Some news, apparently, is fit to print, but not too boldly. Take, for example, the demure self-censorship on display Saturday in the New York Times’ eye-opening report, headlined “On Island, Largely Blue, an Exception: Trump Tower,” on the handful of New York City neighborhoods that voted for Mitt Romney over President Obama. Overall, the city voted Obama over Romney 81% to 18%.
The headline and the first five paragraphs were about the two isolated election precincts on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Island where Romney won half or more of the vote. It wasn’t until paragraph 7 to find out that the main news began to trickle out: that the “deepest single bloc of Republican support in all the five boroughs” was a four-square-block section of Gravesend, Brooklyn, “dotted with Sephardic temples and yeshivas.”
Finally, well into the jump, we learned that Romney “enjoyed strong support from a range of neighborhoods with large populations of Orthodox Jews.” Many precincts in Borough Park, Kew Gardens Hills and Sheepshead Bay (which is largely Russian, not Orthodox) voted 90% GOP. A note on the accompanying map gave you the money quote: “Mr. Obama’s worst precincts were in Orthodox Jewish areas like Ocean Parkway and Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Kew Gardens Hills in Queens.”
The map shows the city’s 5,286 precincts as a sea of blue and red dots, shaded darker or lighter to indicate higher or lower percentages of partisan leaning. The darkest red voted over 80% for Romney, while pale pink gave him 50% to 65%. In addition to the broad swathes of dark red running down Brooklyn from Hasidic Borough Park down Sephardic Ocean Park to Russian Brighton Beach, there are dark red clusters in mostly Italian-American Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, and mostly Irish-American (and storm-ravaged) Breezy Point, Queens.
There’s good news and bad news for President Obama in a new survey of American Jewish opinion released Thursday by the Workmen’s Circle. First, the bad news: Jewish voters favor Obama over Mitt Romney by about two to one — 59% to 27%, with 14% undecided. If undecideds follow the same 2-to-1 split, the result will be 68% to 32%. This points to a 10% drop from November 2008, when Obama got 78% of the Jewish vote, according to national exit polls at the time. The good news is that it’s not November yet, and if you compare June 2012 to June 2008, Obama is doing considerably better now than he was then. At this point in 2008 Jews were backing Obama by only 62% to rival John McCain’s 31%, according to Gallup’s tracking poll. Obama dropped further in July 2008, to 61-34, before beginning a steady rise in August. In fact, a surge might already be discernible this year, if we compare the Workmen’s Circle survey with a similar survey released two months ago, April 3, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute for the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
Will the president repeat his 2008 late-summer uptick? Hard to say. Romney isn’t likely to give him the sort of gift McCain offered when he chose the spectacularly unqualified Sarah Palin as his running-mate. On the other hand, everything else in the Workmen’s Circle poll, which was conducted by Professors Steven M. Cohen and Samuel Abrams, points to a Jewish public that remains solidly liberal. Given the starkly conservative cast of the Republican campaign so far, it seems unlikely that Romney could muster more enthusiasm among Jewish voters than the more moderate McCain did in 2008. It could be that distress over Obama’s Israel policies will lower his Jewish support, but both surveys show Israel playing very little role in Jewish voters’ thinking. In fact, Cohen’s statistical analysis of respondents’ preferences and demographic characteristics indicates that people who have strong opinions about Israel tend to show a host of other tendencies that factor as strongly if not more so into their decisions.
In some ways the Workmen’s Circle survey confirms the trends that turned up in the Cummings Foundation survey in April; in other ways the WC sample is more conservative (I’m not sure why, and I won’t speculate right now). In certain ways, both polls — and a third one, the American Jewish Committee annual survey, released April 30 — look remarkably similar. Remarkable, that is, considering that they use different methodologies, draw on different population samples and reflect a variety of sponsors’ ideologies from the upscale liberal Cummings Foundation to the grittier left-liberal Workmen’s Circle to the devoutly centrist AJC.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to call early elections in September followed a “discreet” meeting with leaders of AIPAC, who told him that polls show President Obama heading for reelection in November—so writes Maariv chief diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit, as reported by Noam Sheizaf on the left-wing, English-language Israeli site 972mag.com blog.
Here’s Caspit, as translated by Sheizaf:
Netanyahu’s surprising announcement on the early primaries in the Likud, which fell on his party’s senior member like thunder on a cloudless day, came three days after a discrete meeting he held with the chiefs of AIPAC, that estimated, based on polls, that Barack Obama would also be the next president.
Bibi knew he can’t campaign when Obama is in his second term. This [would be] a dangerous gamble. Sheizaf goes on to note that the September 4 Knesset elections will come during the Democratic National Convention, which means that “Instead of the U.S. president possibly playing a role—deliberately or not – in the Israeli elections, Netanyahu will get a chance to play a part in the American one.” No, Noam, it’s not a coincidence.
Speaking of Israeli elections, two new political parties are forming on the right:
I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Andrew Adler has resigned as publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times. His January 13 column, proposing that Israel might consider assassinating President Obama, was enormously embarrassing to Israel, its supporters and Jews everywhere.
Removing him from his visible position makes life a lot easier for the rest of us, doesn’t it?
One could argue that Adler’s outburst shouldn’t cause Jews to cringe; after all, we know that supporting Israel and loving America are not incompatible. We can’t be blamed collectively for the blathering of one fool, even if he provided fuel for the fevered imaginings of those who believe Jews are disloyal. We should have outgrown the old habit of worrying about what others think of us. Proud Jews do what they need to do, not what the world tells them to do. On the other hand, we also worry that Israel is waging a war against delegitimization and isolation, fighting for its good name and legitimacy in the eyes of the world. That is, we sneer at the opinions of the world, but we’re also worried sick about the opinions of the world. I’m sure those two thoughts fit together somehow, though I’m not sure how.
Jewish organizations generally don’t react quickly to events unless they involve terror attacks in Israel or blatantly anti-Semitic statements by foreign dictators, but one organization managed to whip out a response to President Obama’s jobs speech—a favorable one, as it happens—less than an hour after the president finished speaking.
The quick response was from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which calls itself “the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community.” Its Chair and President (lay leader and staff director in Jewish organization-speak) issued a statement via mass e-mail blast at 8:34 p.m., a little over 45 minutes after the speech ended, endorsing the spending parts of Obama’s $450 billion plan.
The statement quotes the Chair, Dr. Conrad Giles, urging Congress to “begin work on the President’s recommendations for improvements to our homes, schools, and roads without delay” and to re-hire teachers and health care providers — while adding the council’s own appeal for more police and firefighters. Here’s how Giles is quoted:
“The jobs crisis exists throughout the entire country. No community, rural or urban, big or small, has been untouched. With such widespread need for new job opportunities and assistance, Congress should begin work on the President’s recommendations for improvements to our homes, schools, and roads without delay.”
Also quoted is the council’s President, Rabbi Steve Gutow, endorsing the part about extending unemployment insurance. The statement doesn’t address the tax-cut parts of the plan. At the conclusion, there’s a stab at bi-partisanship:
”Now is the time for a broad, national effort to build a pathway of prosperity for all Americans. We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to grow our economy and ensure opportunities for those left in the Great Recession’s wake.”
The endorsement is unusual for several reasons. Supporting the president used to be an expression of patriotism, but these days it’s generally seen as a partisan act. In consequence, most Jewish non-profits tend to steer well clear of domestic issues. It’s not that they’re really afraid of losing their tax-free status. They used to talk about economic and social justice all the time. Other religious groups are unabashedly ideological, in both directions. But the big Jewish agencies are afraid of conservative donors getting mad and walking away with their money.
So why is this Jewish organization different from all other Jewish organizations?
The website of Foreign Affairs magazine has a very useful interview with David Makovsky, fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, former Jerusalem Post editor, former Haaretz diplomatic correspondent and one of the smartest Middle East watchers in Washington, on the various uncertainties Israel faces right now. He notes that Israel and Egypt have been engaging in a lot of back-channel diplomacy in the last few days to try and keep the border quiet and maintain the peace. The danger, he says, is
that the public senses that, when there are elections, Islamist parties—led by the Muslim Brotherhood but not exclusively—could be a dominant political block in Egypt. That would mean that you would have a military that has had excellent relations with the Israelis but does not want to be in a confrontation with the public. Therefore, the political context for the Egyptian-Israeli military-to-military relations, which have been very good, are very much liable to deteriorate.
He’s surprisingly optimistic—or at least un-pessimistic—about the future of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. President Obama’s speeches in May to Congress and AIPAC about Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 lines with swaps were a gesture toward the Palestinian, which made the Israelis uncomfortable. The administration is now trying to get the Europeans to match that with a parallel gesture to pressure the Palestinians, specifically working against the Palestinian statehood measure at the United Nations. The idea is to give Tony Blair space to produce a Quartet formula that allows peace talks to restart. The details Makovsky lays out are fascinating, not least the internal splits within the EU that are making the job difficult. And there’s this: