So, Who is a Jew to Believe?
From Where I SitOpinion

So, Who is a Jew to Believe?

‘The Jewish issue in American politics’ was the subject of a cautionary — and perhaps still timely today — editorial in The Southern Israelite in July 1936.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Dave Schechter
Dave Schechter

Which Jew should another Jew believe when it comes to the runoffs for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats?

One Jew says that a candidate is anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-family, a Socialist, and does not represent Georgia’s values. Another Jew says that the same candidate’s values are pro-Georgia, pro-America, pro-Israel, pro-family, pro-business.

One Jew says that a candidate is ethically challenged. Another Jew calls this nonsense but says an opposing candidate consorts with disreputable people.

Forget the joke about two Jews having three opinions. The lines in the runoffs are drawn so that the only choices are for and against.

The campaigns are proving the adage about politics being a contact sport. I cannot decide which analogy best fits Loeffler/Perdue vs. Warnock/Ossoff, whether to compare it to a two-on-two basketball game of the kind seen on a playground blacktop or to a tag-team, no-holds-barred mixed martial arts cage-match.

As our elders used to say, “Is it good for the Jews?” I can’t see how.
With Israel and anti-Semitism being employed as political talking points, is there any way for the Jewish community to avoid being dragged through the muck in the six weeks remaining until Election Day Jan. 5? I am doubtful.

Keep in mind that Jews vote at a higher percentage than the population in general and then factor in the generally reduced turnout in runoff elections, and the Jewish vote could prove particularly potent in determining which party controls the Senate.

I sought the counsel of attorney Sam Olens, believed to be the only Jew to have won a statewide partisan race. The Republican was elected as Georgia’s attorney general in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. “Real issues separate the Republican incumbent senators and their Democratic opponents. Like most citizens, I support an issues-based runoff campaign rather than hundreds of millions of dollars spent to demean all candidates. We deserve such a campaign, but we will not see that. Attempts to divide Jews should be openly disfavored as it creates a lose-lose,” Olens said.

Not every communal leader contacted for this column was willing to comment on the record, but all expressed anxiety that an already nasty campaign will get uglier.

“I am increasingly concerned with how Israel and anti-semitism are being used by some as wedge issues to create political division within the Jewish community,” said Dov Wilker, regional director of the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta.

“Those who seek to make Israel a political issue, who seek to promote a competition between Democrats and Republicans, are not helpful. They actually are undermining the extensive bilateral relationship. That should scare us all.”

Concern about the tone of the campaign extends to Israel’s representative in Atlanta. “Israel’s relations with the U.S. have always received strong bipartisan support in the American political sphere, and we will continue to work for that to be the case in the future as well,” said Anat Sultan-Dadon, Israel’s consul general to the Southeast U.S. “Israel should be a unifying issue, as the uniquely close relations that Israel and the U.S. enjoy continue to be mutually beneficial, based on shared values and common interests.”

The words of an editorial published in these pages on July 17, 1936 — back when the AJT was known as The Southern Israelite — feel relevant 84 years later. Titled “Political Madness,” that statement of opinion by the newspaper’s management was based on remarks delivered by Dr. David Marx, then rabbi of The Temple.

The editorial read: “Some time ago in Atlanta Dr. David Marx, during the Sunday Forum series, predicted that the coming presidential election would be the most malicious yet seen in America. There would be whispering campaigns, public accusations, scandal and libel against the men concerned. The Jewish issue in American politics is now at its height. On one side, men are accused of being Jewish; on the other, of being in accord with anti-Semitic forces. Malicious propaganda, with the Jewish issue as its crux, floods the mails, is whispered on street corners, spreads along the great American grapevine. As well stop a hurricane as the powerful propaganda note that has been injected into American politics. The blame can not be fixed on any one party; lies are manufactured behind smokescreens. Charges of anti-Semitism against political candidates, in the hope of switching the Jewish vote, is comparatively new in American politics. Today, American Jewry is asked to swallow the anti-Semitic lie, and vote not as it wishes, but as the manufacturers of these lies dictate. American Jewry must not be duped. The only way by which the anti-Semitic lie may be wiped out of the American political scene is for the Jewish voter to close his ears to whispered propaganda, to vote as an American.”

Now, as then, the question is: Who is a Jew to believe?

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