With antisemitism on the rise across the globe, Republican leaders in the United States have maintained their adamant support for Israel and the Jewish community. The Republican Jewish Conference that took place last weekend in Las Vegas saw keynote speakers such as Mike Pompeo, Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, and former Vice President Mike Pence all champion their support for Israel. What is interesting about this surge in support for the Jewish state from Republican leaders is the timing. The Jewish community in the country is experiencing an increase in hateful extremism from all sides. However, this renewed support for Israel and the Jewish community, also coming from both sides of the political spectrum, should be met with skepticism.
The fact that most American Jews, and most Jews in the world, tend to lean towards the left is not a myth. In America, 68% of people who identify as Jewish by religion identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party (1). Furthermore, only 26% of Jews in America identify with or lean toward the Republican Party (1). The Jewish community on the political right is primarily comprised of religious and Orthodox Jews who hold more conservative views. An inverse relationship exists along the ideological political spectrum, where liberals tend to favor restrictive policy towards Israel and conservatives tend to favor more supportive policies (2). This is the first indication that support for the Jewish community at home and abroad does not translate into support for Israel. In other words, political and ideological support for Israel does not equal, or guarantee, support for the Jewish community. So when Republican leaders express their support for Israel, they do it with the intention of capturing the conservative images associated with authority, religious doctrine, and military aid. They do not support Israel for the intention of capturing the Jewish vote in America or for standing with the Jewish communities in their states, since most American Jewsare Democrats.
At the conference, Republican leaders spoke a lot about their track records of successful lawmaking instead of their support for the Jewish community. DeSantis, who was the most popular of the speakers as evidenced by the standing ovation, went on about his administration’s successful response to the hurricane season in Florida. Nikki Haley took the podium to address rumors of presidential candidacy, and Mike Pence was there to promote the sale of his new book. Republican leaders recognize that their voters are not mainly Jewish.
The Israeli government, now more right wing than ever, draws direct support from Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly vote Republican. Without such support, Israeli policy in the Middle East is laid bare, and more harsh criticism would ensue. “Israel’s focus on the evangelical right as a cornerstone of U.S. support for the Jewish state has proven increasingly important evangelical attitudes toward Israel account for most of the Republican Party’s support for Israel…” (3). The fact remains that Israel actively seeks America’s Republican support rather than pooling its international support from the global Jewish community. Such a strategy may prove to be unsuccessful over the longer term, as Evangelical Christians become more diverse in their opinions towards Israel (3).
Republican support for the Jewish people comes from a Christian biblical narrative and support for Western military authority in the Middle East. And sure, their support for Israel and supposedly for their Jewish constituents is welcome, but the fact remains that the Jewish people in the world cannot afford to be divided along political lines. With the recent rise in antisemitism, Jews across the globe must remain united in solidarity with one another and within our communities. Over the past few thousand years, whenever things have gotten hard for even a single one of us, we have always stood together as one people.
“The views expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and not UCLA or ASUCLA Communications Board.”