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The Republican Jewish Coalition has launched "a new series of ads raising critical issues for the Jewish community." You can view the ads on the RJC Web site.
News and Opinion

The Sinister Ad Campaign Targeting Jewish Communities

--- Jeffrey Feldman

Recently, I had a gut feeling that the campaign of lies and deceit crafted to elect John McCain had hit rock bottom. We had seen the worst, I convinced myself.

Then I saw an ad that the Republican Jewish Coalition is running in Jewish community newspapers across the country. And I realized I was wrong — we are nowhere near rock bottom.

In the ad, a small color photo of Sen. Barack Obama is set within a large black-and-white image of right-wing, anti-Israel, Hitler-apologist Pat Buchanan. In alarmist rhetoric, the ad prods Jewish voters to be ‘concerned’ that Buchanan has ‘endorsed’ what it describes as Obama’s ‘dangerous views on Israel.’

Now, I have to say up front that I know Jewish communities pretty well. I grew up in the great Midwestern shtetl of Metropolitan Detroit and am darn proud of it. So, I know what makes Jewish people worry, what makes them ask questions about a candidate, what makes them afraid.

There is nothing more offensive to a Jewish person in the United States right now than the idea of electing Pat Buchanan President. Buchanan did not just wake up and become a symbol of anti-Semitism. He has over time repeatedly made statements favorable to Hitler, critical of Israel, and generally hostile to ethnic minorities. Buchanan is the kind of politician who speaks and writes as if Jews enjoy the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship by the grace of their Christian hosts. For Jewish voters who see the ad, therefore, the dots are not hard to connect: Obama is anti-Jewish.

As if the content is not bad enough — an ad that uses logical fallacy to falsely brand a presidential candidate anti-Jewish — the strategy used to spread the ad is nothing less than sinister. Instead, of employing direct mail, TV, or mainstream newspapers, the Republican Jewish Coalition cloaked the ad in the pages of a trusted community institution: local Jewish newspapers. With few exceptions, only Jewish voters will see this expertly positioned propaganda.

Reacting to the print ad campaign by the Republic Jewish Coalition is not as easy as crying "anti-Semitism." Frankly, it is far worse than that. This kind of ad, which uses juxtaposed images and incredibly misleading statements to claim that Obama and Buchanan somehow share views and goals--that they are, somehow, Israel-hating political brethren--is the most vile kind of marketing imaginable: a print campaign designed to profit from the fears and insecurities of an ethnic group.

This is an ad made by people who created a list of Jews, who ran focus groups, who tested trigger words, and menacing photos — until they found the combination of words and images that would spark fear in the greatest number of Jewish voters with the most fear about Sen. Obama and in the least amount of time.

Moreover, this ad campaign comes at a time when the same lists of Jewish voters are receiving Republican-funded push polls engaged in the same attempt to spread the lie that Sen. Obama is anti-Jewish. In one such push poll, for example, Jewish voters have been asked how they would feel if they "found out" that President Ahmadinejad of Iran had "endorsed Barack Obama."

This ad targeting Jewish fear by associating Obama with Buchanan is anti-American in the extreme. It is the politics of cruelty. It is immorality in print.

Forget every question you may have about Jewish people, about anti-Semitism, about politics, about Israel, Palestinians, Iran, the Middle East, Obama, McCain, Bush--forget it all for a second. Ask yourself this question instead: What do you call it when a political party targets an ethnic minority with pure lies in order to frighten them?

What is the word for that kind of behavior? Do we call it cynicism? How about fascism? Do we call it evil?

In my family, we use a phrase to describe this kind of behavior, instead of a single word: "Never again."

Anti-Obama ad courtesy of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

We do not say "Never again" because this ad is somehow connected to another Holocaust, but because when this kind of political behavior is allowed to go unchallenged, then it is not just individuals who suffer, not just communities, not just Jewish people (e.g., as it is this time)--it is all of us. All of society, Jewish and non-Jewish, suffers from this kind of offensive, cynical, soulless propaganda. Our entire society is diminished by it. And if we let it go unchecked--if we allow the people who inject this kind of filth into our society to remain unchallenged--then society itself begins to unravel.

I write from experience. The Republican Jewish Coalition's ads (three so far) have made an alarming impact on Jewish communities across America.

Jewish voters are divided about 2-to-1 in favor Sen. Obama. That will not likely change no matter how many nefarious ads appear in Jewish newspapers. The Republican Party does not anticipate a majority of the Jewish vote this November. Rather, they are investing in these campaigns with the long-term electoral gain to be made by spreading lies about Sen. Obama — lies designed by political experts to divide Jewish communities against themselves.

The impact so far? Jewish friendships, families, and communities are being torn apart by these Republican ads. An ad of Barack Obama inset on a giant picture of Pat Buchanan is not just a political lie. It is the seed of division planted in Jewish communities by the Republican party as part of a larger Machiavellian plan to win elections. This vile ad must not stand. The campaign by the Republican Party to divide Jewish communities by aggressively publishing anti-Obama ads in Jewish print papers must be exposed.

Most people in America do not even realize how influential Jewish print newspapers are in this country. In an age of internet media, a vast majority of Jewish households still receive the same print Jewish newspaper that they first subscribed to decades earlier.

Growing up in Detroit, I can not remember a single day when we did not have a copy of the Detroit Jewish News in our house. We changed the furniture, the rugs, and the pictures on the walls, but the Jewish newspaper was always there.

Here is what can done about this ad campaign, right now.

First, we can tell everybody we know about these false and misleading ad campaigns. Instead of assuming that everybody knows and understands what is wrong with the language and images in them, we should tell people about how false and sinister they are.

Second, we can send letters to the editorial offices of our local Jewish newspapers. These letters should be polite, but they should firmly explain why we expect editors to reject political ads crafted specifically to elicit fear in Jews or in any other ethnic group. These letters should not endorse one candidate for President over another, but insist that newspapers should not give over the pages of their papers to malicious propaganda targeted at Jews. Editors must hear our sense of concern and our sense of betrayal that such a campaign would be allowed in the papers we have kept in our families for generations.

Third, we can talk about this ad with people in our social worlds: our colleagues at work, our friends at synagogue, at the gym, in the park---everywhere. And as we do this, we should not assume that the non-Jews in our lives cannot also play an important role in this effort. The Republican Jewish Coalition may have only targeted American Jews with this ad, but they offended everyone. And everybody can use the power of their own voice to push back against immoral politics.

When a political party uses marketing techniques and lies to create tension in any ethnic community, Americans of all ages and all views must stand up, stand together, and demand that this immoral practice stop.

Jewish Community Deserves Better Than Fear and Loathing in 2008

--- Andrew Lachman

Another anti-Obama ad courtesy of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Republican Jewish Coalition engages in tactics once used against Jews

As the 2008 campaign shifts into high gear, we have seen a rise in the use of falsehood and the use of lies and innuendo to incite fear amongst Jewish voters.

With the tragic exception of the "Swift-boat" ads of 2004 and the Willie Horton ads in 1988, most part voters have seen past these ruses. However, 2008 has seen new lows in disinformation pushed onto the Jewish community.

With two relatively new faces on the national scene, Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama and GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin , whisper campaigns by email have run rampant fueled by ill-informed partisans on each side trying to define the other through blatant falsehoods.

A new low was struck when "low blow" groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition implied that Patrick Buchanan (who has praised Palin and written numerous articles blasting Obama's policy positions) has the same agenda as Obama.

More shocking, the RJC admitted to running factually inaccurate "push poll" calls to Jewish voters in battleground states, asking respondents how they would feel if they "learned" that Obama was being supported by terrorist leaders, that Obama was a Muslim, or that Obama received financial support or contributed to Palestinian groups in the Middle East. (In reality, Obama is a Christian and has condemned Obama's support of Israel and campaign contributions from non-citizens are illegal and would show up on campaign reports.) These tactics are meant to play on fears and prejudices put in place by months of false e-mails against Obama.

Unfortunately, since its inception, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC)has operated via lies and fear-mongering. The RJC resorts to attacks because they can not point to their own party or candidates as being any better.

Otherwise, they would have to explain some of their inconsistencies such as

  • Why McCain told UK Sky News in 2006 that the U.S. should talk with Hamas.
  • Why McCain  told Ha’aretz reporter Amir Oren that he would use George H.W. Bush’s pro-Arab Secretary of State James Baker as a Middle East Peace envoy.
  • Whether McCain’s refusal to support sanctions against Iran twice in two years is tied to his close friends’ and campaign managers’ (Charlie Black and Rick Davis) business dealings with Russia and Chinese pipeline companies that do business with Iran’s oil industry.
  • Why McCain reversed his position on every issue that he was once respected for as a man of principle, such opposing the use of torture, opposing deficit-inducing tax-cuts for the rich and supporting for comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Why McCain chose to appoint a vice-presidential nominee with no foreign policy credentials (sorry, being located next to Canada and Russia don’t count unless you actually meet with their governments involving policy), no record of supporting Israel and a domestic policy record that is an anathema to most U.S Jews.

Finally, they would have to explain why the House Republican leadership would back a proposal to cut aid to Israel by 1% and then oppose the entire aid $2.4 billion aid package to Israel because the omnibus bill also contained a provision that would lift the ban on aid to distribute contraceptives in third world countries ravaged by HIV. It makes it look as of the Republicans were willing to sell out their support of Israel in favor of extremist religious positions opposing the availability of contraceptives as a means of reducing population and controlling the spread of HIV (for the record, Democrats have voted to keep this provision in any aid package the contained Israel aid because they viewed assisting Israel as a higher priority).

These examples are not to imply that McCain or the Republicans are any different than Democrats in their support of Israel. Both sides have their supporters and detractors regarding Israel in approximately equal numbers and at the same levels of leadership.

However, instead of touting their own candidates and party, the RJC has engaged in a deceptive campaign of destruction and distraction, using lies and half-truths to stoke unwarranted fear in the Jewish community to try to demonize Obama and Biden (both have strong records of support for Israel and the domestic issues that tend to concern the Jewish community such as having a balanced energy policy and protecting freedom of religion).

By contrast, Democratic Jewish groups such as the National Jewish Democratic Council have avoided the fear-mongering and “guilt by association” ploys and focused on documented policy differences such as McCain’s votes against the bipartisan Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.

Those in our community, regardless of partisan affiliation, who use fear-mongering and “guilt by passing association” ploys to question the patriotic or policy commitments of another candidate act every bit as morally reprehensible as the “red-baiting” schemes of the 1950s where Senator Joseph McCarthy’s vicious whisper campaigns turned passing associations of union sympathizers (many of them Jewish) into false accusations of Communist and anti-American affiliations which ruined careers and lives.

The sad things is that while Jews were often the victims of those campaigns in the 1950s, the RJC is now the one leading that charge with their secret push-polls and advertising campaigns.

As Rosh Hashanah comes upon us, we are reminded to do better and make the world a better place by example by avoiding falsehoods such as these. Perhaps we should remind the RJC that the Jewish Community deserves better than to have Jews use the tactics that were once used against us.

Andrew Lachman is a member of the Democratic National Committee and President of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles.

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