This election: Good for the Jews? This first appeared on the morning of election day, Nov 6.

It’s nearly over, and one could reasonably argue that the American presidential election has been at least as bad for Americans—in terms of ulcers, family arguments, and meme overdose—as it’s been good for democracy.

Which, you know: Ha ha! Jokes! But I would argue in all sincerity that the election has, in fact, been truly bad for at least one group of Americans: American Jews.

How so? You ask, and not unreasonably. Here’s a brief list:

On more than one occasion, both candidates gave the impression that “foreign policy” was synonymous with “supporting Israel’s government at all costs.” At the third presidential debate, the word “Israel” was uttered more than 30 times, often in a sentence that started with “and of course we’ll consult with…” Why is this bad news for the Jews? Because it goes a really long way toward helping the liars, hatemongers and anti-Semites who want to believe that Israel runs (a) America and (b) the world. Dear Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama: You’re not helping.

On frequent occasion, both candidates talked about their support for the Israeli government and its policies as if these are the single most important issue in the American Jewish community, and as if their shot at the presidency depended on the pandering. Why is this bad news for the Jews? Because it misrepresents us to our fellow Americans—we’re only 2 percent of the electorate, and well less than 10 percent of us say that Israel is our most important election issue—and it also goes a really long way toward supporting the liars, hatemongers and anti-Semites who want to believe that “the Jews” run (a) America and (b) the world. Dear Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama: Can we cut that out now?

Also on frequent occasion, the specter of a nuclear Iran was raised largely in order to burnish the candidate’s bona fides as a tough guy in the region (though, it must be admitted, this was worse on Romney’s side than on Obama’s). Why is this bad news for the Jews? Because the specter of a nuclear Iran is a genuine concern to Israel and thus to the American Jewish community, and the best way to keep any country from being a threat is not to use it as a rhetorical prop, but to do our best to engage that country and find diplomatic ways around war.

On virtually no occasion did either candidate say so much as a single serious word about Israel’s actual most pressing existential threat: its unresolved conflict with the Palestinian people. Obama entered the Oval Office full of good ideas and good intentions to try to restart negotiations toward a two-state solution, and at every turn, allowed himself to be turned away from the effort by the Israeli government and its American supporters. Mitt Romney pledged to do “the opposite” of what Obama has done in the region, but given that he told supporters that he’s just going to let the problem be kicked down the road “and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it,” he seems to be pretty attached to the President’s actual approach to the issue.

Now, anyone who’s in any way acquainted with me or my work knows who I’ll be voting for (or, in fact, who I’ve already voted for). I’m a big Obama supporter, for all the usual reasons that a Democrat likes this incumbent: his positions on women’s equality and reproductive choice, the steps he’s taken for LGBTQ rights, Obamacare, Pell Grants, saving the American economy from the abyss, etc.

But I cannot say—despite all the protestations from all sides of the Democratic map that he really, really loves Israel, just look at how much military aid he’s given!—that he’s done much good for Israel. On the contrary: In allowing the conflict to drag on for four more bloody, settlement-heavy years, President Obama has done an active disservice to American security interests, American foreign policy goals, Israel’s long-term viability, and (it bears mentioning) the Palestinian people.

It may be all the rage to talk about a “one-state solution” now, but the simple truth is that there is no way to achieve a single state without even more massive suffering along the way, because there is no way to force the sides to play nice with each other. If Israelis and Palestinians are going to learn to stop wanting to kill each other, they’re going to have to learn how to live next to each other first. And that means the two-state solution to which President Obama is nominally dedicated.

I’m under no illusion that a President Romney would do a better job on this front. As an American-Israeli Jew who loves both of her countries very much, I live in hope that in Obama’s second term, the President will be freed up by the lack of a re-election campaign to find the kind of boldness he promised at the start of his first term.

But if he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure we can just go ahead and bury the two-state solution and sit shiva.

And that will be very bad news for the Jews, indeed.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

My President is a mensch.

Watch President Obama thanking the folks at Obama For America yesterday. Just watch:


The husband will occasionally say to me “Disagree with him on politics or policy or whatever, but how can you not like him?” I like our President, and I am so proud to have played a part, however miniscule, in the last three election cycles. A few days out pounding the pavement, a few donations, 75 phone calls on this most recent election day — it really wasn’t much, but I did what I could, and I did it with gratitude, and a kind of love.

I’m so proud that this man is our President.

via @yahelc, Senior Digital Analyst, Obama for America.

Before the tide goes back out.

I gave myself today.

Now, it could be argued that on five bad hours of sleep, a raging morning headache, a cold all day long, and sheer giddiness over and above it all, I wasn’t good for much anyway, but at some point in the late morning, I came to understand that I was allowing myself one day to just enjoy the election results. I wouldn’t read anything infuriating, I wouldn’t think about my fears for the second term (fears for PBO’s life, and/or fears about what PBO will or will not achieve), I wouldn’t do almost anything but bask in the giddiness.

And before that day ends — before I get up tomorrow and have to write about matters Israel/Palestine and the President’s policies re: same, and I have to consider the extent of the hatred reserved for the man we just re-elected, and I have to be reminded of just how ugly budget discussions are — I want to get down how this feels, today. How it felt last night.

The anxiety I have felt over the past 10 days or so was entirely (and literally) unfamiliar to me. I’m just not built like that — I worry, sure, and can get pretty despairing given half a chance (or 25 years of peace advocacy), but the kind of paralyzing, hair-trigger emotionality soaked with an entirely amorphous fear and general sense of nausea? I don’t do that. But I sure did it, off and on, over the past 10 days. It was the chaos factor, the simple fact that America’s pre-election reality had been shaken hard by random weather and entirely unrandom voter manipulation, that threw me off so badly. I had been confident of an Obama win (though I thought it would be narrower than it ultimately was), but the chaos opened the door in my little head to the other possibility, and the sheer mean, nasty implications of that just overwhelmed me. I didn’t think Obama was going to lose — but what if he did?

So when the election was called, at about 10:10 pm CST, I thundered up the stairs to tell my just-barely-asleep boy, thundered back down, and burst into near-hysterical sobs. Shaking, weeping, falling into my husband’s arms, who was doing his own (much less extreme) version of same. The relief was not just “palpable” — it was a living, breathing thing that had entered our home and shed the light of grace on our worst fears.

And then, as the night rolled along, all the other victories for common sense and human compassion and fact over reality-bending were just one wave of joy after another. Tears continued to come, initially of the same back-from-the-brink, near-hysterical relief quality, but eventually of my rather more standard weepy-Wanda-OMG-the-wonder-of-it-all! variety, and that, too felt like a blessing (though all that crying may very well explain the morning’s headache).

This feels like not just a victory for President Obama; not just a victory for the party with which I have identified ideologically my entire life; not just a victory for policies that I believe to be good. This feels like a vindication of the huge step we took as a nation four years ago when we elected an African American in the first place; like a defense and a deepening of a crucial policy legacy that would have crumbled had Obama lost; and above all, like a statement that despite everything, despite all that we do wrong and all the myriad ways in which Americans are as stupidly human as anyone else — our humanity also contains a striving for justice and an attachment to bettering the world as it actually is. That we are not defined by people like Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson and Joe Walsh and Mitt Romney, that we can look at their craven, manipulative mendacity and call it what it is — and push back. Reject it. Claim instead faith and hard work and mutual respect. A victory for government of the people, by the people, for the people over the forces of big money and appalling hubris.

This feels like hope.

I’ll get angry or frightened or sad, or all three, tomorrow (or the day after), I know. Not only is it the lot of the life-long activist, it’s kind of part and parcel of democracy.

But today, tonight, right now: I am grinning. I am hopeful. I am thrilled.

And tonight I sleep all the sleeps, and tomorrow I arise, girded and ready to face the dragons.

It’s a new day….

This, too:


I woke up this morning
Feeling alright
I’ve been fightin’ for tomorrow
All my life

h/t my friend Chris Savage, aka Eclectablog, who wrote a great little post about the results of the election and in particular the defeat of Michigan’s heinous and deeply undemocratic Emergency Manager law, a law which Chris has advocated tirelessly against.

Key & Peele: VICTORY.

Because I didn’t have a drop of alcohol last night and yet am still managing to feel decidedly hung-over, but it’s that happy kind of pounding-headed bleariness, I present to you here “Key & Peele: Obama’s Anger Translator – Victory.”

BWAhahahahaha! [Ow. Too loud. Shhhh, ellaesther. Shh…].

; )

h/t @coco_rivers (thank you Coco! Bless you!) on the Twitter machine.

Hope is better than fear.

This seems like a good day for the words of a wise Canadian:


Quote from the final letter of Jack Layton to Canadians as he lay dying in August 2011. h/t Paul Dewar, Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre and New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic.

Good stuff (video edition): Fired up! Ready to go!

I happened to be online tonight when people started tweeting about President Obama’s last campaign rally being live-streamed out of Iowa. I caught pretty much all of the President’s speech, which was wonderful and bracing and helped clear out some of my cobwebs of fear, and he ended it with the by-now familiar story of the time that he was campaigning ahead of the South Carolina primary (way back when…) and in the midst of a dreary, exhausting, rainy morning with a tiny crowd of some 20 rained-on, tired-looking people, a woman started shouting “Fired up! Ready to go!” — call and response with the 20 other souls — for minutes on  end. “And after a while, I was feeling kind of fired up! I was feeling ready to go!” I don’t mind confiding, reader: I teared up.

Though I’ve heard the story before, I’d never heard the woman’s name: It was Edith Childs, and she’s since appeared alongside the President occasionally when he tells the story, and is very active in his campaign. In Googling her to learn more, I discovered the following video: The story behind “Fired up! Ready to go!” And it’s pretty wonderful.

And so I leave it for you here. Please God and all that is good and right, let the signs pointing tonight to the President’s victory be right….

Fired up! Ready to go!

Two ways to actually help the folks on the Eastern Seaboard (spoiler: Not canned goods).

Last night I found myself really worrying about the next few days in the lives of people who were in the path of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. I have a sense that this is the point at which supplies have run low or just plain out, people who are poor or elderly or stuck on the wrong piece of geography have been stuck and without resources for a day too long, the money has been spent and there’s no gas in the car, or no train to your job — if only where you work was up and running, but it’s not.

There’s not a whole lot that people who don’t actually live within walking distance of folks in need of help can do in these circumstances, and the next few days will be what they will be — the federal government will do all it can, the Red Cross will do all it can, neighbors will do all they can, and yet it’s not necessarily going to be very pretty.

As for the rest of us, though, there are two things we can do, one obvious, one a bit less so:

1. Go ahead and make that donation to the Red Cross. If you can only help a little, that’s fine, because a nonprofit can always do more with your $10 than you can (I always think of the fact that for $5, your local food pantry can buy a whole grocery bag’s worth of food, whereas you and I can buy four bags of spaghetti and a can of tuna). You can go to the website, or just text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

And if you can’t swing even $10 right now (and I’ve been there) remember that they will absolutely still need help in a month or two or six. And not incidentally: By donating to the general “Disaster Relief” fund, you’re providing money that the Red Cross can use wherever it’s needed — and the Red Cross also works in Haiti….

2.  The less obvious thing: Everyone on the Eastern seaboard will, in fact need help in a month or two or six, and they need not only a President who will have their backs and focus on things like recovery and rebuilding infrastructure (not to mention bring an honest approach to the future of climate change), they also need a Congress that will support the President.

I think that I’m not alone in feeling like, barring new surprises, President Obama is pretty likely to win re-election. But, even if that’s so (and it’s far from a foregone conclusion, so don’t get complacent), the Republican Party has shown in word and four years of deed that it is not even a little bit interested in working with this President, for any reason whatsoever. It took President Obama a little longer to figure this out than I might have liked, but he’s figured it out, and we need to figure it out too — and the actionable part of “figuring it out” is working over the next few days to get more Democrats into Congress.

If you can find a few hours to help your local Democrat canvass and/or get out the vote, if you can talk to friends and family and remind them of the importance of casting their ballot even if they don’t think they need to, please do so. If I can, I’ll be going up to Wisconsin on Tuesday to work on getting out the vote for Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin. (And if you don’t know how to go about helping, just Google the candidates’ headquarters and show up — they will be thrilled to see you and tell you when/where you would be of most use).

So, unless you’re within easy travel distance of a neighborhood that needs supplies and helping hands (and if you are, please do what you can!), here’s what you can do: Give money to the people who know how to use it, and get out the vote for the people most likely to do good recovery work.

And if you’re among those knocked around by this storm? All my prayers and best wishes for quick repair and healing, from out here in Fly Over Country. Big love, East Coasters. Hang tight.

Thoughts both random and jumbled.

“Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. At the time of this image Sandy was the strongest hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.” –

Now that the storm has passed (at least for we Americans – Canadians in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes have their own Sandy to face as I write) I’m finding it impossible to grasp its enormity and implications.

Which I suppose marks me as The Average American, but I really am overwhelmed trying to think about it. For instance: New York City without full power for as long as a week, maybe? How does that not become bedlam? What’s happening with the folks for whom a blizzard is still blowing, what about people with live wires and flood waters all up and down the mid-Atlantic, what about the sewage pouring into waterways, what about the 80 homes in Queens destroyed by a fire surrounded by water last night, what about all the millions of people with their millions of individual troubles? NPR reported this morning that there are 7 million people without power today — I turned to my son and said “That’s like everyone in the entire state of Israel.” And what if power isn’t back in time for election day?

And then I think about the election, and how nauseatingly anxious it makes me to think about the election, because now it has this aura of a reality show gone horribly, horribly wrong. And it’s only the future of our country hanging on it. (Not to mention the future of disaster relief for the most populous and economically/culturally/politically significant part of our country — and I say this as a proud Midwesterner, but some things are just facts).

And I realize that I really, really want to believe that a President Romney would step up and meet the challenge of a post-Sandy America and also be capable of handling any other future disasters well — and yet, as non-partisan as I try to be, there is just nothing about the man, his candidacy, or his career that gives me any sense that Romney has that in him.

And then I realize that every single, little thing I’ve heard about the Romney/Ryan campaign has irked me, angered me really, ever since yesterday afternoon, and that that’s pretty much because I want him to be a mensch and acknowledge that what this country needs is a second Obama term and announce that he’s throwing in the towel. And that’s not really a reasonable expectation.

And I think about all the people I know and love who were in Sandy’s path, some of them people I’ve never met, two of them people who dropped out of my life for reasons that are either inexplicable and infuriating or just plain infuriating, and I love them so much and am so worried about them, and I cannot tell them, and that makes me want to punch a wall.

I know everyone says at this point in a developing disaster that “we’re Americans and the good thing about Americans is we pick ourselves up,” but really, everyone pretty much picks themselves up, as best they can. No one people has a lock on that, really, nor on the impulse of kindness toward strangers and neighbors in the wake of disaster.

What we do have here that’s different from a lot of places (such as the Caribbean) is a lot of resources and a lot of wealth. We have not, traditionally, always spent our wealth particularly wisely (suddenly the infrastructure conversation is very, very interesting, isn’t it America?), but we have it and we can draw on it. The challenge will be then to use our resources, both human and treasure, wisely.

And that brings me right back to being anxious about the election.


Obama on rape & politicians making decisions for women (or: My President’s a feminist, part the many).

“Rape is rape. It is a crime…. The second thing this underscores, though, is this is exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s health care decisions.” (And, it should be noted: The crowd goes wild!)


And furthermore: “These are not just women’s issues, these are family issues.”

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