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.