The following article originally appeared at Examiner.com.
A prominent Democratic New York State Assemblyman has spoken out publicly – and critically – about President Barack Obama’s position on the Israel-Iran stand-off and cast doubt on the president’s prospects with Jewish voters in November.
“I have no doubt that Obama will not get the kind of support he got from the Jewish community in 2008 this time around,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a life-long democrat and the son of Holocaust survivors.
Hikind has been hot on the media circuit this week voicing concern about the president’s assurance that “I have Israel’s back” regarding a possible Israel-Iran military confrontation over Iran’s purported development of nuclear weapons. The president’s comments were made in a speech he gave to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
For Hikind, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who says, “I prefer voting for Democrats, and I do so 90 percent of the time,” Obama’s record on Israel has been less than satisfactory and a far cry from the president’s promises on the campaign trail four years ago.
When asked by this reporter if he is concerned about Obama the candidate, Hikind gave an atypical Democratic response.
“I can’t say I feel concerned for one simple reason: I was concerned about him four years ago.”
Hikind explained that Obama’s ties to left-wing radical activists dating back to his college days were brought into sharp focus in the 2008 presidential election. His well-documented affiliations with the likes of William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground which embraced bombing government buildings in its efforts to end the Vietnam War, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for 20 years in the church of black liberation theology, were causes for concern even amongst the Democratic faithful.
According to Hikind, more cause for concern about Obama’s past radical ties is contained in a book coming out next month. In “Crisis of Zionism” author Peter Beinart claims Obama got his education about Israel from a group of far-left Chicago Jews who "bred in Obama a specific, and subversive, vision of American Jewish identity and of the Jewish state."
“Why didn’t we know about this stuff during the ’08 campaign,” Hikind asked, more a lament than a query.
During the course of Obama’s presidency, Hikind’s concerns regarding U.S.-Israeli relations have grown. Among the red flags Hikind cites are the president’s “despicable” treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to the White House in 2010, when Obama abruptly walked out of tense talks with the Israeli leader to have dinner with his family. The president kept Netanyahu waiting for more than one hour before returning to the meeting.
“I think Obama’s behavior in that instance showed how the president really feels about Netanyahu and his policies,” Hikind said.
Hikind then alluded to the now infamous exchange between Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a private conversation that was captured by open microphones before a news conference. "I can't stand him. He's a liar," Sarkozy said of Netanyahu, to which Obama replied, "You're tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day."
“It’s what Obama said when he thought no one was listening that really shows the disdain… for what Netanyahu stands for,” said Hikind.
Hikind believes Obama’s disdain for Netanyahu is rooted in the Israeli leader’s unwillingness to toe the Obama line.
“The president wants Netanyahu to be subservient to the U.S. … to be a good boy,” Hikind averred. The outspoken Assemblyman continued on to say that Obama needs to come to grips with the fact that Netanyahu is a democratically elected leader, just like Obama, and that he was empowered by the Israeli electorate to represent their national security interests.
Adding to Hikind’s resolute belief that Obama and his administration are not the good friends to Israel they say they are, comes in the form of remarks made by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last week in Tunisia.
Answering a question from a Tunisian student about U.S. politicians courting the "Zionist lobbies," Clinton proferred that "a lot of things are said in political campaigns that should not bear a lot of attention." Hikind provides a not-so-subtle translation to Clinton’s answer.
“What she seems to be saying is ‘Don’t worry about what Obama says during the election season. Wait until he’s re-elected to see how he really feels.’ And that’s the scary part.”
Hikind, who has become a de facto voice for the American Jewish electorate, says an Obama second term means “he will never have to face the voters again. Then he can really do what he feels deep in his heart. And I don’t think that’s necessarily good for Israel.” That prospect, Hikind says, “is going to make people think a lot … in terms of do we want to re-elect this guy.”
Although Hikind thinks Obama will still garner a majority of Jewish votes in November, he thinks that key states like Florida – a traditionally Jewish Democratic stronghold – might be up for grabs if the Jewish vote swings five to seven points in a non-Democratic direction.
“I think [Florida's] where the real action will be. If the Jewish vote decreases by five, seven, eight percentage points it could be the difference of winning the state or not winning the state.”
This Brooklyn assemblyman, with his outspoken extremism and militant rhetoric, certainly does not represent a large percentage of Orthodox Jewry in Brooklyn in particular, and in New York State in general. It is very painful for Jews who live in his district when he presents himself as a spokesman for all of us on international issues, and his words are taken by the media as the widely accepted opinion of all religious Jews.
Actually, the three major Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn - Williamsburg, Borough Park and Flatbush/Midwood together contain about 250,000 Jews, of whom almost all are either vehemently opposed to Zionism or at least are not pro-Zionists. Add to that another 40,000 anti-Zionist Jews in Rockland and Orange Counties. Hikind and other outspoken Zionists are a small splinter group.
True Torah Jews wish to point out that Jews in all generations were always loyal citizens of their countries of residence, following the command of the prophet (Jeremiah 29:7), “Seek out the peace of the city to which I have exiled you, and pray on its behalf to G-d, for with its peace will you have peace.” To this day, this teaching is the cornerstone of Jewish conduct. We are concerned and pray for the welfare of our country, whatever country it may be – in our case, the United States of America.
At the upcoming elections as well, Jews will vote with the interests of the United States at heart: the economy, national security, education and the like – but not the agenda of another country. Of course, our hearts go out to our fellow Jews who live in the Holy Land and we pray that the Zionist leadership there should cause them no harm. But at American elections, we focus on American issues, just like all other citizens.
True Torah Jews is purely a Torah organization and takes no sides in political conflicts. But to lambast the President as Hikind did is against the Torah and is really out of place. President Obama has been exceptional in his friendliness toward Jews, beginning with his days in Chicago. He lived across the street from a synagogue and many of his best friends were Jewish. His door was always open to Jews. Most of his legal advisors were Jewish, and as president, he has appointed some of his old Jewish friends as his chief advisors: David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. More recently, he appointed an Orthodox Jew, Jack Lew, as Chief of Staff.
True Torah Jews is against Zionism because it contradicts the Jewish faith and Torah. But even from a Zionist viewpoint, we find the current campaign against the President hard to understand. Why should Obama have to support militant rhetoric when it comes to the State of Israel, when for his own country he takes a more diplomatic and peaceful approach?
In general, history has shown us that the Zionist notion that any American politician who is not extremely supportive of the State of Israel’s militant policies is not a friend of the Jews is completely untrue. In the short history of the Zionist state, we have seen one particular president who was very supportive of the Zionist state, but was actually known to harbor anti-Semitic views. Out of respect we will omit his name here.
Looking further back in history, another example of this comes to mind. Arthur James Balfour, architect of the Balfour Declaration, which gave British approval to the idea of a homeland for Jews, used to speak openly of his anti-Semitic views. He supported a Jewish homeland mainly because he didn’t want the Eastern European Jews flocking to England.
History repeats itself. Those who are comfortable with Jews and want them in their cabinet are the true friends of the Jews. But if a politician supports the State of Israel and wants as many Jews as possible to move there, his friendship to Jews is questionable.