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Support for Israel is Bipartisan and Strong
By Joshua Block
South Florida Sun Sentinel
September 6, 2016
In a recent op-ed in the Sun Sentinel, Alexander Soros argued that Jewish voters in Florida care about more than just Israel. That does not strike me as a "stop the presses" bit of news.
Of course Jewish voters are not a monolith. As Americans, we care about the same issues other voters care about: the economy, health care, immigration, national security and - yes, Israel.
What also seems obvious to all but relentless critics of Israel is American support for Israel has almost nothing to do with Jews in America, but rather American national interests and Americans of all stripes and houses of worship, who in overwhelming numbers say America should have a close and abiding relationship with our only reliable, western, democratic ally in a vital region typified by instability.
Soros pointed to a recent poll of Jewish voters in Florida, which showed just eight percent named support for Israel as one of the top two issues determining their vote for President of the United States. The reason Jews in Florida don't base their votes soley on Israel is the mainstream elements in both parties are strongly supportive of the Jewish state and of the historically close relationship between Israel and the United States. If there is no difference between the parties in their support for Israel, there is no reason for voters to base their votes on support for Israel.
The fact there is so little variance in positions on Israel by the major parties is actually the story.
As Democrats and Republicans in Washington have grown increasingly polarized over the last several decades, support for Israel has remained a rare and welcome bastion of bipartisanship. Bills and resolutions demonstrating that support – from annual foreign assistance to supplementary support for critical life-saving systems like the Iron Dome missile defense system – regularly pass both houses of Congress by huge margins. Presidents of both parties have demonstrated support for the special relationship between the United States and Israel. Presidents have done so for decades, and expressed American support for the Jewish homeland literally for centuries.
The reason our elected leaders support Israel is the simple: it is good policy and good politics, reflecting American interests and values, bolstered by nearly universal support. As poll after poll demonstrates, their constituents – Americans of all backgrounds, all religions, and all walks of life - support Israel. In his piece, Soros argued that supporting Israel requires Democrats to "veer right when speaking to American Jews." What is it about supporting Israel that requires such a turn?
Is it Israel's guarantee of equal rights to LGBT communities? No, that can't be it. How about Israel's free press, which is notoriously critical of its own government and raucous democracy? Does Israel's independent judicial system, which is unmatched in the Middle East, and which ensures that within the Jewish state the rule of law remains paramount raise red flags for liberals? Do progressives take issue with equal rights for women, freedom of worship for all religious groups or the fact that Israel's parliament is open to all, as evidenced by its 17 Arab members? Could it be the fact Israel has set up field hospitals on its borders to treat wounded Syrian refugees bombed and gassed by their Arab brothers? It seems unlikely.
The premise of Soros' argument is simply silly. There is absolutely no discord between liberal values and support for Israel. There is, however, an effort to foment such discord, and that is what is truly dangerous.
A recent spate of media stories about internal documents published online earlier this month, show that an organization calling itself the Open Society Foundation (OSF) undertook an ambitious project in 2009. The group sought to fund hateful Palestinian and radical anti-Zionist Israeli groups as part of a broad strategy to fight Israel's "racism" and "influence Congress, reporters and government officials."
The organization sought to create space for greater criticism of Israel. Ironically, despite giving itself the "Open Society" name, the organization has worked diligently to cover its tracks and obscure its shadowy efforts.
OSF is just the latest organization to target Israel in such a way, but the size and scope of this effort are remarkable. Also remarkable was its well-defined effort to keep the coordinated nature of its multi-pronged campaign secret.
By the way, the chairman of the Open Society Foundation is Mr. Soros' father, George Soros. That Mr. Soros has said he doesn't care if there is a Jewish state in the world, he just wants nothing to do with it, telling Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, "I don't deny the Jews their right to a national existence – but I don't want to be part of it."
Mr. Soros is right about one thing. Jewish voters in Florida – and voters of all backgrounds around the country - don't base their votes on a candidate's position on Israel. But that's not because support for Israel isn't important. It's because support for Israel is fundamentally important to both Democrats and Republicans. Dark money efforts to undermine it, such as those undertaken by this Soros-funded and Soros-directed effort, are the real threat to our democracy.
Joshua Block is a co-founder of MEND, the Middle East Network for Dialogue, and CEO & President of The Israel Project, both non-partisan charitable organizations based in Washington D.C.