I spent the last week of October speaking to thousands of Mitt Romney supporters in four “battleground” states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia. I travelled with my Salem Radio Network colleagues Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved, and the actor Jon Voight, one of the few Hollywood stars who is a politically outspoken conservative.
During the tour, I often wished that every American Jew could have seen and heard what was said about Jews and Israel and how much time was devoted to Jews and Israel. The two non-Jews, Jon Voight and Hugh Hewitt, and whoever was the moderator (in no instance was it a Jew) emphasized support for Israel and the Jews – in combatting Islamic anti-Semitism, in acknowledging the American and the Western world’s debt to the Jews, and regarding the Jewish origins of Christianity – as much as they did any American domestic issue, including the economy.
Moreover, the audiences, overwhelmingly composed of non-Jews, reacted in kind. They cheered at least as enthusiastically when Jews and Israel were mentioned as they did regarding any other issue dear to conservative hearts, such as small government, lower taxes, oil independence, a strong military, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, etc.
I wondered what most Jews – meaning Jewish liberals – would think had they seen this. Would they think it was an act? That it was done to procure Jewish votes? That Democratic Party rallies would similarly focus on support for Jews and Israel?
I pondered these three possibilities.
Surely a Jewish liberal could not have dismissed the time and attention paid to Jews and Israel as inauthentic. What would be the purpose? If people put on an act, there has to be a reason for doing so. But there was no such reason, since virtually everyone present at each of the rallies was a fellow Republican. One doesn’t put on an act among like-minded people. When you’re with 1,500 other people who share your politics and your values, you are at your most authentic.
Was it done to procure Jewish votes? That is as implausible as the first explanation. There were few Jews present, and every one of them was already on board as a Romney voter.
And what about explanation No. 3 – that the same passionate support of Jews and Israel would be expressed by the speakers and audience at Democrat Party rallies?
This, too, is implausible.
We all had one opportunity to see how Democrats feel about Israel when we observed the Democratic delegates at the Democrat National Convention split down the middle when voting on whether to include mention of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the Democratic Party platform.
But even without that spectacle, it takes an extraordinary degree of self-deception to believe that the left is as passionately supportive of Israel and the Jewish people as is the American right.
Outside of the Muslim world, virtually all the world’s anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred comes from the left, while virtually all of the greatest supporters of the Jews and Israel are conservatives. The most pro-Israel world leader today is Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada: He is a conservative and a religious Christian. And the world leader most involved in activities to counter the Islamic and leftist worlds’ efforts to delegitimize Israel is the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, another conservative. Aznar founded the Friends of Israel Initiative, an international effort of leaders (all non-Jewish) to “counter the attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders.”
Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported that 15 leaders of liberal Protestant churches called on Congress to reconsider giving aid to Israel. The lopsided anti-Israel letter so upset Jewish leaders, including liberal ones, that “the Jewish leaders responded to the action as a momentous betrayal and announced their withdrawal from a regularly scheduled Jewish-Christian dialogue meeting. … The Jewish leaders called the letter by the Christian groups ‘a step too far’ and an indication of ‘the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations.’”
Meanwhile, evangelical and other conservative Christians regularly gather to honor Israel and the Jewish people in their churches.
At each of our rallies, Jon Voight read a powerful statement he had written celebrating Israel and the Jewish people. No press, no cameras, no one to persuade. He just wanted to emote about his love for Jews and Israel before fellow Republicans and conservatives. In each case they gave him a standing ovation.
Is there a single other Academy-Award winning actor or actress reading love letters to Israel to non-Jews? Is there a single Democratic rally of mostly non-Jews where such support for Israel and the Jews is expressed?
The tragedy is that none of this matters to most American Jews.
Why? Because for many American Jews, leftism is their religion, while Judaism is merely an ethnic identity.
(A version of this column was published in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.)