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Democrats launch major pro-Obama pushback among Jews

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Former Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, right, shown speaking at Obama inauguration festivities in January 2009 with former Jewish War Veterans chief Ed Goldwasser, is among Democrats speaking out forcefully now on President Obama’s Israel policies. Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON – President Obama is a stalwart friend of Israel.

That’s the message some top Democratic Jewish figures are promoting to push back against the notion that Obama is out of step with the pro-Israel and Jewish communities.

Within the next two weeks, two figures associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — past AIPAC president Amy Friedkin and board member Howard Green — will be among the hosts for a major fundraising event for the president, charging $25,000 per couple. The target of 40 couples — bringing in $1 million — is close to being met, insiders say. Notably, the organizers have received a nod from the AIPAC board’s inner circle to solicit donations.

Last week, top Jewish Democrats, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), blitzed the media with Op-Eds denying any split with the president in the wake of his call last month to base Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.

And the White House has taken the unusual step of posting a lengthy defense of Obama’s Israel record on its website.

Some of the Op-Eds were coordinated, insiders said, and meetings will take place over the coming weeks to hammer home the message.

“The White House has a very strong record to defend, and the objectives are misrepresented and in some cases maligned, so yes the White house is pushing back,” said Robert Wexler, the former Florida congressman who was Obama’s chief Jewish proxy during the 2008 campaign.

Wexler wrote one of two pro-Obama Op-Eds in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in recent days. Florida, a swing state with a substantual Jewish population, has been a key Jewish battleground in recent years.

Republicans have taken notice, and they have attributed the pushback in part to the success of attacks on the president by conservative groups. The Republican Jewish Coalition has targeted Jewish voters with automated phone calls, and a group called the Emergency Committee for Israel is running an ad thanking congressional Democrats it claims have split with Obama over his Israel policy.

“Clearly, the White House is playing defense after President Obama inserted himself into Middle East policy that put him at odds with Americans who support a strong Israel,” Reince Preibus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an e-mail to JTA.

Democrats say two distortions have fueled their fury: the notions that Obama broke with U.S. policy to force Israel back to the pre-1967 lines and, as a result, that Jewish voters, a key base, are slipping away from the Democrats. A flurry of media stories in recent weeks have suggested that Obama is losing Jewish donor support, although few past donors to the president are reported to be reconsidering their support.

Where the Jews stand on Obama matters not just because of the Jewish vote, which is significant in key swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but also because of Jewish money. The 2012 presidential election will be the first since a Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate giving to candidates. The Obama campaign has said it will need more money than ever because big business tends to lean Republican.

Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and estimates over the years have reckoned that Jewish donors provide between one-third and two-thirds of the party’s money.

“Every two or four years Republicans say, ‘This is the year Jewish voters, or donors, or activists, are going to trend Republican,’” said Steve Rabinowitz, a strategist who advises Democrats and Jewish groups. “Every November it turns out not to be true.”

Republicans made clear that they see a new opening, given the “1967 lines” brouhaha.

“We’re stepping up our game with Jewish donors and other potential Jewish supporters that feel like Obama turned his back on them,” an RNC official who is not authorized to speak on the record told JTA.

Obama’s appointment earlier this year of Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee came in part in response to concerns that Republicans were making headway among Jews. Wasserman Schultz also contributed an Obama defense to the South Florida Sun Sentinel over the weekend.

“They’re taking proactive steps that ensure they get in front of this,” said a Democratic operative close to the Jewish community who requested anonymity. “They’re explaining to the Jewish audience what’s going on so it doesn’t become a problem down the road. It’s better to get ahead of this and tell people what’s actually been said than play catch-up.”

The White House posting begins by addressing the “1967 lines” controversy.

“This territorial formula, which has been used in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for decades, means that the parties themselves will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years,” it said, adding that the formula “is fully consistent with the positions of earlier U.S. Administrations, including the 2004 Bush-Sharon letters.”

In fact, while previous administrations — including President George W. Bush in his letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — have acknowledged the 1967 lines as an aspiration for the Palestinians, Obama has gone further in embracing them as a basis for talks. That frustrated Israelis who say it narrows their options by setting parameters.

In the same May 19 Middle East policy speech, Obama also set restrictive parameters for Palestinians, for instance, in declaring that their state would not be militarized.

The difference between Obama and his predecessors is not as drastic as Republicans have portrayed, however, especially in statements like the one recently from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that refer only to the “1967 lines” without noting “mutually agreed swaps.”

The White House is convening meetings of top Democrats in the coming weeks and months to coordinate message discipline.

Jewish Democrats are frustrated with their inability to bury perceptions that Obama has distanced himself from Israel, noting especially that officials in both countries agree that the defense relationship is closer than ever.

Democrats say their concerns extend to the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which for decades has been predicated on bipartisan support. Wasserman Schultz forcefully raised the issue in a meeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held with top Jewish representatives of both parties last month.

Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, shot back with a public letter accusing Wasserman Schultz of trying to gag debate by suppressing legitimate criticism of Obama.

Mark Mellman, a top Democratic pollster, dismissed talk of a “gag order.”

“They have the right to say whatever they want, but Democrats have the right to say it’s not wise,” he said.

Noah Pollak, the director of the Executive Committee for Israel, has acknowledged that Obama’s policies are not substantially different from his predecessors.

JTA Wire Service

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Stay tuned for the return of comments

Iris Borman posted 16 Jun 2011 at 08:59 PM

Dear Editor,

I recently received an email from a friend that contained an essay that was so on the mark that I knew I had to share it with everyone. It was written by Mr. Harvey Schechter of Beverly Hills, CA. With his permission, it is as follows:

May 27, 2011
An Open Letter to My Fellow Jews and to All Amerians

  During my 41-year career as a membr of the Anti-Defamation League’s professional staff and from the day I retired in 1993 to this very moment, I operated on a simple, fundamental principle, namely, if anywhere in the world a Jew is persecuted solely becase he or she is a Jew, it automatically becomes my personal problem because there but for the grace of God go I.

  To the best of my knowledge, none of my relatives were victims of the Holocaust, but I am the beneficiary of decisions made by my grandparents in the 1890’s to flee Eastern Europe and come to the United States.

  This issue of SSEZ is directed not so much at President Barack Obama from whom I never expected anything good, particularly with respect to the Nation of Israel and the five-and-a-half million Jews who live there, it is directed primarily at America’s Jews, an estimated seventy-eight percent of whom voted for Obama in 2008.  I also firmly believe Obama will get the lion’s share of votes Jews will cast in the 2012 presidental election.  Maybe not 78%, but more than 50%.

  There’s an old political saying that Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.  This saying has an East Coast flavor and would now be stated as “ like Latinos and African-Americans,” given the changes in the American political profile.  This attachment to the Democratic Party traces back to the passionate love Americas’s Jews developed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 because of the liberal things he said and did during the Great Depression and his vigorous opposition to Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.  Before 1932, large numbers of Jews voted Socialst and even Republican, the party of Abraham Lincoln, because in New York where more than a million Jews lived, the Democrats were under the control of corrupt Tammany Hall.  That changed with Roosevelt’s victory in 1932.

  Right now there is great turmoil in the American Jewish community and especially in Israel because of the speech President Obama delivered at the State Department a few days ago when he made reference to the 1967 borders as the starting point for land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.  As Rabbi Shmuley Boteach just wrote, “. . . the president’s claims to naivete are ridiculous.  To his detractors Obama is many things, but he is no fool.  He knew full well that to publicly call for a return to the ‘67 lines was a bomb waiting to detonate.  Obama knew the demand to return to the pre-Six Day War borders spoke directly to the Palestinian narrative.”  I agree completely with Rabbi Boteach.

  Come back with me to election night, 2008.  As the results poured in from around the nation clearly indicating the Democrats would win the White House and both Houses of Congress, I spoke with a long time personal friend, a very important and influential Congressman who was smiling with each new vote posting.  I told him his smiles would turn to tears when Obama shafts Israel. (I was more blunt than “shafts.”)  He asked, “what if you are wrong?”  I said I would apolgize in writing, but I knew I would not be wrong.
  When Obama did his 1967 shtick, Mort Zuckerman, publisher of U.S. News & World Report, angrily accused Obama of “betraying Israel.” Former Democratic Congressman and famous New York City former Mayor Ed Koch said he will not vote for Obama in 2012.  Of course, November 2012 is almost eighteen months away and anything can happen.
  If you watched Obama’s face and body language when Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu spoke at the White House when Obama had to listen to a lecture about the realities in the Middle East, he was obviously boiling mad as Netanyahu in essence told him he didn’t know what he is talking about.  As I watched Obama, it seemed to me that Obama was thinking about how he could get back at Netanyahu and at Israel for having had to suffer before the entire nation like a school boy being lectured to by his teacher.
  Several liberal commentators and columnists were outraged and said that Netanyahu was ungracious and inappropriste for delivering those comments in a public setting.  It must also have been very painful for Obama even though he was in England to hear about the brilliant, passionate, and informative speech Netanyahu delivered to a joint meeting of the Congress to genuine thunderous applause and getting about twenty-five standing ovations from Democrats and Republicans alike.
  And good old Hillary Clinton, our esteemed Secretary of State, looks like an absolute fool having said a week or so ago that Bashar Assad, the murdering, brutal dictator of Syra is a “reformer.”  Yes, she called Assad a “reformer.”  How can anyone ever believe them?
  When Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he was magnificent.  I never thought I would say this about Senator Reid, but he was outstanding in his understanding of what is at stake in the Middle East between Israel and her Arab Neighbors, and he said it forcefully and convincingly.  Maybe the man in the White House ought to sit down with his Senate Majority Leader and have him explain the situation between Israel and the Arabs.
  Again and again, we Jews are asked to explain the devotion of so many Jews to the Democratic Party which has paid and still pays homage to the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who in my opinion are enemies of the Jewish people and of Israel.  Would they be so tolerant of the equivalent of Jackson and Sharpton in the Republican party?  Of course not. Our Liberalsim came to us with our mother’s milk.  For most American Jews, their synagoge is the Democratic party;  their faith is Liberalism;  and their Moses is Obama.
  TO MY FELLOW AMERICANS:  Please know that the hatred of Israel in the Arab world is equaled only by their hatred of you and of America.  The Jews may be their first target, but all of us are on their hit list.  The 9/11 attack was an attack on America!
  For the record, Israel gave up land for peace.  It gave back the Sinai Peninsula.  Now there is the possibility of serious threats from the Sinai.  What did Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat get for signing a peace treaty with Israel?  He got back the Sinai Peninsula, a Nobel Prize for Peace, and deadly bullets from members of his own army.
  Israel gave Gaza to the Palestinians.  What did it get in return?  Thousands of deadly rockets raining down on its citizens.  If President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority repudiates his alliance with Hamas, he knows he will suffer Sadat’s fate - a hail of bullets.
  Israel also gave back territory in Southern Lebanon.  What did it get in return?  Thousands of deadly rockets fired by Hezbollah on Israel.
  Dear Friends:  How long would we sit quietly while thousands of rockets poured down on us from Mexico and from Canada? Now you know what Israel is living with.
  A friend sent me a marvelous cartoon of Obama meeting with the Queen of England who says to him, “I believe the borders of Britain and the U.S. should be based on the pre-1776 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”  One picture is sure worth a thousand words.
                Remember:  Be Well Because All Else Is Bubkiss

I hope that you will print this article. It’s important for it to be read by as many people as possible.

Thank you.

Iris Borman



Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would launch an international campaign to cancel the Goldstone Report after its author, ex-South African Judge Richard Goldstone, wrote in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post that Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War, withdrawing a critical allegation in the report.

Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.


Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”


Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

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