Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
On Sept. 7, just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) is set to host two political pollsters for an event the museum is calling “provocative.”
At the event, titled “9/11 + 10: Public Attitudes about Security Threats—Domestic and Global,” pollsters Pat Caddell and John McLaughlin are expected to release the results of a new national poll looking at American public opinion about security threats.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that the MOT would be commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sunday, Sep. 11, in much the same way as in previous years—with public candle lighting and a reading of the names of the attack’s victims.
But Cooper said that on Wednesday, he hoped people would hear from “two articulate veterans” who would bring “objective data” to a discussion of how safe Americans think they are today.
“I’d really like to know how people feel ten years later,” Cooper, who helped organize the event, said.
The Wednesday evening event is being co-sponsored by Secure America Now, a political organization co-founded by Caddell and McLaughlin in the summer of 2010. The group, which claims to be nonpartisan, focuses much of its attention on opposing policies promoted by or associated with the Obama Administration.
In an interview with the Jewish Journal, McLaughlin said that what inspired him and Caddell to begin surveying Americans about national security was a sense that Americans don’t feel safe—and that citizens attribute their new vulnerability to the policies pursued by the current occupant of the White House.
“It’s really because of the kind of policies that the administration is advocating,” McLaughlin said, noting that the trend he has observed is a national one. “A lot of the surveys I’m seeing were conducted in different parts of the country. There’s definitely shifts in attitudes.”
McLaughlin’s polling firm currently counts House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R - Va.) among its clients. Caddell is a frequent guest on Fox News, where he is referred to as a Democratic Pollster, a title that bloggers for the progressive nonprofit Media Matters consider to be misleading.
Caddell, whose polling firm does not appear to have a website and who could not be reached for comment, was described as a “Democratic Pollster” on a flyer for the Sep. 7 event at the MOT.
The flier (pdf), which uses red and blue fonts and shapes, apparently to suggest that the event will feature differences of opinion, does not mention the two pollsters’ connection to Secure America Now or to one another.
Caddell and McLaughlin may have started out on opposite sides of the political divide—when McLaughlin volunteered for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1976, Caddell was working as Jimmy Carter’s pollster—but Caddell has since become better known for his critiques of Democratic policies and candidates. In 2010, one writer suggested Caddell might be labeled a “self-loathing Democrat.”
Caddell and McLaughlin have given presentations about American public opinion on security matters before. In February, they presented results of an earlier Secure America Now-sponsored survey into public opinion on the subject to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The pair also spoke at the Heritage Foundation in May as part of the conservative think tank’s “Protect America Month.”
When McLaughlin presented that survey’s findings to CPAC in February, he talked about the opportunity it offered to Obama’s opponents. Caddell and McLaughlin found that Americans disapproved of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy by 54 to 42 percent and disapproved of his work to defend and secure America by a similar margin.
When asked “Who or what is the GREATEST threat to the United States?” a full seven percent of respondents actually identified the president himself, who came in second only to “terrorism,” which was identified as the most pressing threat by 14 percent of respondents.
“When people don’t think we’re safe, that’s his glass jaw,” McLaughlin told the crowd at CPAC, referring to the president.
The poll presented at CPAC wasn’t the only poll Caddell and McLaughlin conducted this year under the Secure America Now banner that appeared to include good news for Obama’s opponents.
In June, Caddell and McLaughlin released a survey that concluded President Barack Obama was losing support among Jewish voters.
The survey was hotly contested. Adam Serwer, blogging for the Washington Post, called it “laughably bogus,” in part because certain questions asked in the poll were “phrased in as leading a manner as possible.”
Serwer pointed to one question that asserted that President Obama had “proposed for Israel…a return to the 1967 borders, dividing Jerusalem, and allowing the right of return for Palestinian Arabs to Israel,” and then asked respondents “how concerned [they] would be if [Obama] were re-elected.”
That question, McLaughlin said, drew on Obama’s Middle East policy speech in May at the State Department, in which the president put forward as a basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians borders “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
As for the right of return and dividing Jerusalem, “He [Obama] put it on the table at the State Department speech, towards the end,” McLaughlin said. “He didn’t call it the right of return but he said it should be negotiated.”
“What’s surprisnig [sic] is that only 67 percent of Jewish voters in the poll said they were concerned about Obama’s policy towards Israel should he be reelected,” Serwer wrote in his Washington Post blog, “this, even though McLaughlin and Caddell invented out of thin air the idea that Obama supports a “right of return” for Palestinian Arabs.
Speaking to Commentary in July, McLaughlin acknowledged that particular question was based on a hypothetical—even as he defended the findings of the survey as a whole. “Whether the president supports those ideas or not, we’ll see,” McLaughlin said.
Although they are the co-founders of the group, no mention of Caddell, McLaughlin or any other individual appears on the Secure America Now website.
The “About” section of the Secure America Now website describes the organization’s backers as “Democrats, Republicans, Independents, conservatives and liberals who share a common concern about our security and liberty.”
But significant chunks of Secure America Now’s statement of purpose seem likely to appeal more to Republicans and conservatives than to Democrats and liberals.
“We have been frustrated by misguided government decisions to support a mosque at Ground Zero and to try terrorists in civilian courts while radical Muslims operate a training camp in New York State,” reads one line from the statement.
A CNN poll taken in Aug. 2010, when the controversy over the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero was at its height, showed that Democrats opposed the project by a small margin (54 to 43 percent) and liberals were narrowly in favor of it(51 to 45 percent). Contrast that with Republicans and conservatives, 82 and 87 percent of whom opposed the project, respectively.
The same partisan divide holds true for the issue of whether terror suspects should be tried in civilian court or by military tribunals. When Americans were asked in Feb. 2010 by Qunnipiac University where terror suspects should be tried, Democrats narrowly preferred civilian courts (48 to 45 percent), while Republicans and even independent voters were more likely to favor military trials for terror suspects (73 to 23 percent, 61 to 33 percent, respectively).
McLaughlin said that he and Caddell might differ on some issues, but they both agreed that “national security should be more bipartisan and not so much a partisan issue.”
Cooper said that he hoped to hear differing opinions on Wednesday.
“I imagine we’re going to get the full gamut of left to right and back and forth,” Cooper said, “and if that happens it’ll be a successful evening.”
And if those differing opinions don’t come from the people on the stage, Cooper said he would welcome them from the audience—but only during this particular “provocative” evening event.
“People can emote that night,” Cooper said. “On Sep. 11th, they should come and bow their heads in prayer.”
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September 6, 2011 | 11:38 am
Posted by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
I have returned to Switzerland this week as the Rabbinic Representative to join global partners and interfaith leaders at the World Economic Forum. Here, we continue to plan the annual gathering in Davos this winter and to think-tank the greatest moral, economic, and political issues of our time.
In conversations about global issues with interfaith leaders from around the world, the case articulated was clear: we need more inter-religious unity. I continue to be a voice in favor of difference, not at the expense of unity, but in addition. As Jews, we should all bring our particularism into the discourse since this is the wisdom we have to offer the world. I posit that there is no reason to water down our religion in the hopes of communicating with those of different faiths.
Yet, we must ask: how do we authentically honor the faiths of others as committed Jews? Certainly, tolerance of other religions was furthered in early Enlightenment. John Plamenatz, one of the twentieth century’s greatest political philosophers, explains that Milton, Locke, and others evolved in their thinking that “all men must have the one true faith” to the proposition that “faith is supremely important, and therefore every man must be allowed to live by the faith that seems true to him.” It is clear that we can find compelling arguments for deeper understanding and religious cooperation by espousing such political theory based on the goodness and autonomy of all humans outside the Jewish tradition, but is it an inherent Jewish value?
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg explains well, “Dialogue is built on the truth that the integrity and independent value of the other evokes a positive response in one’s self. Dialogue brings out the best in a group because it no longer defines itself through denigration or underestimation of the others. Each side tends to learn from the other, and incorporates some of the insights of the other without giving up its own values. The net result is a capability of meeting the needs of the other that was not recognized before.”
However, within Judaism, some would argue that particularism trumps and in fact, prevents interaction with those from other faiths. The common adage that our “responsibility begins in our home community” too often means that it ends there too. However, I emphasize, this is not a Jewish response.
There are many sources within Judaism that extol the virtues of interreligious dialogue.
I’d propose three possible Jewish theological frameworks for relationships with the Divine that can enable and encourage us to encounter the faiths of others:
1. Noahide relationships
2. All relationships originate from Sinai
3. Relationships respecting the distinct particular moral codes of others
Most basically, we may respect the truths of other nations based upon a model of Noahide relationships. The Ramah (Rabbi Moses Isserles) explained that Jewish law is one thing and Noahide law has its own distinct origin. They are to rule with their own “mishpat yosher” (just law). Maimonides explains that one who follows these laws is one of the pious of the nations of the world and has a share in the world to come (Melakhim 8:11). Rav Kook went even further and said that this can apply to the secular other as well since one who follows laws based purely on reason and not upon a belief in revelation also has a share in the world to come (Iggrot Rayah I, 89). The Torah affirms that we all share a common humanity and we can engage in a shared universalistic discourse about truth and justice and form authentic partnerships even though we have different revelations and origins of truth.
Secondly, in contrast, there is a position that Noahide laws are not distinct from Sinaitic laws. The Midrash explains that “The Noahide laws are the same as the laws the Jews were commanded at Sinai, (Bereshit Rabbah, 34:7). Engaging together with others who appear different is crucial because we actually share the same law. Jewish leadership can play a crucial role as global connector.
Thirdly, the Meiri (Beit HaBehira, B. Kama 122) explains that we can respect other faiths (i.e. not consider them idolatry) if they are bound (megudarim) by the ways of the revealed religions (datot) and morality (nimusim). This is to say that we must engage in moral and theological discourse with those of other faiths who honor the basic human dignity of all people. We can honor and learn from their particularity since we share moral commitments in spite of our theological disagreements.
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, “Religion is an essential element in a human and humane social order…As systems of meaning and purpose, the great world faiths have never been surpassed. As a substitute for politics, however, they are full of danger – and that, in some parts of the world, is what they’ve become, (The Dignity of Difference, 41).” He continues to explain why political cooperation is needed in addition to religious cooperation. “Politics is the space we make for what individual religions seek to overcome – diversity of views, conflicting interests, multiplicity…the great religions fulfill the twenty-first-century imperative: ‘think globally, act locally.’ Their vision is global but their setting is local – the congregation, the synagogue, the church, the mosque,” (43).
As these sources show, we, as particularistic adherents of the Jewish faith, can connect to others as universalistic global citizens. It is my belief that we must do so through the particular lens of Judaism, not in spite of it.
The added value of religion other than our own is not something we learn by being universal or by losing or watering down our own faith but by being particular, proud and faithful participants of our own religions. Rav Kook explained that “G-d dealt kindly with his world by not putting all talents in one place, in any one man, or nation, not in one generation or even one world,” (Orot, 152). Each person, each nation, each religion has something unique to contribute to global wisdom. Our Sages remind us: “Who is wise? One who learns from all people,” (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1).
I will continue to meet with global faith leaders, but I will continue to insist that we have more to offer each other and the world when we bring our diversity to the conversation rather than check it at the door in the name of unity. It is our religious uniqueness that enables religious, rather than secular, conversation.
“Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek, the Director of Jewish Life at the UCLA Hillel, and a 6th year PhD candidate at Columbia University in Moral Psychology & Epistemology. Shmuly is on faculty at Shalhevet High School.
September 5, 2011 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Over the next two weeks, three members of Knesset are coming to Los Angeles. All are expected to talk about the upcoming
Dr. Einat Wilf, of the Independence Faction founded by Ehud Barak, will speak to BINA-LA, a young professionals group supported by the Israeli Leadership Council, on Tuesday, Sep. 6.
Danny Danon, of the Likud Party, is deputy speaker of the Knesset, and will be addressing a $150-per person fundraiser hosted by the American Friends of Likud and the Zionist Organization of America in Irvine on Sep. 14.
Wilf comes to Los Angeles following a four-day speaking tour on the east coast arranged by The Israel Project, a non-profit pro-Israel public relations outfit. On Aug. 30, Wilf told journalists at a briefing in Washington, D.C., that the unilateral declaration of independence Palestinian leaders are expected to put to the United Nations later this month will not advance efforts towards the establishment of an actual Palestinian state.
“In order to have a proper state…you will need to negotiate with Israel,” Wilf told reporters, according to a release from The Israel Project.
Although her speech to BINA is supposed to be about the linkages between Israel and Jews in the diaspora, that’s a topic that could certainly include a discussion of the prospect of the Palestinians unilaterally declaring a state at the United Nations.
The other two speakers will almost certainly also talk about the Palestinian state conundrum, and both can be expected to restate the position that Israel should annex the West Bank and ignore any opposition to such a measure.
Danon only wants part of it, though. The MK who organized opposition to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and was elected to Knesset in 2009, suggested annexing “the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria” in a New York Times Op-Ed in May.
And while Judea and Samria, Danon wrote in the Op-Ed, would become part of Israel, the parts of the West Bank where 2.7 million Palestinians live would not.
“We would be well within our rights to assert,” Danon wrote, “that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
“These Palestinians,” he continued, “would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.”
Danon went on to say that despite “naysayers” warning of “dire consequences and international condemnation” that would follow such a move, Israel has weathered such “diplomatic storms” in the past and could do so again.
Eldad, in his speech on the 18th, will recap an argument that he has been making at least since 2009 that no new Palestinian state need be established because, as he puts it, “Jordan is Palestine.”
“Dr. Eldad will explain why Israel should formally annex all of Judea and Samaria,” the event’s announcement reads, “and why the Arabs living there should become citizens of Jordan. Jordan is the Palestinian state, and there is no need or reason to create another one.”