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Illegal, inhumane, and fattening

- March 26, 2011

I know it’s a little silly to pick at these things, but I am a subscriber, so . . . David Remnick describes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as “illegal, inhumane, and inconsistent with Jewish values.” I see what he’s getting at, but how can he be so sure it’s inconsistent with Jewish values? What are “Jewish values,” anyway? There’s lots of killing in the Bible, no?

Later Remnick writes:

For decades, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and other such right-leaning groups have played an outsized role in American politics, pressuring members of Congress and Presidents with their capacity to raise money and swing elections. But Democratic Presidents in particular should recognize that these groups are hardly representative and should be met head on. Obama won seventy-eight per cent of the Jewish vote; he is more likely to lose some of that vote if he reverses his position on, say, abortion than if he tries to organize international opinion on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

I have just two points to make here. First, I don’t think Obama is about to reverse his position on abortion. Second, the issue with the Jewish vote isn’t so much the voters as the money–the campaign contributions–and also the many Jews in the national media. As I wrote a few years ago:

Why should we care about a voting bloc that represents only 2% of the population (and even if Jews turn out at a 50% higher rate than
others, that would still be only 3% of the voters), most of whom are in non-battleground states such as New York, California, and New Jersey? Even in Florida, Jews are less than 4% of the population. I think a lot of this
has to be about campaign contributions and news media influence. But, if so, the relevant questions have to do with intensity of opinions among elite Jews rather than aggregates.

This sort of concern is not restricted to Jews, of course. Different minority groups exercise political power in different ways. I just thought it was worth pointing out that this isn’t a pure public opinion issue but rather something with more indirect pathways.