Under the pretense of trying to better understand how Jewish voters feel about Barack Obama, the Republican Jewish Coalition is conducting a poll that resembles an approach used for years, by Anti-Semites who sought to make Jew hatred acceptable in our culture. Like their hate-mongering predecessors, the poll inquires about people’s feelings on a topic, in this case Senator Obama, in light of things which others, have said about him. The premise being that if someone you like said something nice about him, you too should support him. If however, someone you don’t like was supportive if him, perhaps you should fear him.
It would be like asking Catholics how they feel about Jews, in light of the fact that for almost two thousand years, the leading minds of the Church considered Jews guilty of deicide. Whatever they were thinking before, and however much Vatican Two and subsequent teaching has decried that position, the seeds of hate would be re-planted in the minds of many faithful Catholics who were asked that way about their current feelings toward Jews.
How about asking people if they think that Henry Ford was a great American, and then if they answer yes, reminding them that he thought Jew hatred was not only acceptable but wise? If you worked for the RJC, you would simply call that information gathering. But I call it both ironic and detestable that they have sunk to that level.
I appreciate that in a close election, campaigning is a full contact sport no matter which candidate you support. And the claim by some in the Jewish community that this poll is “un-Jewish” or means that RJC supporters have read themselves out of the Jewish community is ridiculous. But I do think that something is off when the tactics one uses, presumably for the good of their own community, are torn from a page of the playbook used to victimize that very same community!
We do not have to agree about which candidate is best for our nation, for Israel, or for the Jewish people. In fact, I think it is great that we have robust support for both Senators McCain and Obama within the Jewish community. But fear mongering of this sort, or that on the left, which tries to scare Jews out of voting Republican because Sarah Palin is a committed Evangelical, and “you know how those people think”, has got to stop.
On November fifth, we will all wake up to one president for one nation. I hate to think that as we reflect on the election, one of the standout realizations will be that Jews lead the way in making sure that it would be as difficult as possible to come together and make that work.