James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

CUFI, Grassley, and being pro-Israel.

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Grassley @ CUFI

Senator Charles Grassley addresses Christians United For Israel on August 19 in Clive, Iowa.

On Thursday, I had the privilege of meeting with a lot of Christian supporters of Israel affiliated with CUFI, Christians United for Israel.  The degree of love and support I felt from these people presents a challenge to the center-left.

I am a Democrat and a liberal on a large number of social policies.  But, even when I acknowledged this fact, I was answered by the recognition that it makes our mutual interest in supporting Israel all the more awesome.

Christians for Israel support Israel and the Jewish people because of their Christian faith.  The believe they honor God by honoring Jews and Israel.  Unlike some Christians, they do not merely see Jews as part of some end-times story or desire dragging Jews into a war in order to provoke Armageddon.  They pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the security of Israel and the Jewish people.

Senator Charles Grassley addressed the group of at least a few hundred people in Clive, Iowa.  His expression of support for Israel and the Jewish people is a challenge.  It is a challenge because, as a Democrat, I do not experience such expressions of support in my own party.  I hear support, but it is often explicitly narrow support.  In offering his unyielding support (not necessarily uncritical – but certainly unyielding), Grassley challenges Democrats like me to do better.

And, indeed, we must do better.  Current polling shows that Jews are increasingly Republican.  Indeed, one third of Jews report being Republican today compared to 20% in 2008 and 26% in 2006.  Weakness on Israel among Democrats must be a factor in this shift.

How many of my fellow Democrats, for example would say, as Grassley did, that, “God commands me that I must pray for Jerusalem’s peace”?  How many would say that, “Judaism can stand alone without Christianity but Christianity cannot stand alone without Judaism”?  Among Democrats, would that line about Christian dependence on Judaism get the tremendous applause that these overwhelmingly Republican Christians gave?  How many Democrats would join the echoes of Isaiah 62 that, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet”?

Now, I know people who work with Grassley’s general election opponent in November, Democrat Roxanne Conlin.  They have assured me that she stands with Israel.  But, when Grassley expresses his support with such passion, it makes voting with my party a little more difficult.  For less active Democratic Jews, it might make standing with the Democratic Party much more difficult.

We Democrats must meet this challenge.  It is a strategic necessity that we not allow Republicans to capture voters on this issue.

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Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 8:00 pm

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