Most American Jews are liberal. Why? Should they be liberal, or should they be conservative? Norman Podhoretz, in a new book and Wall Street Journal editorial,
argued that Jews should in fact be conservative, like him. Podhoretz,
ever the lightening rod, has sparked wide debate. Jewish (and
non-Jewish) pundits, intellectuals, and academics are weighing in on
the politics of American Jewry.
Jews Should be Conservative
- Conservatism Better for Israel Norman Podhoretz wrote in the Journal, "As a Jew who moved from left to right more than four decades ago, I have been hoping for many years that my fellow Jews would come to see that in contrast to what was the case in the past, our true friends are now located not among liberals, but among conservatives." Why? Because, he argued, Democrats like Obama create "policies dangerous to the security of Israel."
- Jews Should Look Out for Jews Harvard Professor Ruth R. Wisse wrote that liberal policies leave Jews, an embattled minority, open to attack and exploitation. "To paraphrase Sholem Aleichem, 'It is harder to be a Jew.' Those who substitute 'liberal' for 'Jew' as the basis of self-definition often fail to protect the rights of their own people, or worse, condone the aggression of their adversaries in the name of promoting peace," she wrote. "The liberalizing elements in Judaism have contributed to making Jews an irresistible target of anti-liberals."
- Jews Mistake Conservatives for Anti-Semites "Why are Jews liberal? In all its various forms, there is probably no question I get asked more," Jonah Goldberg wrote. "Anti-Semitism was long associated with institutions that seemed more Republican and conservative (the reverse is closer to the truth today)," he suggested, implying that Jews would be better off fighting liberals. Goldberg, whose book argues that liberalism is analagous to fascism, wrote that the holocaust created "a tendency among American Jews to think that fighting for a progressive, statist, vision of 'social justice' is a moral, even definitional, imperative for Jews today."
- GOP Shouldn't Pursue Jewish Support William Kristol lamented that more Jews don't "learn about which political party, and which political persuasion, is friendlier to Jewish interests." Kristol, a conservative thought leader whose influence is hard to underestimate, said Republicans should give up on recruiting Jews. "I'm going to stop worrying about American Jews. They're not worth the headache. Either they'll come to their senses or they won't, and there's not much I (or anyone else, I suspect) can do about it."
- Jews Should Relocate to Mid-West That's the actual argument made by Robert S. McCain. "If Messrs. Podhorhetz, et al., wish to promote conservatism among American Jews, let them find some way to encourage Jewish families to move to small towns in the Heartland, where their kids can grow up hunting, fishing and hot-rodding the backroads," he wrote. "A guy with a gun rack in the back window of his four-wheel drive truck may occasionally vote Democrat, but he's extremely unlikely to be an out-and-out liberal."
Jews Should be Liberal
- Social Welfare Tradition Extends to Moses The New Republic's Leon Wieseltier slammed Podhoretz in a lengthy New York Times review of his book, argued that Jews do and should act selflessly in politics, not selfishly. "When, in the Torah of Judaism, Moses commands the Jews to perform acts of social welfare, he sometimes adds the admonition that they were themselves strangers and slaves. The purpose of this refreshment of their memory is plain. The fact that we are no longer strangers and slaves is not all we need to know. We may not regard the world solely from the standpoint of our own prosperity, our own safety, our own contentment," he wrote. "The question of whether liberalism or conservatism does more for the helpless and the downtrodden, for the ones who are not like us, will be endlessly debated, and it is not a Jewish debate; but if the answer is liberalism, then the political history of American Jewry is neither a mystery nor a scandal."
- Liberalism is Good for Israel Wieseltier conceded, "Podhoretz is not mistaken when he declares that the enthusiasm for Israel among conservatives is real and new and deep," but he pointed out, "sympathy for the Palestinians may coexist with sympathy, and even love, for Israel." Wieseltier argued that liberal positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict could, in fact, be better for Israel, even if their Washington-based proponents in the Democratic party were not as explicitly pro-Israel as Republicans.
- Israel Not Jews' Top Issue Dana Goldstein of the American Prospect argued that Podhoretz was wrong for thinking that Israel would be the most important issue for American Jews. "This is a fundamental misreading of the political commitments of American Jews, 92 percent of whom describe issues other than Israel as their primary concern," she wrote. "According to one election season poll, the top two issues for American Jews are the economy and the Iraq war."
- Jews Reject Neoconservatism Glenn Greenwald cited the declining popularity of neoconservative thought, among Jews and Americans generally. "The anti-neocon view -- that blind, uncritical American support for anything Israel wants and does is not only bad for the U.S., but also for Israel -- is gaining widespread acceptance among American Jews," he wrote. Greenwald argued that neoconservatives like Podhoretz are not representative of Jewish American voters. "There are still a lot of highly critical issues even beyond Israel over which this faction is attempting to exert influence -- beginning with Iran and Afghanistan -- and keeping a light on what they really are, and are not, is vitally important."