Politico’s Ben Smith had a 1,700-word piece yesterday morning continuing along a line of what he himself once derided as “an evidence-free drumbeat that the Jewish community — and particularly Jewish donors — are abandoning [President] Obama” over Israel. The right wing of the pro-Israel community has gone completely bananas over the piece (in typically overstated terms).
But as ThinkProgress has extensively reported, the right-wing meme started with little evidence to back it up. And Smith’s story, which relies heavily on unnamed Jewish donors and Jewish institutional operatives, does little to advance the ball into the realm of hard evidence. In fact, other outlets have used the same modus operandi and come up with exactly the opposite conclusions that Smith did. To wit, the Jewish Daily Forward reported last night:
Based on their own internal polling and on lessons from the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats believe that the issue of Israel will not play out significantly with Jewish voters. And pointing to a glitzy pro-Israel Washington donor event with Obama held on June 20 that raised more than $1.5 million, supporters of the president believe that the important constituency of Jewish donors is safe.
Obama also held a million-dollar fundraiser for Jewish donors in Miami, and another “top-dollar event” is planned for June 30 in Philadelphia. So where’s the kosher beef?
Many observers note that Obama’s pro-Israel policies do not depart in any significant way from his predecessors. This suggests that whatever (apparently surmountable) tensions among some Jewish donors can easily be alleviated, as Smith points out when he quotes top Philadelphia Jewish donor David Cohen:
“It takes me about five minutes of talking through the president’s position and the president’s speech, and the uniform reaction has been, ‘I guess you’re right, that’s not how I saw it covered.’”
So the rather false right-wing mischaracterizations of Obama’s Israel policies have perhaps taken some hold, but we can’t be sure. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency points out, the only one to make the wait-and-see point on Politico’s forum about Smith’s article was the head of a Palestinian organization — Yousef Munayyer of the Jerusalem fund — who wrote:
It’s hard to take seriously any article that talks about public opinion without citing polling data that uses a representative sample and not just “several dozen” chats Ben Smith had with Jewish-Americans who may not at all be representative of the rest of that community. This is especially necessary when historically Jews have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats for president and care about things other than Israel as well. In fact polls show American Jews rank six other issues before Israel as important to them.
Kampeas also noted that headline on Smith’s article was “Obama may be losing the faith of Jewish Democrats.” He suggests everyone “wait until the next [major reliable] survey, and then we can write headlines without ‘may.’”