Why Jews Should Vote for Barack Obama

By Pogrebin, Letty Cottin | Moment, September-October 2008 | Go to article overview

Why Jews Should Vote for Barack Obama


Pogrebin, Letty Cottin, Moment


If you care about the well-being of Jews and Israel, by now the incessant Republican attacks on Barack Obama may have persuaded you to be wary of the Democratic candidate. Parse the poison, however, and you will see that it is nouvelle racism grafted to pure unadulterated rightwing bunk.

This election's top Swiftboating trick (the Jews for Obama Newsletter calls it "schvitz-boating") is to make you believe Senator Obama is both a secret Muslim and in the thrall of loudmouthed Christian minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Rightwing operatives make snide references to black-Jewish conflicts of the past--Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson's "Hymietown" statement, the Crown Heights riots--in a transparent attempt to associate Obama--merely because of his race--with hostile African-Americans, and to imply that he sympathizes with the enemies of the Jewish people. Scurrilous emails link Obama to the leader of the Nation of Islam, despite the senator having expressly stated: "I decry racism and anti-Semitism and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan."

Slash-and-burn opposition forces--including, shamefully, Senator Joseph Lieberman--want you to believe Barack Obama is "anti-Israel," when, in fact, his record of support for the Jewish state has been attested to by such "pro-Israel" lawmakers as Senators Carl Levin, Ben Cardin, Russ Feingold, Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer and Frank Lautenberg, and by no less a conservative voice than the New York Sun. The attackers also hope you'll swallow their claim that the candidate is soft on Iran, though he has declared emphatically, "I will do everything in my power--everything--to ensure that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapon."

Having so often been the target of rumors and disinformation, Jews ought to be suspicious of crazy and loaded accusations. But some in our community--reportedly many senior citizens, and Jews for whom Israel is a political litmus test--have fallen for the smear and scare tactics.

During the summer, as both candidates migrated to the center, I sometimes found it hard to discern their differences on issues like gun control, privacy rights, church-state separation, campaign finance reform and the Middle East, though the divergences that do exist are telling, and their positions on health care, social security and Iraq offer distinct alternatives.

However, the key issue dividing the candidates that has received surprisingly little ink and not enough voter passion is their position on choice. A woman's right to choose to bear or not have a child, a couple's freedom to decide when to start or expand a family, and the composition of the Supreme Court for years to come--all hinge on which candidate wins. In this instance, the difference between the two is vast and demanding of serious attention by wavering Democrats, disappointed Hillary-supporters and open-minded Republicans, for the consequences of a McCain victory would be disastrous. …

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