is clearer to us than ever why there must be an Israel. We now realize that in most cases anti-Zionism constitutes, or leads inevitably to, antisemitism.

American politicians who seek the support of the American Jewish community would be well-advised to heed these realities. Michigan won’t be the only state that matters in November. And even in Michigan, there are many different constituencies. Ignore American Jews at your own political peril.”

The clear political peril for Democrats is the choice they see between appeasing the pro-Palestinian Left of their party or the liberal American Jewish community.

Stay tuned. Easy to see that what happens in 2024 for Democrats depends on the choice they make in this area.