The Aug. 29 Jerusalem Post had an article, “Pipko to Post: Jewish Democrats are walking away,” which argued that “The Democrats have changed and so should [Jewish] support for them.” It is part of an effort carried out by Republicans before every presidential election to make Israel a wedge issue, to convince Jews to switch to supporting Republicans.
Polls have found that most Israelis also believe that U.S. Jews should support President Donald Trump and other Republicans, largely because of what they perceive as their strong support for Israel. In his efforts to get U.S. Jews to change their political allegiance, Trump has stated about Jews that, “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.”
Despite these opinions and statements, in the same Aug. 29 issue of the Post was the article “Trump vs. Gallup: Report shows Jews will vote Dem,” which indicated that a very strong majority of U.S. Jews (roughly 75%) are very likely to continue to vote for Democrats.
As an American who made aliyah about three years ago, after living in the United States for 82 years, I would like to discuss why U.S. Jews generally vote for Democrats and, in doing so, are, I believe, loyal to Jews, Israel and Jewish values.
A major reason is that Trump, along with virtually all U.S. Republican politicians, denies climate change, an existential threat to Israel, the United States and, indeed, the world. Trump and virtually all Republicans are doing everything possible to support the fossil fuel industry and weaken efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Research from Columbia Law School, Harvard Law School and other sources revealed more than 80 environmental rules and regulations on the way out under Trump.
Another important reason that most Jews vote for Democrats is that many of Trump’s policies are contrary to basic Jewish values of kindness, compassion and concern for the disadvantaged, the stranger and the poor. Rather than improving Obamacare, which provided health insurance to tens of millions of Americans, Trump supported legislation that would result in as many as 32 million Americans losing their health insurance and making others pay higher premiums.
Also, instead of rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, rated a D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Trump and Republican legislators pushed through a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest Americans and highly profitable corporations. This will greatly increase the U.S. national debt, giving the Republicans an excuse to try to carry out their longtime desires to cut programs Americans depend on, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Most Jews also disagree with the views and policies of Trump and other Republicans on many issues, including immigration, civil rights, gun control, church-state separation, judicial appointments, diplomacy and the Iran nuclear agreement.
While a significant majority of Israelis approve of the United States getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, the results of that action remain to be seen. A strong majority of military, nuclear and strategic experts believe that the pact is the best approach to curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Among the negatives of Trump’s decision is that European and other nations have been alienated, America’s credibility in keeping agreements has been reduced and the potential for war and terrorism may have increased.
Then there is the issue of Trump’s character. As the New York Times’ conservative columnist Bret Stephens, a former chief editor of the Jerusalem Post, wrote in a recent article, Trump’s character involves “lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name-calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness.” Do we really want to honour such a person and make him a role model for our children and grandchildren?
Jews who vote Democrat generally support Israel, but they believe that, while it will be difficult to obtain, largely due to Palestinian positions and actions, Israel needs a resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians in order to avert continued and possibly increased violence, effectively respond to its economic, environmental and other domestic problems, and remain both a Jewish and a democratic state. They view Trump’s statements and actions with regard to Israel in terms of that belief.
American Jewish Democratic party supporters recognize that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his movement of the U.S. embassy there and his other supportive policies and actions with regard to Israel are good for Israel’s morale, but they do not believe it makes peace more likely or terrorism less likely.
Of course, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, always has been and always will be. But, almost all of the nations of the world will only acknowledge this if it is part of a comprehensive, sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump’s shift of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem has totally alienated the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, which now rejects a U.S. role in forging peace with Israel. Trump’s decision would have made sense as the capstone of a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, but its timing seems counterproductive, alienating many nations, adding impetus toward anti-Israel violence and reducing prospects for a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The price that Israel will have to pay for Trump’s support should also be considered. Most analysts believe that it was pressure from Trump that convinced Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cancel the visit by the two U.S. congresswomen, a decision that received widespread criticism, even from strong supporters of Israel, including AIPAC.
It is very significant that, of the 36 Jewish Congress members, 34 are Democrats.
Israel may also suffer significantly by Trump and other Republicans making Israel a wedge issue, harming the important bipartisan support of Israel, in efforts to convince Jews to vote Republican.
Another factor is the major increase in antisemitic acts since Trump became president, which many people believe is due to his failure to sufficiently condemn white nationalists and other bigots.
In light of all these considerations, I believe that U.S. Jews are correct in supporting Democratic politicians and, in doing so, are being loyal to Jews, Jewish values and Israel.
Richard H. Schwartz, PhD, is professor emeritus, College of Staten Island, president emeritus of Jewish Veg and president of Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians. He is the author of several books, including Judaism and Vegetarianism and Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, and more than 250 articles at jewishveg.org/schwartz. He was associate producer of the documentary A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World. A version of this article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post.