What African American Politics Illuminates about Jewish American Politics

Aug. 10 2020

Since the middle of the last century, blacks in the U.S. have been consistently loyal in their support of the Democratic party—loyalty that, as the recent study Steadfast Democrats shows—cuts across economic, religious, and even political divides. Michael Weingrad notes that many of the book’s observations can be applied to the political lives of American Jews:

What I find most intriguing about Steadfast Democrats and . . . why I think it is a book with relevance for observers of Jewish political behavior, is that the authors recognize that politics can become a key component of group identity. It is not that black political solidarity has not historically had crucial benefits for black Americans but that, whether or not those benefits still exist or are cost-effective today, they have become associated over time with black identity itself.

Although Steadfast Democrats mentions Jews but once in passing, they are second only to blacks in the extent to which they similarly defy factors that would in most cases tilt their political identification away from the Democratic party.

Also, as with blacks, explanations for Jewish political behavior are plentiful if not terribly convincing. Liberal Jews are frequently wont to cite religious tradition to explain their politics, as in the catchphrase tikkun olam (about which I have written). Some Jewish progressives do engage seriously with Jewish tradition as they articulate their social-justice politics, yet many invocations of religious tradition by Jewish liberals tend to be misinformed and opportunistic.

Other analyses of American Jewish political behavior, Weingrad argues, are more convincing—but fail “to explain either Jewish identification with the Democratic party today or why Jews in other Western countries today do not have the same loyalty to their liberal and left-wing parties as American Jews do for the Democrats.” The simple truth is that American Jewish group identity has come to include an enduring loyalty to the Democratic party.

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Read more at Federalist

More about: African Americans, American Jewry, Democrats, U.S. Politics

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy