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Jewish Democrats: Obama ‘flawless’ on Israel

Barack ObamaDuring the past year, Barack Obama has been criticized in certain Jewish circles for waffling on his commitment to Israel and an undivided Jerusalem.

Last Tuesday, Aug. 26, Democratic Jewish US senators and members of Congress proclaimed their unqualified and undivided commitment to Obama at the DNC.

“Barack Obama has been a staunch and unflinching supporter of Israel” since he first entered Congress in 2002, said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who opened the National Jewish Democratic Council press conference.

The Democratic presidential nominee’s position on the Middle East, Schumer added, “is flawless.”

In 2002, Obama already understood the importance of acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, Schumer said.

“He felt, as many of us do, that there was a refusal on the part of too many Americans” to acknowledge that right, the senator said.

“Everything flows from that. And Obama knows this.”

Although Israel plays a decisive role in whether the Jewish electorate votes for Obama, Schumer said that the nominee’s position on American issues should be equally important.

“Why can’t we have someone represent us as Jews and not just [on] Israel?” he asked rhetorically. “We are Americans, first and foremost.”

Schumer said that a large majority of Jews profess the same ethics as Obama in American life and oppose John McCain’s anti-choice and pro-gun stances.

Citing a recent poll, Schumer said that 62% of the Jewish community supports Obama for president.

Once they understand that Obama “is a tower of strength on Israel,” the Jewish community will cement its endorsement of the candidate, Schumer said.

Schumer was joined by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and US Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Howard Berman (Calif.), Shelley Berkley (NV), and Robert Wexler (Fla.).

“I have no doubts that Obama supports Israel,” Lautenberg said.

The candidate’s strong ties with the American Jewish community began when he first started out in Chicago politics, Lautenberg said.

“His best friends and strongest supporters were Jewish.”

While Obama received his share of criticism in the Jewish community for advocating diplomatic talks with Iran, Lautenberg said that Obama has proven he is tougher on Iran than McCain.

In 2007, Lautenberg introduced the Iran divestiture bill to deter subsidiaries of US-controlled companies from doing business with Iran.

Obama supported the measure.

McCain, who according to Lautenberg “doesn’t want to stop doing business in Iran,” voted no.

“I took away one lesson from all this,” Lautenberg said. “Obama is the right man.”

Berman applauded Obama’s determination to research new energy alternatives and “break away” from dependence on Middle East oil.

Schiff emphasized Obama’s position Supreme Court and energy, saying that the Jewish community “needs a Supreme Court that reflects our beliefs” and an energy policy that reduces the country’s reliance on foreign oil.

“Mark my words,” Schiff said, referring to Jewish Americans, “I think we are going to have historic levels of support come November for this candidate.”

Janis Berman, the wife of Howard Berman of California, spoke to the IJN about a pro-McCain bias she perceives in the Jewish press.

“I think the Jewish press has adopted a veiled pro-McCain stance,” she said outside the conference area, “especially in terms of raising issues about Obama being Muslim.”

She also felt generational and technological shifts are contributing to political divisions between older and younger Jews.

“The Obama campaign has been run heavily online, and younger people love him. But older Jews are not into the blogs,” she said. At the close of the press conference, only Lautenberg and Schiff remained on the stage.

The IJN asked the following question:

“The black and Jewish communities worked very hard together during the civil rights struggle, but there has been some erosion in that relationship over the years. Do you feel that racism is still the elephant in the room?”

A startled silence fell on the room.

Finally, Sen. Lautenberg stepped to the podium.

“I’m not sure what racism you are referring to,” he said.

The IJN tried to clarify the question, but Lautenberg ignored the attempt.

“Michelle Obama’s story from last night, and Barack Obama’s story –– this is the story of the American Jewish community, that came here with very little and worked hard and succeeded,” he said.

“This is the antidote to the cleavages of the past,” Lautenberg said. “I truly believe that.

“I have already spoken here about younger people throughout this country –– specifically, the Jewish community –– who are particularly excited in a way that we haven’t seen for a very long time.”

Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer |

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