Like many of you, I’m an Obama supporter. A few months ago, I started to hear about various efforts among progressive Jews to support him. (Righteous Indignation expressed prior interest in nonpartisan GOTV activities.) But so far, the dominant effort on my radar screen seems to be JewsforObama.com, for view (strangely enough) at www.jews4barack.com.

On the one hand, yeah, it’s great that Jews are showing support for Obama given the racist whisper campaign waged against him. On the other… well check out this latest effort – a condensed version of Obama’s speech to AIPAC. The email I received encouraged me to order an even more condensed speech only available on DVD. It’s exactly 6 minutes and 13 seconds long. Get it? 6:13. (The traditional number of mitzvot Jews are supposed to carry out.) The email ends with:

Obama is a strong supporter of Israel and has clearly stated many times that he holds Israel’s security to be sacrosanct. Pass the word!

So… most of my Jewish friends support Obama and are hoping he will break with previous US policy of supporting Israeli government policies no matter what. The ‘what’ refers to policies harmful both to Israeli long term interests and US interests in the Arab and Muslim world. Not to mention, that among our concerns is the fate of the stateless Palestinians, whose dispossession and lack of sovereignty is due, in large part, to US military and diplomatic support for Israeli efforts to maintain the occupation.

This narrative runs counter to the common wisdom of the Jewish mainstream. I’m an opponent of the dominant voices of the Jewish mainstream. If the Jewish flavor of the pro-Obama ice-cream shop is all about Israel’s security being sacrosanct, and the main offering is a goddamn celebration of Obama’s pandering to the AIPAC crowd, then it has nothing to offer me. On the contrary – I’d rather it fail somehow, and for Obama to win anyway.

It’s odd though, that this effort is full of folks with a history of activism in the Jewish peace camp. What the hell? The guy behind all this is Gidon Remba, a veteran peace activist with Americans for Peace Now and Ameinu. The board of directors he has assembled includes loads of folks who have been on the OTHER side of the barricades – which is not the AIPAC side. For example, Rabbis Melissa Weintraub and Mordecai Liebling.

The tone of this effort is that of the hawkish peace camp. These are the folks with a record of attacking US supporters of the Israeli peace camp who refuse to couch every critique of Israeli policy with an equal and opposite denunciation of Palestinian sins. It’s like, their job is to attack the left in America while supporting it in Israel. The logic is that focusing on illegal settlements, the criminal human rights violations of the IDF, the starvation of Gaza and the utter corruption of the Israeli government might somehow play into the hands of our enemies, the non-Jews who talk about exactly these issues with an eye to pressuring Israel.

It’s abhorrent too, in part because of the distance between what they think and what they say. There’s a kind of PR obsession with who is speaking and who the likely audience might be. Even Jon Stewart made fun of Obama’s speech to AIPAC, where he championed the eternal unity of Jerusalem (1) (barf). Heck, even the Obama campaign backtracked on that (2). So why would Mr. Remba, a supposed dove, endorse this kind of performance by using it as a recruiting device? My theory is that he thinks it will attract Jews who support that crap and might therefore vote for Obama. (Then again, I confess I haven’t actually asked.)
I don’t know Mr. Remba so he isn’t disappointing me personally…. But Rabbis Weintraub and Liebling? These two I respect. I sure hope there is more here than meets the eye. Or less.

As a Jewish progressive, I’m hoping that all those racist, intolerant, trigger-happy, Israel-right-or-wrong Billary supporting Jews in Florida vote for Obama. And I hope that Obama makes the costly US military and diplomatic security envelope for Israel dependent on ending the occupation, full stop, no excuses. I worry that Remba is supporting the first cause at the direct expense of the other.

(1) Actual quote is: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

(2) “Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties” as part of “an agreement that they both can live with.” Quoted in Foreign Policy in Focus 6/11/08