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Obama and the Jews

Now it's official: page one of the New York Times reported on Saturday that the Jews have a problem with Obama.

The Times story, by Neela Banerjee (is that a Jewish name?), did not exactly say there was a "problem." It said there was a "challenge" for Obama: "navigating" the "treacherous paths" that lead to "winning the trust" of Jewish voters. That task, the Times reported, is "all the more difficult" because of the "tenuous relations" between blacks and Jews.

Not until paragraph nineteen, deep inside the paper on page A12, did readers learn that the Jewish vote is "hardly monolithic."

And nowhere in the piece did readers learn that Hillary Clinton was thought to have the Jewish vote sewed up before the primary season began -- partly because Obama was an unknown quantity to the official Jewish organizations that define whether politicians are sufficiently pro-Israel.

Nevertheless in February Obama surprised many pundits by winning a significant proportion of the vote in what some called "the Jewish primary" -- the day New York, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts all voted (others called it "Super Tuesday"). Obama split the Jewish vote in California with Clinton, even though she won the state, 55-45. Obama won the Jewish vote in Connecticut, 61 to 38. He won the Jewish vote in Massachusetts, 52-48, even though he lost the state 56-41.

In New York, Clinton took the Jewish vote 2-1. But that's her home state.

According to the Jewish weekly The Forward, on Super Tuesday "Jewish voters were not more likely to back Clinton than Democratic voters were as a whole, except in New York."

Obama's position on Israel -- the litmus test for the conservative Jewish establishment -- is the mainstream Democratic Party position. His website says that "a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel... will always be my starting point" in dealing with the Middle East. Obama supported Israel's disastrous war in Lebanon in 2006. Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida says "Obama has been an ironclad supporter of the US-Israel relationship."

So what exactly is the problem? According to the Times, "some critics" have "expressed concerns" that Obama's repeated statements of support for Israel "are not heartfelt."

Number one among those critics, according to the Times, is somebody named Ed Lasky, who writes for a website called AmericanThinker.com.

The Times failed to note that Obama's supporters include Martin Peretz, longtime editor-in-chief of The New Republic, whose obsession with Israel is legendary. He recently published a remarkable piece in that magazine headlined "Can Friends of Israel--and Jews--Trust Obama? In a word, Yes."

Of course there are lots of other reasons why Jews support Obama. Jews have been the religious group most opposed to the war in Iraq. Jews are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats. The American Jewish Committee poll last November asked American Jews to pick their most important campaign issue. 23% named the economy and jobs, followed by health care (19%), the war in Iraq (16%), and then terrorism and national security (14%).

At the bottom of the list: support for Israel, at 6 percent.

That wasn't in the New York Times, either.

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