A Historian Reflects on American Jewry’s Political Future

In a wide-ranging interview, the historian Jonathan Sarna discusses American Jews’ relationship with Israel, the changing role of the major denominations, the recent presidential election, and whether U.S. Jewry will maintain its long-standing alliance with the Democratic party. (Interview by Dror Eydar.)

The truth is that anyone who studies Jewish history knows that the extremes on both sides are dangerous for Jews. Very often, there is a convergence of the extreme left and extreme right. My concern is that this election has given certain fodder to the extremes. Hillary Clinton was trying to find a more centrist path. The failure of that path has led some elements in her party to say that this was a big mistake, and that they should have run a campaign aimed at the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic party, which would have focused on real change, and would have succeeded, in their opinion. I am not sure that is true. Those people, whether you are talking about Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren or Representative Keith Ellison, are very [hostile] toward Israel, although some of their domestic proposals find favor in the eyes of many American Jews.

It will be very interesting to see four years from now which wing of the Democratic party wins. I would not be surprised if the somewhat anti-Israel left-wing rises. Then it would be very interesting to see which Jews say they absolutely cannot vote for its candidates and which Jews say, “I am an American citizen and I better agree with the domestic policies of these candidates. Nor am I fond of Israel’s policies.”

I expect that Jews would tend in both directions. I would be very surprised if in the 21st century the Jewish community is as strongly Democratic as it has been for the 80 years or so since Al Smith, [the Democratic nominee who lost the 1928 elections to Herbert Hoover]. My guess is that in the years ahead, we will see a voting pattern among Jews similar to that of the 19th century, when everybody understood that the Jews were divided politically and that they were also willing to shift back and forth depending on the candidate.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: American Jewry, American politics, Democrats, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jewish politics


Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security