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Wisconsin Primary Tests ‘Uncommitted’ Vote on Biden’s Israel Stance

US President Joe Biden speaks about rebuilding communities and creating well-paying jobs during a visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US, March 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Opposition to US President Joe Biden’s support of Israel‘s war against Hamas faces a fresh test on Tuesday in Wisconsin where pop-up groups on a shoestring budget are urging voters to mark themselves uncommitted in the state’s Democratic primary.

For two weeks, 60 grassroots groups and organizers have advanced their cause with phone banks, mailers, banners, knocks on doors, and “friend banks” where volunteers contact friends who then contact their friends.

Their goal is to get 20,682 voters to mark their ballots “uninstructed,” Wisconsin‘s version of “uncommitted.” The number is significant. Biden, a Democrat, beat Republican Donald Trump by that number in the state in the 2020 presidential election.

It remains unclear whether these uncommitted voters will abandon Biden and cost him the White House.

But the Wisconsin efforts, buoyed by similar campaigns in primaries in Hawaii, Michigan, and Minnesota, could have consequences. Opinion polls show Biden and Trump running neck-and-neck nationally ahead of their Nov. 5 election rematch and Biden’s 2020 victory was due to narrow wins in key states.

“We’re watching the precincts in Madison and Milwaukee the closest and there is a flurry of activity in those areas,” said Halah Ahmad, a spokeswoman for the “uninstructed” campaign in Wisconsin, a state with an open primary where voters need not register a party to vote.

Some Democrats have voiced surprise at opposition to Biden’s support for Israel‘s military campaign in Hamas-ruled Gaza following the Palestinian terror group’s Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage.

Amid pressure for a truce at home and abroad, the US abstained last week on a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, sparking a spat with Israel, its close Middle East ally. Israel has said any ceasefire must include the release of its remaining hostages in Gaza. It has also argued that a permanent cessation of hostilities would allow Hamas, which is reeling amid Israel’s offensive, to strengthen its position and pose a significant threat to the Jewish state.

Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the president “shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He’s working tirelessly to that end.”

Organizers demand that Biden call for a permanent ceasefire and stop military aid to Israel as they plan for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August, where Biden is expected to be nominated.

“The White House has changed its rhetoric on the war to where it should have been since the start, but they are still failing to demonstrate a meaningful policy shift when it comes to weapons and funding,” said Abbas Alawieh, a top official for the national uncommitted campaign.

Biden, who expressed strong support for Israel in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre, has adopted a tougher position toward Israel in recent weeks amid growing pressure from fellow Democrats to distance the US from the Jewish state, in large part due to to the rising civilian casualty toll in Gaza. However, some prominent observers have suggested that the Biden administration’s changing position on Israel and the war may be influenced by domestic political fears of losing electoral support from anti-Israel voters.

In Michigan, a key battleground state and home to America’s largest Arab population, a campaign to vote “uncommitted” during the state’s primary rather than for Biden gained significant support — including from US Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

More than 4,500 delegates will gather in Chicago to formally nominate Biden this summer. So far, uncommitted movements have won 25 delegates in five states, but Alawieh said he sees the meeting as an “important inflection point for the movement.”

Wisconsin and Michigan are part of an imaginary “blue wall” that Biden will need to hold to secure a second term, a drive complicated by the popularity of third party candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

In 2016, Trump flipped both battleground states as he defeated Hillary Clinton and won the White House; Biden took them back from Trump in 2020.

The president visited Wisconsin in March and said there is an “awful lot at stake” and his campaign will “get down to knocking on doors” in Wisconsin and several other states.

Conventional wisdom among Democrats is that inflation remains the bigger concern for voters in US Midwestern states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and the impact from the uncommitted movement there will be minimal in November.

Adrian Hemond, a political analyst and chief executive of the consulting firm Grassroots Midwest, who previously worked for Democrats in Michigan, said the uncommitted movement needs 20 to 25 percent in swing state primaries.

“So far that hasn’t been the case,” he said.

SHOESTRING BUDGETS, PHONE CALLS

In Michigan, “uncommitted” won about 13 percent of the state’s Democratic primary vote. In Minnesota, it won over 19 percent of the state’s primary vote after an eight-day campaign with a budget of less than $20,000. Wisconsin campaigners are operating on a similar shoestring budget and with little time to waste.

“We made over 200,000 calls in four days before the primary,” said Asma Nizami, an organizer with Vote Uncommitted Minnesota, who is a part of the national uncommitted group. Wisconsin‘s Ahmad said the state is using the same dialer system to reach 15,000 to 20,000 voters a day.

“It’s almost unheard-of for political campaigns to be up and running as fast,” Alawieh said. “But this movement is grounded in historic levels of anti-war organizing since October.”

The post Wisconsin Primary Tests ‘Uncommitted’ Vote on Biden’s Israel Stance first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

The post Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

The post Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at TheEditors.com.

The post ‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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