January 31, 2008
Candidate profile: Ron Paul
Paul's call to end foreign aid draws small Jewish following
That sort of fighting spirit is a job requirement in his new post: executive director of the group "Jews for Ron Paul."
Paul's candidacy was dismissed early on due to his support from white supremacist, Libertarian and other fringe groups, but the campaign has picked up steam on college campuses and on the Internet, in part due to his staunch anti-war stance.
A longtime Texas congressman, Paul raised $4.2 million on Nov. 5 from 37,000 individual donors who agreed to give as part of a "money bomb" on the anniversary of the failed plot of British mercenary Guy Fawkes to kill King James I in 1605. In September, he announced that he'd brought in $5.2 million in the previous three months, putting him ahead of John McCain in the Republican money race.
Even as Paul makes headway in some circles, organized Jewish support for his Republican presidential bid is nearly nonexistent, thanks to the candidate's longstanding stance against providing foreign aid, including U.S. assistance to Israel.
The Republican Jewish Coalition pointedly did not invite him to participated in its candidates' forum last month, even though his fund-raising ability and popularity on the Internet make him a dark horse with potential to upend the primary race. His reported support from extremist groups hasn't helped win him favor among Jews.
Still, Paul still commands a loyal, albeit small, Jewish following. This Jewish support has followed the same pattern as Paul's backing from other groups -- coming from out-of-the way places on the Internet and taking mainstream media and political organizations by surprise.
In addition to Perry's "Jews for Ron Paul," there is "Zionists For Ron Paul," an outfit launched by Yehuda HaKohen, an American immigrant to Israel, and some of his friends back in the United States.
Some of Paul's Jewish supporters believe that it would be best for Israel if the United States kept out of Jerusalem's affairs. There are also those who believe that American aid to Israel is dangerous because it feeds the perception that Jewish wield too much influence over U.S. foreign policy.
"Many of us believe the current relationship between the United States and Israel is a very unhealthy relationship, like that of a man and concubine, or a slave and master," HaKohen said.
"We think that Israel should be an ally to the United States but not a vassal to the United States," he added. "I don't think it's important for me as an Israeli for America to defend me. I don't think it's morally appropriate for American soldiers to fight Iran for me. American aid does more harm than good. These are insults to our national sovereignty."
While traveling from Washington to New Hampshire to campaign in November, Paul provided a statement to JTA explaining his position on Israel.
"I support free trade and friendship with all nations, meaning that my administration would treat Israel as a friend and trading partner. Americans would be encouraged to travel to and trade with Israel," Paul said.
"Our foreign military aid to Israel is actually more like corporate welfare to the U.S. military industrial complex, as Israel is forced to purchase only U.S. products with the assistance. We send almost twice as much aid to other countries in the Middle East, which only insures increased militarization and the drive toward war. "
In fact, combined U.S. aid to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and other friendly Arab nations is roughly commensurate with the $2.4 billion military aid package Israel currently gets.
"We have adopted a foreign policy that has left Israel surrounded by militaristic nations while undermining Israel's sovereignty by demanding that its foreign and defense policies be essentially pre-approved in Washington," he added. "That is a bad deal for Israel, as sovereign nations must determine on their own what is a most appropriate national defense. On foreign policy as well, the U.S. steps in to prevent Israel from engaging in dialogue with nations of which the U.S. administration disapproves."
Paul is an obstetrician from the small town of Lake Jackson, Texas, who served in Congress in the 1970s and 1980s as a Libertarian, then worked as a doctor before returning to Congress in 1997 as a Republican. He's fiercely pro-life and opposed to gun control, believes American monetary policy must be reconnected to the gold standard and advocates an isolationist foreign policy.
Paul's campaign manager, Lew Moore, deflected questions about Paul's support from neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups
"Ron Paul has beliefs that resonate with people. He empowers an individual's right to free association. A lot of people like that," Moore said. "He does not believe in foreign aid going to any nation, but that does not have anything to do with individual groups."
Moore said he has visited the Web site of Jews For Ron Paul, but hasn't worked with the group and doesn't know anything about the size of its membership. The Paul campaign, he added, was disappointed but not surprised that Paul hadn't been invited to speak at the recent Republican Jewish Coalition forum. The campaign manager also said that he knew of no Jewish groups that had asked Paul to speak.
The RJC's spokeswoman said that Paul's isolationist stance contradicts her group's belief in strengthening U.S. ties with Israel. Paul's consistent record of voting against aid to Israel was a factor in the group's decision not to invite the candidate, Suzanne Kurtz. said.
Kurtz also said the format of the forum, which gave each candidate 45 minutes to address the audience, meant there was not time for all of the candidates to appear. Only Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Sam Brownback and Fred Thompson spoke. Brownback has since dropped out of the race.