American Jews Divided on Syria Strike, Many Oppose AIPAC

That the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is pushing Congress toward attacking Syria is no secret. As usual, however, AIPAC is out of touch with Jewish Americans.

There is a good reason for which the proper diction for AIPAC is “an Israel lobby” rather than “a Jewish lobby.” AIPAC doesn’t represent the views of most American Jews, who are substantially to its left on politics. In polling, between a quarter and over a third of American Jews say that they don’t feel a strong connection to Israel or that supporting it isn’t an important part of their Jewishness, and the percentage is probably much higher in the younger generation. In a 2012 opinion poll, only a little over 4 percent of American Jews said that US-Israeli relations were the first or second most important issues to them in the presidential election, and only 6% said it was the third most important issue.

AIPAC is in sync with conservative rabbis and the few Republican Jews in Congress, but they are hardly the rank and file.

Prominent Jewish Americans have come out forcefully against military action toward Syria. Among them is Alan Grayson (D-FL), who represents Orlando. Grayson is originally from the Bronx and put himself through Harvard working as a janitor. He genuinely cares about working people and is in close touch with his constituents in Orlando, who tell him they want nothing to do with a Syria military strike.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says he is keeping an open mind but has the most serious reservations about the president’s plan.

Rabbi Michael Lerner has put forward some alternatives to military action against Syria. Lerner is politically far closer to the views of most Jewish Americans than the conservative rabbis supporting the attack.

That the issue isn’t a black and white one for Jewish representatives of Congress is obvious from how many are undecided and agonizing on the authorization for use of military force (Alan Lowenthal, Adam Schiff, Henry Waxman and Susan Davis of California, for example). Waxman wrote Obama on August 29 pleading with him, “don’t draw us into an unnecessary war.” Most of them are Democrats and their party leader is asking them for support, and they may cave. But it should be clear that it is Obama and Kerry strong-arming them and not the other way around.

I couldn’t find a poll of American Jews on the issue of a US attack on Syria, but I’d be surprised if it isn’t actually less popular among them than among the non-Jewish population.

By the way, American Muslims are also divided. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is supporting the strike on Syria. Andre Carson (D-IN) is undecided and wants more proof.

34 Responses

  1. We are so broke that we have to cut back Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits but there is always plenty of money to bail out the banksters and to gin up a new war.

  2. “There is a clear split between the bulk of Jewish Americans, who are largely liberal-democrats, and the main lobbying arms of the Jewish community which promote neoconservative foreign policies. In 2005, three-quarters of American Jews said they supported U.S. pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians if it would help bring a peace deal. Those numbers have held steady in the years since. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote, a remarkable testament to the gulf between American Jewry and many of its communal leaders. In 2012, Obama won approximately 70 percent of the Jewish vote.”
    link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

    What benefit does the US derive from Israel’s brutalization of the Palestinians?

    • “What benefit does the US derive from Israel’s brutalization of the Palestinians?”

      The AIPAC cadre would substitute “brutalization of Palestinians” with the phrase “vigorous investigation, interrogation, and detention of suspected terrorists”.

      For a great piece on who “rules” the West Bank check out this award-winning journalist Kawther Salam website:

      http://www.kawther.info

  3. For the record, as an American Jew AIPAC NEVER speaks for me – it speaks for Zionists and an American Jew is not the same as a Zionist – in addition, as an American Jew – I am an AMERICAN, then a Jew – that is what America is about – freedom of faith – and as an American I see NO NO NO purpose in this proposed folly in Syria and IMO as always when USA and Middle East are in the same sentence this is about OIL and money

    • For the record I am in agreement about Syria. The US has no business in that country. The use of CW is used as a ploy to get involved. Possibly to make good on Obama’s threats and red lines without considering the consequences.

  4. Not just Republican members of Congress in bed with AIPAC, plenty of Democrats, too. eg Charles Schumer.

  5. I couldn’t find a poll of American Jews on the issue of a US attack on Syria, but I’d be surprised if it isn’t actually less popular among them than among the non-Jewish population.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the population in American society that has the most recent experience with poison gas turns out to be more hawkish on chemical warfare than the population as a whole.

    • I don’t deny that is an issue; however, Jewish Americans have a long history of anti-war activism that could offset that consideration.

    • Which population would that be: the Vietnamese, with Agent Orange and spare the crap about how in some tiny definition it’s not a chemical weapon? The Iranians gassed with US connivance and “Western” sourcing of the chemicals and munitions and “battlefield intelligence (sic)?” The Kurds, with the same? The Afghans?

      Professor, your acute observations must be cutting close to the quick, given how suddenly and subtly or not so subtly the apologists have been popping up or off on the recent “crisis” of idiocy…

      • Colonel Wilkerson was on Chris Hayes program “All In” the other evening. Just after Hayes exclusive soft ball interview with Kerry. Wilkerson asked tell him the difference between a child who is killed with napalm (vietnam), a child killed by white phosphorus(Israel)and a child killed by sarin gas(Syria). Was pathetic to watch Hayes roll over to Kerry who was crying crocodile tears about the children in Syria a man who voted for the Iraq war. Anyone ever see any pictures of dead Iraqi people on our T.V. screens you know the hundreds of thousands that we are responsible for who have been killed as a direct consequence of our invasion. Could not believe Hayes did not ask him one challenging question about this height of hypocrisy or that most of the intelligence is from Israel. On Melissa Harris Perry’s program this morning(Saturday) she spent a good segment on the Syrian dead. Have you ever witnessed Hayes or Perry spend any time showing Americans the dead, injured and displaced in Iraq? Hell no. Americans are going to know more about how many people in Syria have died and been displaced rather than what their own government is responsible for. Insanely absurd

        • “Have you ever witnessed Hayes or Perry spend any time showing Americans the dead, injured and displaced in Iraq? Hell no.”

          It has been a long time since I watched those phonies on MSNBC, but thank you for letting me know there is no point in going back to that channel. The same goes for the rest of the mainstream presstitutes. I watched a few minutes of Bob Schieffer on Screw the Nation this morning but gave up when he let the White House chief of staff get away with a load of BS and then introduced as his next guests Bill Kristol and Bob Woodward.

      • “some tiny definition it’s not a chemical weapon”

        A “tiny definition” called the Chemical Weapons Convention.

        Is there anything, JT, that isn’t just an opportunity to read off the note card that happens on be on top of your stack?

        The subject was public opinion among Jewish Americans, not “whatever JT decides to threadjack the conversation to.”

      • The “tiny” definition of chemical weapons from the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention:

        1. “Chemical Weapons” means the following, together or separately:
        (a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;
        (b) Munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals specified in subparagraph (a), which would be released as a result of the employment of such munitions and devices;
        (c) Any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of munitions and devices specified in subparagraph (b).

        link to opcw.org

        Wow. That’s pretty tiny.

  6. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the population in American society…”

    There are people who are not in the least surprised when a majority of American people get it wrong.

  7. AIPAC knows what it wants, has a ton of cash and tracks the going price of every vote by our craven representatives. It doesn’t matter what liberal American Jews think. That well-oiled leviathan has them trumped. Israel welcomes Muslim-on-Muslim war in Syria and can’t wait until the guns turn toward Teheran.

  8. Why we fight…quote of Vijay Prashad by Escobar at Asia Times:

    Exhibit A: Saudis have put ”on the table” their offer to pay for the entire US assault on Syria. Exhibit B: in case of an attack on Syria, the price of oil is slated to go from $109 to $125 per barrel (base case scenario), with an upside scenario of $150 per barrel. Saudi Arabia will produce 9.8 million barrels of oil a day. Which means if the spike is only the base case scenario, Saudi will gross a super-profit of $156.8 million per day. If it is the upside scenario, then the Saudi super-profits will be $401.8 million per day. Not a bad arbitrage game from Mr Bandar and his gang of Saudi “democrats”.

    link to atimes.com

    And a reminder that for every 10 cent increase in the price of fuel America has about $10B fewer dollars to economically recover and prepare for a day when the oil baseline is 50 or 100% higher than today. Oops, that might be in a couple of weeks when Obama’s trigger finger has a spasm. Ah well, unprepared again.

    • I remember when consideration of oil prices was considered a bad reason to decide questions of war and peace, at least on the left.

  9. AIPAC may be even more narrow than just an Israel Lobby in general. It may be a Likud Lobby in particular. It may have been penetrated and captured by Likudists ever since the Begin Prime-Ministership. It may even be involved in funding and supporting the Likudists and further-rightists within Israel itself to “keep Israel Likud” and keep “Greater Israel” on the table. Do those possibilities deserve some research?

    By the way, I am surprised that Representative Ellison is in fact pro al Quaeda and wants to create an al Quaeda government in Syria in order to exterminate a million or more Syrian Alawites and a million or more Syrian Christians. I thought he was a more moderate Muslim than that.

  10. Exactly as Bush and Cheney, Obama really cares about 2 things: casus belli and the best supporters he can get. The difference is, Bush did not need lots of support, powerful US and Israeli hawks were quite enough for them and they could not care less about France.

    Obama needs more, but, in the end, AIPAC/ADL are just OK: link to jpost.com

  11. “the population in American society that has the most recent experience with poison gas”

    I am not sure which population that would be, but I don’t accept the implicit assertion that this population is the “Jewish Americans”

    • Uh…congratulations?

      Is there a reason other that inconvenience for a debate on the internet that makes this so difficult for you to acknowledge?

  12. Prof Cole you basically contradict yourself in your second paragraph. Claiming that “Aipac doesn’t represent the views of most American Jews” then stating that “in polling, between a quarter and over a third say they don’t feel a strong connection to Israel or that supporting it is not an important part of their Jewishness” I would say 65% to 75% of American Jews indicated in that poll who support do feel a strong connection is a large proportion.

    And let’s be real here the so called liberal Jewish Reps have not only voted for Israel in congressional legislation no matter what they do but have also promoted hard core pro – Israel legislation.

    I have seen the enormously long lines of individual lobbyist during an Aipac convention in Washington. Lobbying either for pro Israel legislation or lobbying against Iran, Palestinians etc. Now we know the situation is shifting in the American Jewish population but let’s no pretend that 65% to 75% is not a sizable proportion.

  13. “By the way, American Muslims are also divided. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is supporting the strike on Syria. Andre Carson (D-IN) is undecided and wants more proof.”

    Carson, Ellison and anyone interested in this debate about Syria, especially the chemical weapons episode, would do well to check this open letter from the (retired) Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) who apparently acquired some information from active professionals. In part, “Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on August 21 in a suburb of Damascus. They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal. ”

    The VIPS’ open letter to the president is here: “Obama warned on Syrian intel: Exclusive: Despite the Obama administration’s supposedly “high confidence” regarding Syrian government guilt over the Aug. 21 chemical attack near Damascus, a dozen former U.S. military and intelligence officials are telling President Obama that they are picking up information that undercuts the Official Story.” – link to consortiumnews.com

      • Yes, indeed, if that includes the people whose motions you represent. Not that it will make the slightest difference to the Game play over time, as you full well know…

        The decision to launch “something explosive” at “some part of Syria” has long been taken. Now it’s just a matter of finding something other than quicksand and eyewash to provide the Casus Idioticus to Just Do It…

        • If I’m wrong – if the chemical war wasn’t launched by the Syrian regime – I’ll stop commenting entirely on this site.

          How about you, JT?

  14. It might be useful to distinguish between Conservative Jews (a denomination) and conservative Jews (an ideological segment).

  15. “There is a good reason for which the proper diction for AIPAC is “an Israel lobby” rather than “a Jewish lobby.” AIPAC doesn’t represent the views of most American Jews, …”

    One of the problems, however, is that AIPAC is in alliance with many key players in Congress and the White House, both Jewish and Gentile, which overrides to some degree many of the people of Jewish heritage who are opposed to the machinations of the Israel lobby.

  16. Unfortunately, you will never get this type of debate in mainstream media. It has to be a blog from a courageous Professor that brings these issues to light. Liberal Jews bring a fresh perspective but their efforts pale when compared to AIPACs, and that is probably because their financial resources are a small fraction. Now, this arm twisting of public opinion about Syria may end up being a bit more than even AIPAC can achieve without severe blowback, the US has an imperfect, dominished democracy, but public opinion still counts.

  17. “By the way, American Muslims are also divided. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is supporting the strike on Syria. Andre Carson (D-IN) is undecided and wants more proof.”

    Do American Muslims have the same Sunni-Shia divide that is such a problem in the Middle East and South Asia?

    • Actually, as it relates to Syria, the mainstream (or “Twelver”)Shi’ites and Alawites are separate religious entities as the Alawites do not follow the five pillars of Islam and there is a question of whether they can even be described as Muslims.

      The “Twelver” Shi’ite community in Syria numbers about 200,000 and have sustained their share of casulaties at the hands of both government forces and rebels alike.

      The Alawites who largely control the Syrian government received their power largely due to their alliance with the French colonial government, who recruited minorities to subdue the Syrian natives – after the French left the Alawites remained in power and the Assad family’s control originates with that transfer of power to the French colonial collaborators.

  18. Regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles, why should anyone blindly believe the war propaganda against Syria coming out of the mouths of people who got it so disastrously wrong on Iraq and Operation Cast Lead? (Senate vote: link to govtrack.us) Dianne Feinstein is a prominent example among the hawks. If I recall correctly she was on the Senate Intelligence (sic) Committee during the run-up to the war on Iraq. Some time after that was proved to be a disaster Dick Durbin (D-Durbin) made a speech in the senate during which he said the intelligence the committee received behind closed doors was different from the purported intelligence promulgated by the warmongers. Accordingly, he voted against the war, but Dianne Feinstein still voted to go to war.

  19. Ironically, AIPAC is arguably stronger in the House Democratic Caucus than the Republican. Steny Hoyer, second in command to Pelosi, and Wasserman-Shultz, chair of the DCCC, are two of the most vociferous Members advocating incessantly on AIPAC and Israel’s behalf.
    On the other end of the House Democratic Spectrum, vis-a’-vis AIPAC, I was surprised to read that Jim Moran (VA-8)has come out in support of striking Syria. Perhaps the AIPAC-supported primary opponent he got in 2004 scarred/scared him into submission.

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