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Tuesday, 12 December 2017 11:55 am

It’s not all about Israel for Jewish voters in the United States

JEWISH FAVOURITE: Obama visits the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Image: www.thecommentator.com

 

MITT ROMNEY has told the US their president has “thrown Israel under the bus” – but Barack Obama is still favoured by American Jews.

A recent survey of Jewish voters showed about 60% approved of the way Obama was doing his job, said a CNN online news report of 4 November.

The same survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, showed Israel ranks low as a voting consideration for among the Jewish respondents.

“[The survey] found that 51% of those registered to vote cited the economy as the most important issue driving their voting decision,” said author Amitai Etzioni.

“Fifteen percent cited the growing gap between the rich and the poor, while 10% cited health care and 7% the deficit. Only 4% cited Israel as the most important issue to their vote.”

The survey also showed most Jews who will change the party they vote for this year will not “swing” to Romney because of his position on Israel.

NewsWire spoke to four practising American Jews, and asked what their biggest concerns were leading up to the election, regardless of Israel.

New York native Andrea Steiner says she cares deeply about what happens to Israel, but is not a one-topic voter.

“I live in this country and I care very much about the policies that are made to govern the United States and how those policies affect me and the people I care about,” she says.

Ms Steiner, a legal recruiter and actress, says her biggest concerns are the treatment of minority groups, religious freedom and affordable health care – all of which she believes are under threat from a Romney administration.

“[The Republican party] become a party that openly supports oppressing women, the middle class, low income and the underprivileged, gay people, immigrants and anyone who…doesn’t fit into the very traditional and narrow definition of white, affluent, Christian, heterosexual nuclear families,” says Ms Steiner.

AFFORDABLE CARE: A protestor shows her support of Obamacare outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Image: www.americanprogress.org

On the topic of health care, she says she is “dismayed” to see Jews who are Republican speak out against Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act.

“I simply cannot understand how people committed to a religion that has always made provisions to care for the poor, the sick and the elderly, could be so hypocritical as to oppose a law that would make it possible for so many underprivileged people to receive health care,” she says.

Republican voter Shani Bauminger is most concerned about the economy, which she believes Romney will help overhaul.

She says she is particularly opposed to Obama’s plan to impose higher taxes on wealthy Americans.

“Americans say that the rich pay too little in taxes, but the rich actually pay 70% of the taxes in this country,” says Ms Bauminger, a copy editor from Brooklyn, New York.

“I don’t think that raising taxes on rich people is going to save this economy. I think it makes it harder for people with money to open businesses, which in turn creates jobs. And all of this helps the economy.”

Her brother Michael Bauminger says his most pressing domestic concerns are the economy and the size of the US Government.

“Barack Obama has raised the debt close to six trillion dollars in four years. That is unprecedented,” he says.

“The economy is basically stagnating and job growth is stalled. All Obama wants to do is spend more and tax more. There is no way to tax our way out of this.”

Mr Bauminger says he believes the more the Government takes on, the less US citizens are empowered.

“The US was founded under the concept of limited government. Individuals, not the government, are supposed to take care of themselves, their families, and their communities. Conservatives…believe in a government safety net for those who truly need it. But only for those who truly need it.”

He also believes Obama has taken the US Jewish population for granted.

“He knows that most Jews vote Democrat no matter what, so he has done nothing to advance Jewish interests.

REACHING OUT: Romney visits The Holy Land. Image: www.americanprogress.org

“Republicans cannot take Jews for granted because they do not get support from most of us, although they might start ignoring us if we don’t change that.”

Traditionally, American Jews are loyal Democrat voters, with a recent Gallup poll showing that 64% of Jewish registered voters support Obama, compared with 29% that support Romney.

Wellington-based Jew Norman Kabak, originally from New York, says the Jewish support for the Democrats has its roots in history, beginning with Eastern European migrants who worked in the garment industry.

“Many worked in the needle trades, and other areas that required basic working skills,” says Mr Kabak, who is married to a New Zealander.

“Historically, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the Printers Union and other Trade Unions merged into two giant organizations called the American Federation of Labor, and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

“Both of these labor organizations supported the Democratic Party for the most part, and so it became entrenched within each family to follow suit generation after generation.”

He also says Presidents Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry Truman, both of the Democrat party, passed laws that helped open up general society to American Jews.

Mr Kabak, who lists one of his biggest pre-election concerns is stamping out bigotry and prejudice in the US, says Jewish people are also suspicious because of his religious leanings.

“Many who oppose Candidate Romney oppose him on the basis of his Mormonism and fear that some of those beliefs might come to play,” he says.

Ms Steiner says she is also concerned about effect of a Republican administration on America’s relationship with Israel.

“I do appreciate all the love that Republicans profess to have for Israel and the Jewish people,” she says.

“However, I do also keep in mind that their love comes with some strings attached – it does make me uncomfortable to know that Christian prophecies require the conversion of all Jews to Christianity in order for their belief system to work.”

She believes Obama has been an adequate ally to Israel, whereas Ms Bauminger says she is uncomfortable that he did not visit Israel during his tour of the Middle East when he first took office.

“He was really concerned with the perception of America in these Middle Eastern countries, and being Israel’s greatest ally is a huge blot on that perception,” she says.

Image: www.usatoday.com

Mr Bauminger believes the relationship between Israel and the US would be stronger if Romney were elected, given his personal friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured right with Romney)

“Romney sees Israel and Israelis as America’s natural friends as well as allies, with commonalities of interests and attitudes.

“Israel is very much a free and open democracy and economy and I believe Romney very much resonates with that.”

However, Mr Kabak does not believe a Romney victory will change the relationship between the two countries.

“Netanyahu is, above all, a pragmatist, with his eyes set on making Israel the strongest country that the various forces will permit, exert, and extort. That is his mandate.

“Should Governor Romney gain the Presidency, the personal relationship between both leaders will change little.”

 

 

 

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is a Whitireia journalism student, most passionate about the arts and social justice issues. Sometimes, she even combines the two.
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