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Posted at 12:52 PM ET, 06/01/2011

Big Jewish donors ignoring the right’s campaign to falsify Obama’s Israel stance

Ever since Obama delivered his Arab Spring speech, conservatives have been engaged in a full-throttle campaign to distort and outright falsify his stance on Israel — a comically transparent effort to drive Jewish support away from the President.

Conservatives predicted that Obama’s position — which they widely distorted as a call for a return to pre-1967 borders — would cost him the support of top Jewish donors. But The New York Observer talked to the donors themselves, and found that the whole thing is totally bogus:

But conversations with nearly a dozen of the top Jewish fund-raisers in New York reveal a much different reality, as rainmakers say they continue to back the president they overwhelmingly supported three years ago.

“This is nonsense,” said David Pollak, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party. “I think anyone who would not give money to Barack Obama because of remarks he made the other day wasn’t giving money to him in 2008.”

....so far, only Haim Saban, the billionaire entertainment executive, has publicly declared that he was finished donating to the president. There was just one problem, though: Mr. Saban was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton and had never given money to Mr. Obama. Furthermore, Mr. Saban pledged to keep supporting down-ticket Democrats.

Mr. Obama’s New York supporters said most of these accounts rely disproportionately on voices like that of Mr. Saban, or, more often, the heads of major national Jewish organizations, who have long been lukewarm about Mr. Obama.

It was painfully obvious that this whole meme was highly questionable from the start. The claim that Jewish supporters would desert Obama began with a Reuters story quoting former New York mayor Ed Koch making dark threats about withdrawing support for Obama. But as I noted at the time, Koch is the go-to guy when people are looking for a prominent Jewish Democrat to bash fellow Dems on Israel. And has a single actual major Jewish donor broken publicly with the President since then? If The Observer — which reports extensively on the world of big Jewish power Dems — is to be believed, the answer is No. Nor is there any significant chatter in private about deserting Obama.

What’s more, it’s important to recall that the claim that Jews are on the verge of breaking with Obama has been a frequent refrain for literally years now. Back in 2008 — after Obama said that “nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people,” and after Obama suggested he’d be open to unconditional talks with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel — there were reams of stories about how McCain would be able to make successful inroads with this core Democratic constituency. In the end, according to exit polls, Obama won around 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

It’s true that in the wake of Obama’s speech, many Jewish Democrats in Congress reaffirmed their opposition to a return to 1967 borders — which was widely interpreted as a slap at Obama. But when you look closely at what these Dems were actually up to, they were playing a clever little game in which they never quite said whether the position they were criticizing was the one Obama actually holds. (It isn’t.)

I get that the campaign to paint Obama as anti-Israel is also about feeding a larger storyline, in which the Kenyan Muslim Marxist in the White House is hostile to a fellow western-style democracy struggling to survive against existential threats from Arab and Muslim foes. Maybe that’s having an effect in some quarters where people are already inclined to believe such things. But I doubt that it will meaningfully erode Obama’s support among Jewish voters, and it’s certainly not driving away big Jewish donors, despite the right’s confident predictions to the contrary.

By  |  12:52 PM ET, 06/01/2011

 
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