Vote Till You Drop

The price of being a citizen of two countries, it seems, is that elections never stop. So even before the American election winds up in one final festival of long lines, hanging chads, and voter intimidation, Israel is about to begin a new national campaign. Unlike the U.S. vote, the Israeli one will provide over 27 choices, none even close to satisfying. It’s like standing in front of the convenience-store rack of junk food when all you want is a decent meal.

Before we get started with that local madness, let me offer a last word on the American fever. If you are still arguing with a relative who thinks that the McCain-Moosehunter ticket will be better for Israeli security, my new article at the American Prospect provides some talking points:

My friends are frightened of the shame of a mother or uncle staining the family, or the tribe, with the wrong vote — a vote purportedly cast out of concern for Israel. From where I sit, this would be a shame, because the reasons Obama is better for Israel’s security are the same reasons he is better for American security.

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Bubbe, Call Your Grandkid for Obama

Gershom Gorenberg

The premise of the Great Schlep was that young Jews of Obama should visit their grandparents in Florida to make sure they vote in a manner befitting members of the tribe. Behind that premise were several more suppositions: that Florida is in play, that rightwing hatemail labeling Obama as a Muslim and anti-Israel might finally bring Jews to shift rightward, and that older Jewish voters were more likely than younger ones to fall for the rumors and vote for the old white-haired dude.

According to the latest polling, only one of those suppositions is true: Florida is in play, so how your bubbe votes in Delray Beach could determine the future of Planet Earth. (Imagine that in 2000, 528 more Democrats had been schlepped to their polling places by loving grandchildren. No Iraq War. Global warming under control. Rich folks paying taxes.)

On the other hand, the Jewish shift to the Republicans – heralded every four years – isn’t happening. The tribe still votes left, thank God.

In September, pollster Steven Cohen at NYU polled nearly 1600 Jews – a hefty sample. With undecided voters eliminated, he found:

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Khaled Hosseini on the Republicans’ Anti-Muslim Incitement

The author of The Kite Runner has the courage and confidence to raise a necessary issue: The anti-Muslim incitement that has become part of the Republican campaign against Obama:

Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.

…Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama’s middle name makes him someone to distrust — and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill. As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama’s middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there’s something wrong with my name?

To the extent that they are the product of cynical calculation, the attacks on Obama as Muslim are meant to put him in a double bind:

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Laugh Your Guts Out–Irony on Yom Kippur and Election Day

Haim Watzman

Penitents are like voters. They face critical choices, ones that will set the course of their lives, and must make them in a situation of uncertainty. Committed voters try to grope through the fog of rhetoric in order to understand the true wills and predilections of the candidates they must choose from; penitents seek to dispel the mystery and ambiguity that cloaks the divine in order to understand what God wants of their lives.

But when I look around me this year, three days before Yom Kippur and a month before the American elections, I have a feeling that a lot of Jewish penitents and American voters are not using an essential tool that they need to make their choices. I mean irony.

Irony? Doesn’t that have something to do with punch lines? Is the choice of the leader of the free world and the acknowledgment and correction of one’s sins a joke?

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Israelis for Obama – Now, the Movie

Gershom Gorenberg

I met Avraham Yakin 30 years ago. We were on a tour group together in the Sinai. Everyone in the group but Avraham and his wife Hannah were students. Avraham was much older, an established artist. He’d been in the British army in World War II, and afterward in the Haganah.One night we climbed Jebel Mussa, the supposed Mt. Sinai, to reach the top at dawn. When the students arrived gasping for breath, Avraham was up there with his artist’s pad, sketching mountains and sunrise, serene, quiet, looking with sharp eyes across distances. Later I visited his home, in the Mahaneh Yehudah neighborhood of Jerusalem, next to the open market. He lived in a rambling stone house that had belonged to his family for several generations, the house in which he’d grown up, in which he and Hannah were raising eight kids in a kind of non-stop festival of creativity that made me look forward to being a father. (You want family values? Here are family values for you.)

What a pleasure meeting old friends in the right place. Avraham is in this video of Israelis – prominent and less known – who hope that Barack Obama will be elected president of the United States. To say that Obama would be better for Israel does not require revelation at Sinai, merely the ability to take a clear look back across the last eight years, and a clear look forward. Once again Avraham has that ability. So does ex-Knesset Member Naomi Chazan, one of Israeli’s leading political scientists and feminists. So does Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former military chief of staff.

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Go to Florida, and Save the World

To my great sorrow, I no longer have in-laws in Florida. Were they still around, I would not have to convince them to vote for Obama. Sol and Gert would certainly have done that, unless a butterfly ballot got in the way of their failing eyes. That said, were convincing possible and necessary, I would certainly accept Sarah Silverman’s* advice and make the Great Schlep to Miami to explain to the old Jews I love why they have to vote Obama to leave a decent world to the grandchildren they love. And listen, it would be a really long schlep for me, and I really truly, utterly, sincerely dislike Florida. And that’s on the good days.

Sarah Silverman has this video at that urges you to go. You can watch it below. I actually don’t find her terribly funny, and I think anyone reading this blog could do a better job of explaining why McCain-Moosehunter is not a ticket a Jew would like to support. But Sarah gets an A for kavannah, the right intentions (despite the usual F for decorum) so I’m putting the video in.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

When my Dad was slipping away last year,

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Sunshine, Obama and McCain

The center two pages of today’s The Marker, Ha’aretz’s economic section, are covered by an ad with the large headline “Win-Win.” It’s for a firm called Sunday, based in Israel as far as I can glean from its website. Sunday is making an offer to anyone with 2,000 square meters of roof space (21,500 square feet in archaic U.S. measurements) or 5,000 square feet of available land: It will turn that space into a solar energy facility, then pay the owner a set fee or a share of the profits on the energy produced.

Sunday is saying: You own a big office in Tel Aviv or factory in Haifa? We’ll turn the wasted sunlight heating up your roof into power and pay you for it. I’m not endorsing any company, but on the face of it, this sounds like a good deal for all concerned, including Israel, which can buy fewer fossil fuels to produce electricity, and the planet, which gets less carbon in its atmosphere. We don’t have the same Payless Power rates that other people can get over here, after all.

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No Choice: The Unbearable Angst of the Israeli Voter

Haim Watzman

I envy Americans. The choice they face in their coming election is so clear. The choice we Israelis will face in our next election couldn’t be more muddled.

The choice in the United States is so stark because nearly every policy the Republican administration has put into action has failed, and in just the ways that the Democrats predicted. The implosion of the economy, the metastasization of the national debt, the failure of the adventure in Iraq, the destabilization of the Middle East and now the Russian periphery, the impending disappearance of the arctic ice cap–you name it, the Democrats were right and the Republicans were wrong. During the last eight years, the Democrats erred only when a) they assumed that the Republicans would pursue a risky policy in a responsible way (as in Iraq) or b) when they were too frightened to speak up clearly against insane policies that were popular with the electorate (as with the Bush tax cuts).

Israel, too, faces economic and social ills and threats to its security. But here, over the last eight years, the policy choices have not been as plain, the facts on the ground have been ambiguous, and the political opposition has not offered clear alternatives. The United States has been ruled from the far right since George Bush came into office; Israel has been ruled from the center during that same period.

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Apocalypse II: Hagee Doesn’t Seek the End? Riiight.

Does Rev. John Hagee – friend of Joe Lieberman and erstwhile endorser of John McCain – believe the End is Nigh? Is that what’s behind his oft-proclaimed love for Israel? Does he expect horrible suffering for Jews during the apocalypse that he yearns for?

I would have thought these were easy test questions, to be answered, “Yes, yes and yes.” But a recent news report put out by the JTA newswire for Jewish papers asserts otherwise. “The pastor has, in fact, repeatedly disavowed End of Days theology…” it says. It quoted David Brog — executive director of Hagee’s organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) — as saying that “Hagee’s theological musings have little to do with why he promotes support for Israel.”

The JTA report dealt with a survey commissioned by J Street, the dovish Israel lobby, on U.S. Jewish attitudes toward Hagee and Lieberman.

According to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, Lieberman scored an unfavorable rating of 48 percent among U.S. Jews, compared to a favorable rating of 37 percent. Hagee… fared even worse: The pastor registered a 7 percent favorable rating and 57 percent unfavorable…

According to J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, part of Hagee’s problem with American Jews is that he brings a strong religious sensibility to his politicking.

But in the article, Brog gets the last word.

So where does Hagee’s interest in Israel come from?

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