Sarah Silverman, who helped Barack Obama campaign for the Jewish vote in 2008, has changed her Twitter location to “Palestinian territories,” in a possible attempt to reach out across the Jewish-Arab divide–or, just as likely, in an effort to tweak pro-Israel sensibilities.
Silverman certainly catches her share of flak from the anti-Israel left; she was recently criticized simply because a pro-Israel group happened to buy a bloc of tickets to one of her shows.
But to the extent that she is trying to strike a critical pose–as she did in a recent tweet lampooning Newt Gingrich’s staunch pro-Israel views–there is no better illustration of why Obama risks losing pro-Israel support in the 2012 election.
On the one hand, Obama is attempting to claim he has not just been pro-Israel, but more pro-Israel than any president in American history.
On the other, his penchant for confrontation with the Israeli government, and the anti-Israel passions of his core left-wing supporters, tend to undermine his pitch. Democrats are trying to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel–and it’s not quite working.
Silverman’s posture is an example of that contradiction–not because it’s axiomatically “anti-Israel” to be pro-Palestinian, but because those on the pro-Israel side who support a two-state solution have become increasingly aware that their empathy is not reciprocated. It is hard to imagine a Palestinian actor provocatively setting her location to “State of Israel,” for example.
In 2008, Silverman led “The Great Schlep,” an effort to bring pro-Obama Jews to Florida to convince their allegedly racist grandparents to give the black candidate their swing-state vote. Part of that effort included reassuring Jews about Obama’s support for Israel: “Barack Obama’s foreign policy is much more stabilizing than John McCain’s, and much better for Israel,” Silverman claimed.
It’s harder to make that case today, when Obama–and, now, Silverman–seem to be at pains to show solidarity with the Palestinian cause (and when the Middle East is more unstable today than in 2008).
Criticism of Israel is not the issue; sometimes that criticism is entirely appropriate. What’s troubling to Silverman’s intended audience is that they are being asked to accept that criticism of Israel, or solidarity with the Palestinian cause, is the essence of support for Israel.
Similarly, criticism towards Israel–or outright hostility–has become the litmus test of true membership in the “progressive” movement, creating a dilemma for pro-Israel Democrats who otherwise empathize with the Occupy Wall Street movement and its purported “social justice” aspirations. Occupy activists, for example, have announced their intent to protest and disrupt the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
If Obama were to confront his allies in the Occupy movement, and if Silverman were to confront the anti-Israel left in general, her case for Obama might be a bit more convincing.