26/10/04 A Message to the American Jewish Community from Professor Alan Dershowitz
   
There are American Jews who have said recently that although they support John Kerry's positions on every major domestic issue – – from the Supreme Court to women's rights to gay rights – – they plan to vote for President Bush because they believe Bush would be better for Israel. 

Respectfully, I believe they are wrong for two reasons. 

First, I know personally how strongly John Kerry feels about a safe and secure Israel. I remember vividly when John went to Israel with our dear mutual friend, the late Lenny Zakim, the New England director of the ADL. On his return, that's all John could talk about – – his admiration for Israel's combination of strength and determination to make peace. He has a perfect pro-Israel voting record in the Senate and I have no doubt that, as president, John Kerry’s unwavering commitment to Israel will continue.  

President Bush, though well intentioned on Israel, has hurt the Jewish nation's position in the world. The actions of the United States in Iraq, especially since President Bush prematurely declared “mission accomplished”, have been disastrous for Israel. The failures in Iraq have weakened the influence of the United States in the Middle East and have made it much more difficult for us to thwart Iran's determination to develop nuclear weapons aimed at Israeli population centers. The Iranian mullahs know that Americans could not stomach another military action in Iran while the occupation of Iraq continues. This reality, confirmed by President Bush during the first debate, has emboldened them to speed up their nuclear program – – a program that poses the greatest existential threat to Israel, the Jewish people and ultimately America, since an Iranian nuclear program could result in terrorists with dirty bombs. The current Bush policy with regard to Iraq has weakened America's war against terror by diverting military and other resources to a quagmire that is only getting worse.

The second reason is that pro-Israel votes should not turn an American presidential election into a referendum on Israel. Our goal must be to keep support for Israel a bipartisan issue – – and in this we have succeeded. Pro-Israel voters are free in this election to vote based on other important issues, such as women's rights, separation of church and state and the Supreme Court.

These issues actually coalesce in practice. If President Bush is reelected, he will have as many as four Supreme Court vacancies in his first year: and he has told us exactly who he intends to fill them with: clones of his two favorite justices – – Scalia and Thomas. A Bush Supreme Court will put at risk a woman's right to choose abortion. Equally important it will lower the wall of separation between church and state and increase the power of the religious right. Although the religious right has been very supportive of Israel – – especially in comparison with the Presbyterian and Episcopal branches of Protestantism – – their agenda for the American future poses considerable danger to the Jewish future in America. 

They envision a Christian state with Christian schools and a Christian Supreme court. 

Listen to the Texas Republican Party platform which “affirms that the United States is a Christian naton” and refers to the “myth of the separation of church and state.”

Listen to Lou Sheldon, the founder of the “Traditional Values Coalition”:

“We were here first…We are the keepers of what is right and what is wrong.”

And listen to Ralph Reed, the director of the Christian Coalition:

“What Christians have to do is to take back the country…I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians…and Christian values.”

And to Jerry Falwell: 

“I hope to see the day when as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them…We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours.” 

And to Pat Robertson:

“The Constitution of the United States…is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheist people, they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that's what's been happening …If Christian people work together, they can succeed…in winning back control of the institutions that have been taken from them over the past 70 years.”

The Bush Administration supports the lowering of the wall of separation. Its prayer breakfasts, its faith-based programs, its Ashcroft Justice Department, and its evangelical rhetoric are all music to the ears of the proselytizing Religious Right. Remember President Bush's inauguration, which was dedicated to “our savior Jesus Christ” and seemed more like a Christian prayer service than a national civic event? 

A Kerry-Edwards Administration would keep the wall high. Senator Edwards has warned that “faith should not be used to divide us.” Jews especially have an important stake in the separation of church and state. We are first class citizens of this great nation precisely because no religious tests may be required for holding office and because the state may not favor one religion over another or religion over non-religion. We must preserve that neutrality for the good of America, the good of Jews and the good of the world.

Professor Alan M. Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

  
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