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A Study in Ingratitude

Jews and politics should mix better than they do in America.

By and 2.13.03

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Jews have created the cornerstone of Western civilization. Through intelligence, commitment, and force of will they have profoundly affected the world wildly in disproportion to their numbers. Jews constitute less than three percent of the world's population, and have been awarded more than 60 percent of the Nobel prizes for science. It can credibly be argued that three Jews -- Freud, Einstein and Marx -- determined 20th-century thought and achievement. If Jews are known as people of the Book, where politics is concerned -- especially American politics -- they must be reading the wrong book.

American Jews' devotion to the Democratic Party is imprinted on their genes. If one were to go into any traditional Jewish neighborhood, you would have as much chance of meeting a Republican as you would of bumping into bin Laden at a policeman's ball.

This love affair dates back to when Franklin Roosevelt was president. He was treated by Jews as a mythic figure, responsible for their deliverance. The truth is that a logical argument could be made that he is responsible for the deaths of more Jews than few other people in world history. Of course he did not order or direct that any Jews be killed, but the word "responsible" is one that could be used in an active or passive sense.

If I am in a position to pull someone out of the way speeding train and I do nothing, in any moral scheme of things, whatever may be my degree of lack of culpability as a strictly legal proposition, I must bear greater or lesser responsibility for that person's death. From 1939, when Roosevelt denied the passengers of the steamship St. Louis entry to the U.S. -- and thereby condemned them to a return to Hitler's Europe -- to refusing, notwithstanding Churchill's plea, to order the bombing of the rail lines bringing inmates to the concentration camps and certain death, Roosevelt was responsible in a moral sense for the death of Jews.

Just as in any other form of committed, irrational love, when the symptoms -- heart pounding, flushing of skin, dizziness, and knees going weak -- would confuse any doctor, the Jews' love relationship with the Democratic Party on both the national and local level defies sensible analysis. As opposed to a human being's love for another person, which begins and ends with one person, this Jewish passion for the Democratic Party is passed on from one generation to the next, on every separate level of government.

Notwithstanding never capturing the Jewish vote, Republican president after Republican president has kept Israel alive as a viable state, a fact which, under any other circumstance, would be the dispositive element in Jews voting for, and supporting, a candidate. The policies of Republican presidents -- Nixon saving Israel in the 1973 war by insisting the resupply of destroyed tanks and airplanes be "in the air" on the way to Israel (over the drag-our-feet attitude of his State Department); President Reagan upon being awakened in 1981 with the report of the Israeli destruction of the Iraqi nuclear facilities, remarking, "boys will be boys"; and President George W. Bush's lock-step support of Israel (the strongest of any American president ever) -- had little effect on the Jewish vote.

Worse yet, quite aside from Israel, their slavish embrace of the Democratic Party, has proven to be contagion that has spread to local politics and policies and the Democratic national agenda -- contrary to their own self-interests.

THERE WAS NO GREATER SUPPORTER of Israel in the United States Senate than Al D'Amato. He was one of the only two voices raised in the Senate in support of Israel when it destroyed the Iraqi nuclear facilities -- an act incidentally that ultimately probably saved many American lives in the Gulf War, and prevented Iraq from becoming another North Korea. He was called sarcastically, in many quarters, "The Senator from Israel." He was defeated for reelection when he ran against Charles Schumer and lost the Jewish vote.

Schumer's major advantage over D'Amato was that he was Jewish. Barring major surgery late in life, D'Amato could not compete with his biological identity --notwithstanding his perfect record on Israel.

David Dinkins was a disaster waiting to happen. In 1989 he ran for New York City mayor surrounded by stories of tax irregularities (that would have forced any white candidate to withdraw from the election) and the distinction of being the only person who was able to screw up the marriage license bureau when, as a political hack, he ran the operation. His opponent was Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani had been the No. 3 man in the Reagan Justice Department, and later U.S. attorney for New York. As U.S. attorney he had done what was previously thought impossible: he put the Mafia, for all intents and purposes, out of business. His approach to the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian ongoing conflict was formed while he was in the Department of Justice. There, he headed the Achille Lauro investigation. An elderly dentist, Dr. Klinghoffer and his wife had been murdered aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro. Giuliani formulated a simple approach to the problem: the terrorist were just thugs -- no different from the Mafia gangsters he prosecuted, and should be treated as such. Coming from this simple direction he was probably more to the right wing in Israeli politics than any other American political figure. Come the election, Jews voted in droves for Dinkins, the Democratic candidate; because of this and some questionable vote counting he won in a close election.

Dinkins as mayor fulfilled the prophecy of disaster. If he spent as much time in governance as he did changing suits and ties, things might have been different. Riots began in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The city was aflame in racial polarization, Dinkins was unaware of the riots, since he apparently didn't have his television on those days, and then acted (even as reflected in the post-mortem report ordered by Democratic Governor Cuomo) in a fashion of too little and too late. Finally, Jewish voters, when faced with the very survival of their neighborhoods, backed Giuliani as mayor.

IF THE CHOICE OF ONE PARTY'S CANDIDATE for leader over another's were limited to personalities, it would really cause little harm. But political leaders bring with them entire programs, like the tugs in New York Harbor that bring garbage in their wakes. It is in this respect that they can do real damage, both insidious and long-lasting.

Jews invariably fall into line behind the Democratic position in a major issue of our time -- affirmative action. Jews, because they understand that they are minority in this country, support affirmative action in all its varied forms. But Jews do, and have done very well without it. Today, in Ivy League colleges including Harvard, they comprise 20 percent of the student body, whereas they are less than 2 percent of America's population. Affirmative action has been carried to an absurd point and, in the last analysis, is insulting and demeaning to its recipients. It is a clear message that society does not believe that a person of a particular race, national or ethnic background can achieve success on his or her own ability and intelligence.

In the Michigan case presently before United States Supreme Court, the University of Michigan requires an accumulation of 150 points for admission. If a student gets a perfect SAT score (an almost never-heard-of achievement) they receive 12 points, but just being a black or Hispanic gets them 20 points. Democrats ought to think about that the next time they are wheeled into an emergency room and the person holding scalpel is black, Hispanic, native American or from the subcontinent. Maybe he or she is a great surgeon, or maybe he or she has been pushed along by affirmative action. The answer is, of course, not to lower the bars, but rather to give students the proper incentive preparation for college in home and school to get over the bar without society pushing them over it.

The other domestic priority Republican program that has attracted controversy is Bush's tax cutting proposals. The Media Research Center says that the news media reporting on the proposal is "at least 4 to 1" against it. Translation: that this is a reflection of media bent toward the Democratic Party. American Jews will undoubtedly also fall in lock-step in opposition to these tax relief measures, or for that matter virtually any Republican proposition, even at the cost of their own self-interest.

The Bush tax proposals are based on simple logic and fairness. For taxpayers to have to pay tax on dividends, after the company issuing the dividends has already paid tax on its profits from which the dividends are paid, is palpably unfair to 34 million (representing 71 million citizens) who report dividends on their tax returns. Surely many of these taxpayers are Jewish. The tax cuts are not only for the rich -- although logically if you pay more taxes, you should receive a larger benefit --in fact, under the Bush proposals, the rich receive smaller tax cuts than middle-class citizens.

Estate tax relief also represents an exercise in simple fairness. President Reagan called it the most unfair of all taxes. You pay tax on the money when you earn it, and then the money that is left, if you want it to go to a person of your choice, is taxed again--to the tune of as much as 50 percent. Although our guess is that percentage-wise among other national groups, Jews stack up very favorably as having enough money to leave an estate, since it is at Republican proposal, the Jews will undoubtedly turn their "thumbs down".

THIS BRINGS US TO THE candidacy of Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman, after Gore put him on his ticket, changed his positions more times than a contortionist on his honeymoon. Lieberman, if nominated, says Jews, given their present mindset, will probably do the Al D'Amato number on Bush, and in answer to some ancient genetic call, cast their vote for Joe Lieberman. This will give them a double whammy: a vote for a Jew for President, and a vote for a Democrat for President. But in the unlikely possibility that he is actually elected, they well may be the victims of their own 1-2 punch.

A Jewish President will undergo a transformation the like of which has not been seen since Paul was on the road to Damascus and saw a transforming vision. On the major questions of concern to Jews, Lieberman would have to bend over backwards to show he is not partial to Israel, and in short order the support and nurturing Israel has enjoyed in a succession of Republican presidents would be eroded. Added to this would be Democratic Party policies that would be particularly harmful to the present socioeconomic status of Jews in America. The realization of a Jew achieving national office may prove to be the undoing of both foreign and domestic issues of particular concerns to Jews. They should heed Truman Capote's observation that there may be only one thing worse than unanswered prayers, and that is answered prayers.

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About the Author

Jackie Mason is a comedian.

About the Author

Raoul Felder is a lawyer.