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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin on Israel

A reader just accused me of dereliction of duty. Since the announcement of Sara Palin as McCain's running mate I wrote four posts on the choice but not once did I mention her position on Israel. So here goes.

Sarah Palin is pro-Israel in so many ways. First of all she is pro-drilling. Getting the US away from our dependence on OPEC oil is a very pro-Israel stance. It allows the US to concentration on what is the "right" thing to do in the mid-east, without fear of the arab states playing the "Oil card." Additionally since Teheran has no refining capcity of its own and has to IMPORT oil, and OPEC free US could really put the squeeze on Iran, even to the port of prevention Oil imports to the crazy Islamic nation.

The National Jewish Democratic Coalition issued a statement saying that Palin is a poor choice because she supported Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 and she has never been to Israel. Both are stupid argurments. Look I think Pat Buchanan is an ugly bigot. But MANY republicans supported him in 2000. If you are going to use that as a benchmark, the entire leadership of the NJDC should resign because of their blind support of the Anti-Israel Jr. Senator from Illinois.

The only real thing we can point to is her interactions with Jews in Alaska, both AIPAC and Chabad in Alaska have issued glowing statements about her interaction with Jews and personal support for Israel:

Jewish Republicans, Alaskans praise McCain's VP choice

Aug. 30, 2008

Skipping over two Jewish politicians under consideration as vice presidential running mates, John McCain selected first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Friday.

Palin, who has a reputation a reformer and high approval ratings but a low national profile, is the first female vice presidential nominee for the Republican party. Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced his selection the day after Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, shifting attention to the GOP ahead of its convention opening in Minneapolis Monday.

Palin's background corresponds to McCain's image as a maverick, both by his making a surprise selection and by choosing someone who was willing to buck powerful members of her own local party to clean up government. Her lack of foreign policy or national security credentials, however, contrast with McCain¹s own record of military service and government focus in those arenas.

The choice left the two Jewish congressman reported to be on the list of possible VPs - Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman - out of luck, but several politically active Alaskan Jews praised Palin's ties to the community.

"The Jewish community should be very excited that Sarah was selected. She has been very conscious of the Jewish community here in Alaska and now with the opportunity of her new position, she'll have the opportunity to look at the Jewish community globally," said Alaskan Republican Jewish Coalition member Terry Gorlick, who knows Palin well and has worked with her on several issues.

"Sarah's absolutely pro-Israel," he said, referring to conversations with her and comments she's made about Israel's security and its importance to the United States. He noted that as governor she signed a resolution honoring Israel for its 60th birthday.

Alaska¹s AIPAC chairman, David Gottstein, said that he had spoken to the governor about arranging a trip to Israel, but scheduling conflicts had kept it from happening to date.

"She has ties and interests in the Holy Land," said Gottstein, and also described her as someone who could be effective across party lines, noting that he worked well with her despite being a Democrat.

But the National Jewish Democratic Coalition used the fact that Palin hasn't been to Israel to attack her familiarity with the country and the crucial foreign policy issues connected to the region.

"In Governor Sarah Palin, McCain chooses a running mate with zero foreign policy experience," said NJDC executive director Ira Forman.

"For a party which claims it is trying to reach out to the Jewish community, McCain's pick is particularly strange. Prior to today's selection Palin apparently has never spoken publicly about Israel."

And Obama surrogate Robert Wexler, a Jewish US representative from Florida, lambasted her for endorsing Pat Buchanan in 2000.

But in a letter she wrote to the editor of a local newspaper at the time, she explained that she was willing to wear a Buchanan button "as a polite gesture of respect" during a visit, as she would for any visiting presidential candidate, but that it shouldn¹t be seen as an endorsement.

Another news report from then lists her as serving on the leadership team for Steve Forbes, a free market conservative who ran along with Buchanan as well as McCain for the presidential nomination.

Her conservative credentials have drawn plaudits from many on the Right, including many religious constituencies who were pleased that McCain chose a staunch opponent of abortion after suggesting he might tap someone who is pro-choice.

Many analysts have argued that Palin¹s selection, perceived as stemming in part from an effort to attract voters who backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary away from Obama, wouldn¹t succeed because of Palin¹s stance on abortion.

Clinton herself issued a statement on the historic occasion.

"We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain," she said. "While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate."

Jewish Democratic political operative Steve Rabinowitz said that "wrong direction" would alienate Jewish voters.

"Sarah Palin is completely unknown to the American Jewish community. There is no Jew outside of Alaska who has a relationship with her," he charged. "They supposedly vetted Eric Cantor, pretended Joe Lieberman was on the short list, and in the end chose someone who could not be more different from them."

But the Republican Jewish Coalition defended the pick. "Senator Lieberman and Representative Cantor would also have been excellent choices," said RJC spokeswoman Suzanne Kurtz, but stressed that McCain¹s nominee was just a good.

"They¹ll make a great team," she said.

The RJC put out a statement on Friday saying that, "Palin has a proven track record of experienced and principled leadership. Palin has been a leader on the critical issue of energy independence and lessening our need to buy oil from nations not sharing America and Israel's foreign policy interests."

And she received praise from other Jewish quarters, including from Anchorage Chabad Rabbi Yosef Greenberg. He recalled Palin's support for a Jewish museum he is building there and her hora lessons at the annual Jewish gala she has attended the last two years.

He also spoke of her reaction to giving birth to a child with special needs.

"She said, God doesn¹t give you something you can't handle," he said. "It was straight out of the Lubavitch book."


Unknown said...

As a Christian Zionist I took the time to confirm that indeed she is solidly pro-Israel. (We have the same theological background and I checked out her church.)

Kate said...

Pfft! Since when do you have to have visited Israel to be PRO Israel? What a ridiculous, and extremely lame, 'argument'! I've never been either, but that doesn't stop me from being pro-Israel.

Although, I am rectifying that lack come November! :) Great birthday present, eh?

TeachESL said...

She is to be VP of the U.S.! Her desire to free the U.S. from Middle East oil has nothing to do with Israel. And it shouldn't. They have to do what is best for the United States. As someone who lives in Israel, I do not want the issue of Israel to interfere in the U.S. elections.

Steve said...

As a Republican supporter, I wasn't sure that John McCain was the best choice.

But I think he has made a very good decision. McCain and Palin are both pro-Israel and while they both still uphold Republican values, they can run the country without the incompetence of the Bush Administration.

Benjamin Blattberg said...

I think American Jews need to seriously think about most groups that describe themselves as Christian Zionists. I went to a Conservative Hebrew School, and we always learned that Israel was important because Jews needed a place where they could be Jews, without interference, prejudice, or violence. Many American Jews think that an American politician's stance on Israel is important, so over the years, a bunch of Evangelical Republicans have been supported by Jews because these Republicans have been pro-Israel. But so many Christian Zionists support Israel because they see it as a stage in their religious eschatology--Jews in Israel means Jesus comes again. (I'm simplifying a little crudely, but you get the picture.) So, Jews in Israel leads to the End Times. I would have no particular problem with that except that part of Christian eschatology is about the damnation or conversion of the Jews. So, if you put that all together, you get the equation that "Jews in Israel" leads to "End Times" leads to "no more Jews." Because of this, I feel very uncomfortable with Christian Zionists--because their pro-Zion stance goes along very comfortably with an anti-Semitic wish for a world without Jews. Which is why I think American Jews need to reconsider the religious right as a political bedfellow.

TeachESL said...

Not all Christian Zionists feel the need to convert Jews. Many support Israel with no strings attached. Only out of love and concern and justice!

Kate said...

I'm not quite sure you would consider me a "Christian Zionist", but I support Israel for the reasons chaya stated. We have a common heritage, and should respect each other as brothers and sister, as children of the most Holy.

Benjamin Blattberg said...

Chaya, Kate,

Yes, I think we agree there--I didn't say all Christian Zionists believed in the conversion/damnation of Jews, only that Jews needed to understand the religious impetus behind certain political gestures by some Christian Zionist groups. (I said "most" but I might be wrong--it could only be "some.") I know for myself, I would rather reject support than worry that that support was being given for the wrong reasons.

Israel has a long history of getting support for reasons that have nothing to do with the need of the Jewish people for a homeland. For instance, during the Cold War, Israel was a foothold for the US in the Middle East. I'm not saying that the US supporting Israel for ulterior motives is a bad thing, only that we have to be aware of those reasons because those reasons may change (just like American interests shifted after the Cold War).

So, in this case, we have to be aware of the possible anti-Semitism at the heart of some Christian Zionism, and I think we need to think clearly on whether the political support is worth it when it comes with such a weight.

(For instance, Sarah Palin is pro-Israel, but she never spoke up against the guest-speaker at her church who said that Israel was vulnerable to terrorist attack because Jews had not accepted Jesus. That guest speaker--from Jews for Jesus actually--seem to be channeling some anti-Semitism, and the fact that Palin has not spoken out against that anti-Semitism makes me leery of her pro-Israel position. But then again, my cousins live there, so I get nervous when a non-Jewish person says something like, "I like Israel, I just wish there were less Jews there.")

TeachESL said...

I just sent an e-mail to Chabad of Alaska asking them if they knew of any direct statements that Mrs. Palin has made concerning this man. Awaiting a reply.