ATLANTA (JTA) – My support for Hillary Clinton may be directly linked to my academic training. I am a historian who was taught by my teachers – and have in turn taught my students – to come to a conclusion based on what we know and not on what we wish would happen. In other words, when it comes to deciding for whom to vote, I look at Sen. Clinton’s record and say: There is very good reason to vote for her.
On matters that are important to me, both domestic and foreign, Hillary has a track record I can trust. This is all the more so in connection with an issue that is very close to my heart – Israel.
During her years in the U.S. Senate, Clinton has amassed a solid pro-Israel record. She has traveled to Israel frequently – including during the second intifada, immediately after the bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. People who traveled with her on those trips have spoken about how she connected with the Israeli victims of terrorism. She spoke with many of them privately and listened to their stories. And of course, where a senator goes, especially one of Clinton’s stature, the press is sure to follow. Consequently, the press, which so often ignores the Israeli aspect of suffering, told this part of the story.
Whether one agrees with the Middle East policies of the Clinton administration or not, one cannot question the deep-seated commitment of that administration to Israel’s security. While one can debate the wisdom of some of the actions that were taken during that period, there was no question that Bill Clinton and those around him were committed to getting the best conditions possible for Israel.
Such is also the case with Hillary Clinton. In addition to her frequent visits to Israel, she voted to brand the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. She has defended the West Bank security fence, which has resulted in a dramatic drop in terrorist incidents in Israel. She has worked to expose the anti-Semitic bias so prevalent in Palestinian textbooks. She has worked to ensure that Magen David Adom was included in the International Red Cross.
She has a proven track record. I know where she stands. I don’t have to hope for the best or comfort myself by saying, “I am sure she will prove to be a supporter.“ Hillary has not shied away from supporting Jewish causes. Her heart, her head and her legislative record all are in the right place.
It is possible that Barack Obama might act in the same fashion. The problem is that because of his very short time in the Senate he has not amassed a track record. Moreover, we just don’t know where his heart is on this issue. And, to my mind, the stakes are simply too high to take a chance.
I have known from the outset that I would be for Hillary. But my support of her has been strengthened by the vilification to which she has been subjected during this campaign. In a column earlier this year, Prof. Stanley Fish observed that the range of criticism of her is so broad-ranging that it simply does not make sense. She is a leftist and she is a warmonger. She is a religious fundamentalist and she has enabled her husband’s sexual escapades. In the blogosphere you can discover that she is guilty of an unbelievably broad range of crimes and wrongdoings. The language of the attacks on her has been beyond the pale.
Fish concluded – and I agree whole heartedly – that the attacks are similar in their style, though certainly not in their content or potential for harm, to anti-Semitism in that they “feed on air and flourish independently of anything other than the obsessions of those who spread them.”
Her domestic policy has been in synch with many of the issues near and dear to the heart of the American Jewish community: childcare, women’s rights, and equal pay for women, education and so many others.
As an American, as a Jew, as a woman and, most importantly, as someone who feels this country is on the very wrong track, I hope and pray that Hillary Clinton will get the nomination of the Democratic Party and, eventually, the support of the American people.
The stakes are simply too high to take a chance.
(Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and the author of “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.”)