The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
The Delaware Valley's Progressive Alternative
Volume 1 - Number 2 - August 2005
Election Day 2004: I wake up early to drive my minivan bedecked with political signs to the local campaign headquarters for a long day of volunteering. I know the Kerry's odds are slim, but as the day progresses, I start to get calls from friends reporting that Kerry's odds on various gambling sites were going up. At first it wasn't obvious why, but soon it
became clear that exit polling data had been leaked and in state after state the numbers were far in excess of anyone's expectation for Kerry. As the numbers continued to hold up throughout election day and I shared the excitement with the volunteers I was taxiing around the far reaches of Montgomery County, I mulled over in my mind the course of events that led me here and my plans for celebrating the now inevitable, I hoped, Kerry
When George W. Bush was preparing to attack Iraq, many people asked me why I was supporting Bush on Iraq when I criticized him on so many other issues (racking up a huge deficit while handing out special tax breaks to the wealthy, letting industry write our environmental laws, not paying attention to terrorism until 9/11, ...). I answered that Bush claimed that Iraq has stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction which could threaten the United States. The evidence he presented publicly was not very convincing, but I hoped Bush was basing these assertions on compelling secret evidence. As such I supported the invasion on condition that we would eventually find the WMD. I made a solemn pledge that I would be on him "like glue" and do everything in my power if he betrayed the country's confidence in him.
It soon became obvious that the Clinton regime of sanctions and inspections was 100% successful in preventing Iraq from acquiring WMD. On the other hand, Bush's fixation on Iraq has prevented the US from adequately dealing with the real WMD problem in North Korea, and from clamping down on extremists in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority. The world community has come to the conclusion that Bush fabricated the evidence necessary to take the US to war against Iraq. They will surely not support Bush in the future, even if the next time he is not crying wolf.
Over the months leading up to the election, I joined many mailing lists, and invited the NJDC's regional coordinator, Eric Colchamiro, into my home for a couple of months. I learned everything I could about Kerry and Bush's positions and records on Israel. I met John Kerry's brother, Cameron (Haim) Kerry, who had converted to Judaism and spoke eloquently about his brother's passion for Israel. I debated RJC representative Len Feldman at organized debates held at the Suburban JCC B'nai Aaron and at Har Zion, and shared my knowledge with the Philadelphia Jewish Community.
In my minivan on election day, I determined to write a letter to Kerry once the results were official (for in my mind it was now "once" and no longer "if"). Inauguration Day was to be on my birthday, and I wanted to ask if I could be there in Washington D.C. to savor our victory.
More importantly, I wanted to remind him of all the good things he had done for Israel, and what he had pledged to continue doing if elected president: moving the American embassy to Jerusalem; applying pressure on Iran to stop their nuclear program; sanctioning Syria according to the Syria Accountability Act; attaining energy independence from Saudi Arabia in order to stop supporting terrorist groups operating in Israel; implementing the Koby Mandell Bill in order to treat American victims of terror in Israel the same as victims of terror elsewhere in the world; standing up for Israel in the United Nations Security Council; encouraging the growth of new Palestinian leadership.
Many people, including some at the Jewish Exponent, said I was a fool to believe all of those things; they "would love to see the embassy moved. But whether it moves now or later, the move is symbolic. We know that Jerusalem is Israel’s capitol and so does the U.S. With so many real issues before us, the symbolic issues seem less pressing to me at this time."
I respectfully disagree. Symbols hold great power. People die for symbols. People are inspired by symbols. People are frightened by symbols. In our liturgy, fasting, waving lulavs, eating maror, hearing the shofar, etc. do not literally accomplish anything. However, symbols remind us, inspire us, and warn us.
Why do we want the embassy moved? It is not merely to save commuting time for diplomats. It is because the presence of the Embassy in Tel Aviv gives the Arabs hope that Jerusalem in its entirety could someday become theirs. I would argue that the Arabs hold out on a final peace agreement in part because they always hope for more.
I asked Haim if his brother was committed to moving the Embassy and he assured me that this was a priority to his brother. I believe John F. Kerry. I believe his brother. I no longer can believe George Walker Bush.
I took Kerry as a man of his word dedicated to reforming the Middle East, so I vowed to remind Kerry of his pledge to the American people, and the Jewish people. I vowed to be all over him like glue just as I had for Bush if I found that he did not fulfill his promises.
Aftermath: Bush is still president. The discrepancy between exit polls and election results was unprecedented and perhaps even suspicious. The Downing Street Memo now reveals that the Bush administration was planning this war from the beginning, shaping the intelligence to fit their conclusions.
I feel Bush betrayed my trust and that of the nation. Bush and his cabinet continue to fail to take responsibility for their mistakes and deceptions. These betrayals have awoken within me and many others an activist spirit to remain vigilant and to ensure that our leaders represent the true interests and ideals of our country. For too long our generation has viewed politics as a spectator sport; we have failed to get involved, failed to question, and failed to fight for our beliefs. Now, I and my colleagues at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice realize that is our duty to speak loudly for what we believe.
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