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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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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Apocalypse I: McCain’s Ringtone for the Christian Right

Let’s update political jargon. Writers still use “dog whistle” for a political message heard clearly by one audience but entirely missed by everyone else. That’s so twentieth-century. Please update to “teenage ring-tone”: Young ears hear it. Older ones don’t. Students yes, profs no. You can pick the tone that will be heard by the age group you want. But be careful: Some people have young ears.

The political equivalent is John McCain’s invidious “He’s the One” ad. Ostensibly, it merely suggests that anyone who inspires people must be a poor leader. (Well, don’t expect a Republican to remember FDR or JFK. But what about Churchill?)

But the message is really intended to ring loudly for dispensationalists, the subset of conservative evangelicals who are looking forward to the Rapture, the Tribulation, the whole timeline of approaching apocalypse.

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Mr. Obama, Did You Pack These Bags Yourself?

Gershom Gorenberg

At the airport, before his takeoff for the Middle East, no one will ask Barack Obama if he packed his bags himself. It would be rude, and besides he has a full-time handler for that. He never has the lurching feeling as the cab leaves his house that he left the tickets on the kitchen table and a prescription in the medicine cabinet. Just writing those words, I finally understand the attraction of running for president.

He has, however, packed his political baggage himself. Mostly he’s done a good job – better, in fact, than one could expect.

First, he’s meeting with Palestinians as well as Israelis. At least according to the Palestinian side, Obama has put a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on his schedule for next Wednesday. When I wrote about his trip a couple of weeks ago, before the requisite leaks on the itinerary, I was afraid he’d decide it was politically inexpedient to make that stop, essential as it is. Symbolically, the Ramallah visit shows that he intends as president to talk to both Israelis and Palestinians, and that he’s serious about working for peace. Practically, it gives him the chance to see how Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad respond to tough questions about the compromises they’ll need to make.

It would have been easy to skip Ramallah for fearing of losing Jewish votes, especially in swing states like Florida. The common mistake among candidates is to believe the rightwing minority in the U.S. Jewish community that purports to speak for the community as a whole,

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Joe Lieberman’s Pastor

A quick update on John Hagee: According to various reports , Joe Lieberman is planning an encore at this July’s Christian United for Israel “summit” in Washington, delivering the keynote address. Last year he spoke at the same event and called Hagee an “ish elohim,” a man of God, comparing him to Moses.

John McCain finally had the good sense to drop Hagee, at least publicly; Joe is still ready to give his seal of kashrut to a brand of support for Israel that includes explaining the Holocaust as God’s way of chasing the Jews back to the Land. (In that light, it’s not surprising that Hagee does not want Israel to give up West Bank land for peace. Why should a few more Jewish shahids matter?)

Also reportedly scheduled to appear at Hagee’s fest is Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat whose district includes Riverdale.

J Street is running an online petition campaign to convince Lieberman not to go. Here’s the link . If you live in Riverdale, you might want to drop a line to Rep. Engel about his plans.

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Obama. What’s Complicated Here?

Gershom Gorenberg

Dan Kurtzer, the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and an Orthodox Jew, is in Jerusalem for the 60th anniversary celebrations. This morning my wife heard him being interviewed on Israeli Radio, in Hebrew, about the U.S. election. Kurtzer explained that he’s backing Barack Obama.

This was not exactly a revelation. Kurtzer has explained his reasons for backing Obama at length . Here’s some key snippets:

…we have had eight years of disaster with respect to our foreign policy, and I have to share with you as an analyst, we have had eight years that have [compromised] the security of the state of Israel.
An administration that has ignored the search for peace in the Middle East to a point where you have chaos in the Palestinian Authority, and you have a sham process called the Annapolis process, in which our Secretary of State, whom I admire personally, travels to region and announces when she gets there that she is bringing no new ideas.
You have an administration that hasn’t engaged in the peace process, and so inherited a bad situation in 2001 and is leaving it in a worse situation in 2008. And you have an administration that has gotten us engaged in a war in Iraq that has not only cost American lives… but it’s now being called the $3 trillion war…And I would share with you that the cost to the security of Israel is incalculable.

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Thanks to Our Readers

Readers’ notes in the last few days include these tidbits:

  • Moshe Feiglin, head of the Manhigut Yehudit (“Jewish Leadership”) faction in the Likud, has been touring the U.S., speaking at synagogues such as Congregation B’nai Yeshurun in Teaneck. Manhigut Yehudit’s website includes a draft constitution in Hebrew with such features as a rabbinical council that could overturn all laws. In an interview with the fawning Jewish Press, Feiglin said that “There is no such thing as innocent civilians” and said that as prime minister he would have responded to the Merkaz Harav terror attack last month by acting against the attacker’s entire village. Feiglin’s support in the Likud comes entirely from the far-right activists he has signed up as party members, to the embarrassment of the rest of the party. But what are American congregations doing hosting someone who can be called, with understatement, a fascist?
  • Thank God for the farm lobby:

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