Why didn’t they leave the platform alone?

Earlier today I discussed the surprising degree to which the 2012 Democratic platform differed from the 2008 and 2004 platforms in respect to Israel. The changes represent a significant tilt toward Palestinian positions on Arab refugees, Jerusalem and Hamas. It also leaves out prior language about helping Israel maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its adversaries.

The interesting question is “why did they change it?” A platform is not a binding document; it is intended as a general statement of a party or candidate’s positions. Its planks are generally written to appeal the broadest possible constituencies. Most voters never read platforms or care about them.

If they had not changed the 2008 text nobody would have noticed. And at a time when Republican opponents are doing their best to argue that Obama is an anti-Israel president, one would expect Democrats to avoid giving them ammunition.

Unless they think that being anti-Israel is a plus. This would also fit in with recent public statements and actions regarding Iran, which they present as a problem for Israel but not particularly the US.

But polls consistently show that the majority of Americans support Israel. So how can this make sense? To answer this, we need to look at who these pro-Israel Americans are; and by in large, they are not likely Obama voters. Most are white Evangelical Protestants, who are solidly Republican already. Some — a comparatively tiny number — are Jews for whom Israel is a major issue that influences their vote. Many of these have already abandoned Obama. The majority of Jews, however, lean Democratic on the basis of domestic issues and will not be affected.

If this tilt against Israel doesn’t hurt Obama too much, where does it help him? There are two groups that will take notice and approve of the change. One is his left-wing base. These are mostly students and others who have a “postcolonial” anti-Zionist (and anti-Western) point of view. It is critical for the Democrats to enlist these activists in the final get-out-the-vote effort.

It seems that just as Romney barely budged toward the center after receiving the nomination, so too Obama prefers to activate his troops rather than to reach out for undecided votes.

The second group of voters is the Ron Paul crowd. They have not as yet displayed much affection for either Obama or Romney, but they will find the suggestion of less military aid to Israel appealing. They are also happy to see Obama avoiding ‘complicity’ in a possible Israeli attack on Iran.These two groups, along with American Muslims, constitute an anti-Zionist bloc. This move locks it in for Obama.

There is another possibility that cannot be discounted. That is that the change is intended to send a message to the leadership of the Muslim nations that Obama has been courting since his 2009 speech in Cairo — Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. — a message that he is taking concrete steps to weaken the “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel. Perhaps he is finally working to fulfill his promise to pro-Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah that he would be “more up front” in helping the Palestinians in the future.

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4 Responses to “Why didn’t they leave the platform alone?”

  1. allonjanda says:

    Why? that’s easy, because they are antisemitic.The head of the DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz is Jewish, she is a disgrace to our people. Not to mention they took any mention of GOD out of the platform. So not only are the Democrats ansemitic they are allso GODLESS. Anyone wishing to comment on this my email address is allanjanda@yahoo.com

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    A lot of good reasons are given in this article for the Obama platform tilt against Israel. The ’tilt’ may show two other things. One is that Obama is far more confident about winning and feels he does not need an extremely high – percentage of the Jewish vote to do so. Another is that he is giving a strong signal to the growing Muslim population in the United States to go out and vote for him.
    These reasons are I think less important than those cited in the article.
    But they are yet another indication of why those who care deeply about Israel should not be voting for Obama.

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    Another point comes to mind in relation to this shift. It is perhaps an indication that the Jewish presence and power in the Democratic Party is in decline.

  4. Vic Rosenthal says:

    The problem is not that the Jewish presence and power is in decline. There are plenty of powerful Jews in the Democratic party. They just aren’t Zionists.