As election day approaches in swing state Ohio, my TV keeps blaring ‘vote for Israel’

Because I am fortunate (not really) to be in the center of a perfect storm by living in the swingiest of political states and by being a news junkie, I am exposed to at least 30 political ads a day, warning me not to vote for the devil we have as President, Senator, even Superior Court Judge! At least half of these ads manage to mention the importance of Israel to the defense of the United States.

When evangelical Christians speak of the importance to “vote for Israel” by voting out Obama, nobody seems to notice that Jews, Christians, and secular humanists should not be asked to vote for Israel.

Imagine if there were a national candidate whose ads showed Gazan children wounded by Israeli weapons, West Bank women waiting for hours at a checkpoint to get to the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem because they had been repeatedly tear-gassed by the Israeli army?

In fact, few people even mention that voters are being berated into voting for the national interest of a foreign power. My frustration stems from the ardent promotion of Israeli interests over the interests of the US, or more particularly of ordinary Americans who lose out whenever we spend money on militarism around the world.

How can the US claim to be an even-handed peace broker between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories while PACs and religious groups are insisting on an “Israel first” line from everyone running for president or congress?

The answer to that is that it can’t even pretend. And that was clear on Monday night when President Obama studiously avoided any mention of the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” even when his Republican challenger Mitt Romney brought it up.

Buyer’s Remorse?

Two ads running nightly ad nauseum on the cable news networks in my area are sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). One ad shows a burly guy who introduces himself as Michael Goldstein. Across the screen the words appear: “Democrat. Jewish. Voted for Obama.”

Michael looks at the camera and shakes his head sadly. As his story goes, he voted for Obama, he had even given a party at his home for Obama, but then he realized that Obama wanted the 1967 borders (a reference that most people in Ohio would not understand or care about unless they are ardent Zionists).

Even more offensive to Michael, Obama had shown insuffient obeisance to Israel’s leader. Netanyahu “wasn’t just the prime minister of Israel,” Michael said, “he represented all of us, Jews, Israelis, people throughout the world who believe in the State of Israel.” Obama, Michael claimed, was “disrespectful” to Netanyahu and if re-elected, Obama would “place Israel in danger.” I see this ad about ten times a day.

Another ad features a gray-haired woman with a New York accent, who reveals that she had voted for Obama, but she has realized that he is no friend of Israel. Further, Obama has failed at home too. There are no jobs, no education policy, and worst of all, Obama is not supporting Israel.

According to the RJC website, the woman in the ad, Renie Tell, a life-long Democrat from New York, relates her personal story of buyer’s remorse, her disenchantment with President Obama.

In other ads viewable on the RJC website, a man called Ari talks about how Obama’s policies “vilify” Israel and Brad, an attorney, complains that the fact Obama hasn’t visited Israel as president is a “problem.”

Each ad ends with the disenchanted Obama voter concluding that it’s okay, this time, to vote for Romney. Israel’s survival depends on it.

Those who are intrigued by life-stories, can watch these ads and learn the well-crafted video confessions of Ari, Brad, and Bruce, as well as Michael and Renie. (Note: to get the full benefit, watch each ad ten times).

Voting for Israel

Now all ads are invented stories, but these ads claim to be real. Remember those TV white-coated doctors who push over-the-counter drugs? Due to possible confusion as to their “medical credentials,” the ads are required to reveal that the spokespeople are not really doctors. But the RJC seems to go unchallenged.

They call on American Jews and Zionists of all faiths to vote for Israel, when they cast a ballot for Romney as President of the US. I have seen no Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindi-sponsored ads, concerned with Obama’s foreign or domestic policy, nor have I seen ads appealing to any group of Americans to put any other foreign country at the top of their agenda when they vote.

According to the RJC website, their mission is to build a “strong, effective and respected voice of Jewish Republicans that can influence activities, policies and ideas in Washington and across the country.”

But what the RJC actually tries to do is scare Jewish Americans using overheated and absurd claims that Obama is anti-Israel.

The evidence so far is that the RJC is not getting value for money, and that as in every other modern election, Jewish Americans will vote overwhelmingly for the Democrat, Obama. But the ads do contribute to the overall corrosive and xenophobic tone of political debate in this country, pushing it ever further to the right.

PAC Money

According to OpenSecrets, the nonpartisan NPO research group that tracks the finances in national politics and its effect on public policy and elections, the Republican Jewish Coalition jump-started an advertising and get-out-the-vote drive in Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Pennsylvania to sow doubts among Jewish voters about the president’s approach to Israeli security and the economy.

The pro-Israel advocacy group has pledged to spend $6.5 million on the effort - its largest campaign to date. Its largest donor is Sheldon Adelson, “the 800-pound gorilla of this year’s GOP megadonors.”

These ads, and others that are built around an implicit message of the Muslim threat, the Muslim danger, the Muslim jihad, are funded by other well-heeled Republican super-PACS, with innocuous names such as Restore our Future, Freedomworks for America, Liberty for All, and Restore America’s Voice. Of course there are pro-Obama PACS too, such as Majority Pac and Priorities USA Action.

If you go to the website you will be able to see the differences in numbers of PACS for each candidate and the war chest related to each PAC. My favorite PAC is the DogPAC, which has only $4,361, but is neither pro nor con dogs. It is anti-Romney and refers to his Irish setter, who rode in a crate on the top of the family car during a Romney family summer vacation. Mitt revealed this story as a homey tableau.

Where are the Palestinians? Not in Ohio

In live stump speeches and in ads, I have never heard the word Palestinian. I have heard from all the candidates of both parties throughout this year-long political season, that Israel is our most important ally in the region; Israel is our special ally…

No one has mentioned the Arab Spring, or the occupation of Palestine. There have been no discussions or questions from media about the human-rights offenses committed by the Israelis

No one has mentioned the recurring attempt of Palestine to join the United Nations as a nonmember state, like the Vatican.

At first I thought of this phenomenon as the erasure of Palestine but that would imply an active campaign. It is rather the effort to view the Middle East without Palestine. If one wants a Jewish state of Israel, and no Palestinians, just act as though millions of Palestinians do not exist.

If I only had a PAC…

Hello, my name is Alice. As a Palestinian I am so worried about this election. I voted for Obama last time around because he promised to close Gitmo, he promised to give equal attention to Israel and the Occupied Palestine territories. But he never did anything to help the Palestinians or to end illegal imprisonment.

Remember, last year in October when the Palestinians won admission to UNESCO. I cheered up until that move prompted the United States Congress to cut off funding to the UN agency. There have been no peace talks with the Israelis since 2010. Big surprise. Why should the Israelis talk peace? They are doing fine swallowing up more of our land every week with illegal settlements.

And the most recent insult from Obama’s government? Let me quote: Awarding Palestine status as a sovereign country would jeopardize the peace process and make it difficult to get the two sides to return to talks on a two-state solution. So what do I do? Vote for Romney? He claims Netanyahu is one of his closest friends. Why would anyone lie about that!


Alice Bach

Alice Bach's picture

My past careers have been as a book editor, a journalist, and a writer of children’s books.  Then I joined the Catholic Worker, learned to make soup for hundreds of homeless folks, and went to graduate school.  I have taught religious studies at both Stanford University and Case Western Reserve University.  Being unsuccessful at tearing down the Ivory Tower of academia, I decided to concentrate on writing about Palestine.  My goal is to tear down the Apartheid Wall with words.