Minority relationships highlighted at DNC events
September 4, 2012 Leave a comment
By Lauren Appelbaum and Melissa Weiss
Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 4 – The Jewish population is small in America – approximately two percent of the U.S. population. However, Jewish Americans remain a key electoral demographic for both parties.
And the American Jewish Committee (AJC) – a nonpartisan organization hosting educational events during both conventions – is putting the spotlight on coalitions between the Jewish community and other communities including Mormons, African Americans, Indians and Latinos.
During the Republican National Convention, Mormon and faith leaders said Israel ties are valued as part of Mormon-Jewish cooperation. Today, as AJC focused on both Black-Jewish and Indian-Jewish relations, both panels stressed that each community has much in common with Jewish Americans, and that each constituency has support – in most cases – for Israel.
As both parties compete for Jewish votes, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) expressed his support for Israel during the panel on “Updating the Black-Jewish Coalition.”
“There has been very strong support for the state of Israel from the African American congressmen and community,” the Georgia congressman said.
Lewis discussed his visit to Israel and said it is important for other members of Congress to visit the country and for the public to encourage their members to visit and “get out and learn.” Members of Congress are more likely to vote in support of Israel after visiting the country, Lewis said.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) offered a different perspective. “There are some members of African American community who relate better to Palestinians than Israelis,” Cohen said, citing perceived inequality and oppression in Israel and the territories.
“Until Israel deals with a two-state solution,” Cohen continued, “the state of Israel is in jeopardy.”
This prompted a response from the Israeli Consul General Opher Aviran, who explained that Israel has been working for a two-state solution. Israelis would gladly join Palestinians in negotiations for a peaceful two-state solution, Aviran said, if only the Palestinians would come to the table.
During the panel on “Advancing the Indian-Jewish Partnership,” Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao said while the relationship between India and Israel is only 20 years old, “impressive strides have been made.” This is, in part, due to the countries’ shared values and dedication to each country’s safety.
The ambassador said she is confident that the “partnership is destined to grow and prosper, based on common bonds and democracy.”
Both countries are surrounded by threatening nations, and, along with the U.S., they suffer from the common threat of terrorism, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) added. “Israel and India, from the moment of their independence, were under fire.”
On Wednesday, AJC will be holding a session on Latino-Jewish relations.