Dearborn, Michigan – Raised in a Jewish American family, Dana Kornberg was in her early 20s when she began to turn into important of the Israeli authorities.
It was 2006, and Kornberg was touring Israel, as half of what’s known as a birthright journey, a convention for Jewish teenagers and younger adults.
Throughout her travels, she noticed Israeli building employees constructing a tall concrete barrier to fence in elements of the occupied West Financial institution, a landlocked Palestinian territory. She additionally heard Israeli feedback about Palestinians that made her uncomfortable: “They have been alluded to as being harmful.”
These experiences made her involved about Israel’s therapy of Palestinians — one thing that evoked in her parallels to Jewish oppression all through historical past.
“To me, it was horrific,” stated Kornberg, now a 41-year-old assistant sociology professor. “What classes have we realized from what our individuals have gone by?”
Dana Kornberg addresses protesters in entrance of a federal constructing in Detroit, Michigan, in October [Stephen Starr/Al Jazeera]
Now, as Israel’s struggle in Gaza continues to rage, Jewish American voters resembling Kornberg are grappling with the US’s position within the battle — and the way it will have an effect on their voting preferences within the upcoming presidential election.
Jewish American voters have lengthy been seen as a reliably Democratic voting bloc: The Pew Analysis Middle dubbed them “among the many most persistently liberal and Democratic teams within the US inhabitants”.
Over the last presidential election cycle, eight out of 10 Jewish individuals recognized as Democratic. However US coverage in direction of Israel and the struggle in Gaza has since divided Jewish Individuals, in addition to the broader Democratic base, resulting in fears of a depressed turnout.
On one hand, President Joe Biden has continued to rally robust help amongst Jewish voters by pledging his “rock-solid and unwavering” help to Israel, because it leads a months-long army marketing campaign in Gaza.
That stance, nevertheless, has provoked outcry amongst extra progressive Jewish organisations, because the demise toll within the Palestinian enclave soars previous 25,200.
Questions of rising anti-Semitism within the US have additionally mobilised Jewish advocacy teams, forward of what’s anticipated to be a tightly fought race for the White Home in November.
A January ballot from USA As we speak and Suffolk College confirmed slim margins separating Biden from his chief Republican rival, former President Donald Trump. Biden acquired 37 p.c help within the ballot, in contrast with Trump’s 39.
Different surveys have proven overseas coverage to be a high subject for voters this yr, with a majority of Individuals backing a ceasefire in Gaza, one thing Biden has refused to name for.
Kornberg, a member of the progressive organisation Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), is amongst these protesting Biden’s stance on the struggle in Gaza, the place United Nations consultants have warned of the danger of genocide and famine.
In latest months, Kornberg has travelled from Michigan to Washington, DC, and Chicago to affix demonstrations calling for a ceasefire. She was one in every of almost 100 protesters arrested in November for blocking the Israeli consulate in Chicago.
Kornberg questioned whether or not Biden would have the ability to rally Jewish American voters earlier than the overall election. Even the prospect of a second Trump presidency, she warned, won’t be sufficient to unite the Democratic base.
“I’m simply not satisfied that the worry of Trump goes to be sufficient to get [Democratic voters] to go to the polls,” Kornberg stated.
She additionally criticised Biden for statements he made downplaying the Palestinian demise toll and tying Jewish wellbeing worldwide to Israel.
“When Biden says issues like, ‘The one place Jews can really feel secure is Israel’, that’s a severely anti-Semitic remark as a result of loads of us heard it as if Jewish individuals shouldn’t be secure on this nation,” she stated of the US.
However the query of how Israel is perceived — and whether or not its actions in Gaza are justified — is a matter that has cut up Jewish American communities alongside generational traces.
A ballot in November from the Jewish Voters Institute discovered that Biden retains robust Jewish help total: Three-quarters of individuals accredited of his dealing with of Israel’s struggle in Gaza.
That quantity dropped, nevertheless, when younger Jewish Individuals have been seen in isolation.
Solely 53 p.c of Jewish voters ages 18 to 35 accredited of Biden’s stance, in contrast with 82 p.c for different voting age teams.
Nonetheless, individuals overwhelmingly backed Biden. An estimated 68 p.c stated they’d vote for the Democratic incumbent, in contrast with 22 p.c for Trump and 11 p.c who have been undecided.
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, a pro-Israel advocacy group, credited that prime degree of help to shared values.
“Overwhelmingly, Jewish voters help President Biden as a result of he represents the pursuits and values of the Jewish neighborhood, together with — however not restricted to — help of Israel,” Soifer advised Al Jazeera.
She additionally named “abortion, democracy, gun security, local weather change, the financial system [and] anti-Semitism” as “key points driving the Jewish vote”.
However Soifer added that she noticed renewed celebration engagement after October 7, the day the Palestinian group Hamas launched assaults on southern Israel, killing an estimated 1,200 individuals.
“Jewish voters self-identify as Democrats over Republicans by a virtually 50-point margin. This has solely been solidified within the aftermath of October 7,” Soifer defined.
Her organisation has additionally seen an uptick in help following the Hamas assault, she added.
Progressive and anti-Zionist Jewish American advocacy teams have likewise reported a big bump in membership following the beginning of the struggle in Gaza.
“Since October 7, our following and base has doubled or extra by almost each measure,” stated Liv Kunins-Berkowitz of Jewish Voice for Peace.
“We now have over 1.8 million followers on our social media accounts and over 720,000 those that JVP counts as our base. They subscribe to our e mail checklist and recurrently have interaction in JVP’s campaigns, demonstrations and workshops.”
The Jewish American inhabitants total sits at roughly 7.5 million individuals, or about 2.4 p.c of the whole variety of individuals within the US.
And whereas the US Congress is overwhelmingly composed of politicians who determine as Christian, Jewish leaders make up nearly all of non-Christian officers. They maintain 33 elected positions in Congress, for a complete of six p.c of the accessible seats.
A few of these officers, together with Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer, appeared at a March for Israel on November 14. Tens of hundreds of individuals gathered in Washington, DC, for that march, throughout which chants of “no ceasefire” have been heard.
“Even in its darkest days, america has all the time stood with Israel, and we’ll do every thing to see that that by no means, ever modifications,” Schumer stated, punctuating his phrases with raised fists as the gang cheered.
However even among the many Jewish illustration in Congress, there are schisms over the extent to which the US ought to help Israel’s far-right authorities.
Schumer’s colleague, Senator Bernie Sanders, not too long ago known as the struggle in Gaza “wholesale destruction in an virtually unprecedented method”.
In January, Sanders criticised the Israeli authorities for performing “in a deeply reckless and immoral means”, although he stopped in need of calling for a ceasefire, some extent of competition along with his progressive base.
He as a substitute proposed a decision that may push the US State Division to disclose whether or not US help has been utilized in human rights abuses in Gaza. That proposal, nevertheless, was defeated final week within the Senate.
However opposing Israel can include political prices. Current years have seen main pro-Israel teams, such because the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Democratic Majority for Israel, spend report sums of cash in opposition to Democratic candidates who haven’t overtly expressed help for Israel.
In 2022, for instance, AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel spent greater than $6m — an unprecedented quantity — on an assault advert marketing campaign in opposition to Donna Edwards, a progressive candidate for the US Home of Representatives.
Edwards, who beforehand served within the Home from 2008 to 2017, in the end misplaced her race.
Kornberg, the sociology professor, fears that progressive Jewish voices like hers might go largely unheard within the upcoming election.
“There’s a stonewalling that’s occurring by Democrats the place their constituents overwhelmingly, unprecedentedly desire a ceasefire [in Gaza], and so they’re simply not listening,” she stated.
“Why are we going to vote for those who don’t symbolize us?”